leaning in – – haibun

Leaning into the blizzard we enter a realm of footsteps and prickling clouds of snow. At first, effort overwhelms our concentration but we plod on until…there is a shift…what was hard is now a steady state of one step after the other, forward, forward into the night…a motion that could go on forever. Only when we stop do we feel lead in our legs, our burning ears, cheeks and toes.


steady march

tall winter moon

holding the light


©️2019 Ontheland

On Day 15 of November with Basho, Frank Tassone provides Basho’s account of his climb up the sacred Moon Mountain:

On the eighth we climbed Moon Mountain, wearing the holy paper necklaces and cotton hats of Shinto priests, following behind a mountain monk whose footsteps passed through mist and clouds and snow and ice, climbing miles higher as though drawn by invisible spirits into the gateway of the sky–sun, moon, and clouds floated by and took my breath away. Long after sunset, moon high over the peak, we reached the summit, spread out in bamboo grass, and slept…

…How many rising

clouds collapse and fall on

this moonlit mountain…

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” translated by Sam Hamill, the Essential Basho, p. 24-25

Mount Royal – – haibun

Montreal, the city where my parents and two youngest siblings moved in the seventies…a home visited over the years…the place where both my parents died.

One of our first Montreal excursions was to the top of Mount Royal where there is a giant cross. It was a hot, sweaty ascent on a summer day.

family climb

my old photo shows

wildflowers on the edge


©️2019 Ontheland

Day 14 of Frank Tassone’s November with Basho’s Narrow Road to the Interior inspired me to think about climbing.

Saguenay – – haibun

Rock cliffs towered along the banks of the Saguenay Fjord as the tour boat guide shouted into the wind. He beckoned us to peer far above at the renowned Statue of Our Lady of the Saguenay placed there in 1881 by a man grateful to have survived his fall into river ice. I strained to hear the story, but surrounded by the rushing river and the imposing rock, the monument seemed small in comparison.

ancient river

what legends drowned in these depths

pour to the sea

©️2019 Ontheland

The Saguenay Fjord was carved by glaciers of the last ice age. Located in the Canadian Province of Quebec, it flows into the St Lawrence River which drains into the Atlantic Ocean. Memories of our trip on the Saguenay came to mind on reading November with Basho Day 13. Here is an excerpt from the Basho quote offered by Frank Tassone:

Mountains rose from either side of the boat as we sped between the trees. The boat was only a tiny rice-boat not meant for all we carried. We passed Shiraito Falls where it tumbles under pines…

All the summer rains

violently gather–

Mogami River

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” translated by Sam Hamill, the Essential Basho, p. 22-23

retreat – – haibun

My first encounter with meditation and Buddhism was at a summer retreat that was to offer talks on the Four Noble Truths. I travelled by bus to a town northeast of Toronto where I and another person were picked up and driven to the Dharma Centre, seated on a rocky, wooded plot of land.

Dropped off at a simple shack at the end of a narrow dirt road after dark, I was grateful to have a flashlight and some water.

Over the next week I spent hours walking through the woods, the coolest place to be in August, chanting a mantra given by the teacher.


summer diary

reading between the lines

my search for stillness



©️2019 Ontheland

Inspired by November with Basho by Frank Tassone. Here is an excerpt from his Day 12 quote from the Narrow Road to the Interior:

Monks at the foot of the mountain offered rooms, then we climbed the ridge to the temple, scrambling through ancient gnarled pine and oak, gray smooth stones and moss. The temple doors, built on rock, were bolted. I crawled among boulders to make my bows at shrines. The silence was profound. I sat, feeling my heart begin to open.

Lonely stillness–

a single cicada’s cry

sinking into stone

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior”, translated by Sam Hamill, The Essential Basho, p. 22

what remains – – haibun

How the years have flown from childhood to young adult to old age…the dreams pursued seem distant now…the tears, the yearning. Love and accomplishments were once castles to attain and defend.

Someday, someone else will open this desk drawer.


rattling with the paper clips

five tarnished keys



©️2019 Ontheland

Another haibun inspired by an episode of Basho‘s Narrow Road to the Interior. The following quote is from Day 11 of Frank Tassone’s November with Basho series:

The ancient ruins of Yasuhira–from the end of the Golden Era–lie out beyond the Koromo Barrier, where they stood guard against the Ainu people. The faithful elite remained bound to the castle–for all their valor, reduced to ordinary grass…

We sat a while, our hats for seat, seeing it all through tears.

summer grasses:

all that remains of great soldiers’

imperial dreams

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior” translated by Sam Hamill

December – – haibun

December. As the temperature plummets, my bedroom window freezes shut. Once again I pull out wool sweaters, wool socks, snow pants and mittens. On a clear night the curved edge of the moon and gleaming stars emit a bell-like ring…small pleasures…and solstice will soon be here. Then the sun will shine a fraction of a minute longer each day…a slow reversal barely visible until spring, yet it is a knowledge that will help my spirit stay afloat. How often does this happen—an imperceptible shift to light just as darkness feels like forever?


in deep winter I wait

for the sun’s return



©️2019 Ontheland

Haikai Challenge #115 Advent