Hello 2022! We certainly are living in crazy but exciting times, if you choose to look at it that way. The New Year is a time of new hopes and new beginnings. This special tick of the clock motivates us not only to celebrate, but also to step outside of our day-to-day activities. January is a time to reflect, take stock, look back, assess how we did, and consider how we can to do better.
One of the things that I’m drawn to the most about haiku is how traditional Japanese haiku is based on the four seasons, but, for some of the haiku poets from centuries ago the New Year was considered to be a fifth season. The first book I bought on haiku was by R.H. Blyth who was an English author and passionate about Japanese culture and was well respected for his knowledge on Zen and haiku poetry. He is known to quote “The New Year, is a season by itself.” Blyth explains that the New Year used to be celebrated in the spring: “When the lunar calendar was in vogue, January the First was what is now about the beginning of February. Plum was blooming in sheltered places, and the spirit of spring was already in the air.”
The Japanese haiku poets would use New Year’s celebrations and observances to write. The beginning of spring was often thought of as a new year, so season words specific to celebrating the New Year moved into this special “fifth season” (1-15 Jan) as mentioned by R.H Blyth. While they are still connected and remain in early spring (mid-Feb), many season words today still carry both meanings for traditional haiku poets. Here is a quote by William J Higginson who is another haiku authority from his book “The Haiku Seasons”. “In the old calendar [New Year’s Day] was about the beginning of spring, and considered a doubly auspicious day. Now moved to January 1 as a result of the new calendar, New Year’s Day is still treated as the beginning of spring by some haiku poets.”
Throughout the world, there are a variety of cultural celebrations to bring in the New Year. Japan has many – but one of the most important is Hatsumode, which refers to the first visit to a shrine or temple during the early days of January. This is when family and relatives would pray together for a fortunate year ahead. Some Japanese communities organize festivities with stalls that sell food, sharing omikuji (fortune-telling strips of paper for drawing) and lucky charms to wish for safety, prosperity of descendants, love and wealth.
Most of us have high hopes and dreams about a New Year, but what we really want are the same things: good health, feeling safe in the world, love and abundance. The past two years have been beyond exhausting between Covid, the vaccines and the divide it has created has made most of us confused and frustrated. For me, the best way to handle it, is to trust in the bigger good, the bigger picture, trying to stay away from the news with knowing that this huge transformation is not easy. It can take its toll emotionally. This is the best time to practice self-care and let go of expectations. Trying to control the situation and accepting it with trusting that nothing ever stays the same is what helps me. Great change is coming and this too shall pass.
I used to make New Year’s resolutions, but those days are long gone. Now, I focus on quiet reflection, setting goals and having dreams for how to make the world a better place. It’s going to take some time and get messier, but so much good will come from this, we just need to continue to hang on, be present and gaining a greater appreciation for the simple things in life. This is what haiku is about, simplicity at its finest. Slowing down and connecting with nature has been one of the biggest gifts during this time. We’ve seen the good and the not so good in humanity and doing good is what makes us better. Initiating change is not always easy and is much easier when your aim is to help others; in the end, your actions will return and do good for yourself. At the beginning of every day, commit to making small changes that give you simple joy to yourself and others and see how much better it feels. The light has come to earth and we will be ok. We will be more than ok.
What is your vision for 2022?