October 3, 2010

Notice Your Natural Humanity

When was the last time you went camping? How about hiking? Took a walk through the park? For many of us, our only brush with nature is during the walk to and from our cars. Does this bother you? It certainly bothers me.

Just asking for herbicide, right?
Photo by Kate Mereand under
Creative Commons License
In every city, the pursuit of urban development pushes the natural world not only farther from our homes, but also further from our minds. Every animal becomes a nuisance, every plant a weed. As humans, we have locked ourselves in self-assembled cages, in rigidly square city blocks of our own human zoo.

Okay, you’re right. I’m preaching.

But this week, we’re going to do something to address this conflict between [wo]man and our inherent nature: we’re going to write haiku.

Haiku, loved by serious poets and third-grade schoolchildren (though nowhere in between), is a poetry form with seventeen syllables and a natural theme. As you may remember, haikus are composed in a 3-line, 5-7-5 syllable format. We will stick strictly to this form. The theme, however, will be deviated from a tad.

Instead of writing about nature and the seasons, as haikus are traditionally composed, we will place humanity squarely within the natural ring. Where do we fit, exactly? How do the products of [wo]men, ourselves natural beasts, mingle with the natural world? Where does nature find herself within our cityscapes? Where do the two conflict/embrace? These are some of the questions I want us to ask ourselves this week as we practice this exercise, and create our Moments.

Hawk has dominion over street sign
Every time you walk to your car, I want you to consciously slow your gait, breathe slower, and notice the things around you. Notice the grass reaching through the sidewalk gaps. Notice the ants stealing crumbs from the smoker's lounge floor. Notice the Lost Dog poster nailed to a tree. When you get inspired, jot some ideas down in your pocket notepad. It only takes seconds to do this on your trek to your vehicle, so there won’t be any loss of productivity.

During a break, take a look through your notes. Give yourself the perspective of the things you saw. Are those ants excited to be fed? How happy is the sidewalk grass now that it can reach the sun? Now, reconsider your own perspective. Where do the two perspectives meet, and on what terms? Use this harmony/disharmony to form your Moment. I know your break is only a few minutes, but remember that a haiku is only seventeen (17) syllables. You can do this.

When you are finished writing, go back to work. At this point, the hard part has passed. If you are able, type your haiku on a computer. Use a fancy font if you wish. Print it out on business card stock, and leave them around the office. If you are unable to do that, then wait until you get home, and post your haiku to the social networking profile of your choice. Remember, these Moments do not belong to you, but to the world, including the natural one, of which you are a part. Do this once a day this week.

And to be fair, here’s mine:


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