Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tanabata, Star Festival

Overlooking the reservoir
Originally uploaded by jhhymas.
Last evening a group of haiku friends gathered to look at the MIlky Way and celebrate the festival of the seventh day of the seventh month, when the beloved weaver princess and her herdboy (stars Vega and Altair) are reunited for this one night of the year. There are many legends of how one of them crosses the MIlky Way that separates them the rest of the year--on a bridge of magpies or in the boat of the crescent moon. Our Yuki Teikei haiku group has gathered to celebrate Tanabata (the Japanese name for this festival) for many years. We met at a home high in the hills overlooking the valley. In the upper right, you can see some of the white windmills which capture power from the wind. This is a classic Northern California summer landscape of ochres and dark greens. I first came to California in summertime and was immediately struck by the beauty of these folded hills.
After a light meal, we sat outside and wrote haiku while we waited for the stars to appear. Later, there was a bright moon, which somewhat diminished the candlepower of the River of Stars. But who would complain about moonlight on a warm summer evening? When the sun was gone, crickets began to trill. Later we heard the cry of a hunting owl. Two donkeys browsed along the fenceline below us. One of them snuffled softly, again and again. The quiet was so profound that you could hear this muted sound clearly.
Before we left, we wrote some of our new haiku on the paper kimonos that our founder, Kiyoko, taught us how to make. We read them aloud, then tied them on a large bamboo frond.

he waits to greet her
she crosses the Milky Way
her feet on feathers

This is a Tanabata haiku that Kiyoko praised when I wrote it several yeara ago. Her memory was very presnt with us at our gathering. She used to cut ladderlike scissored-paper filigrees to hang on the bamboo, too. She learned this as a child; she grew up near Saga Bay on the Japanese island of Kyushu. She said the delicate rice-paper objects were made to carry prayers to heaven. Now she is gone. No one of us ever learned to make them. It was a beautiful evening; many fine haiku were written. These parties are quiet and communal in a very special way. This one was a fine example.

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