Passing Through the Gate of the New Year
New Year's Eve Reflections, Announcements, and Wayfaring Readings
OLD YEAR / NEW YEAR REFLECTION
Greetings Good Travelers, Wayfarers, Pure Landers, and Dwellers at the Edge:
Frank Inzan Owen here, coming to you from the Hidden Mountain Studio, in the Appalachian Piedmont bioregion, northwest of the Chatta Uchee River, ancestral lands of the Cherokee Nation.
It’s a notch past the First Quarter Moon, on New Year’s Eve. I hope this transmission of The Poet’s Dreamingbody finds you and yours keeping well in these strange and tumbling times.
I’ve been pretty quiet lately, with both the holidays and some other projects.
As of two days ago, I’ve just recently completed a 50-mile walk for the American Cancer Society to raise money for research and to fight the disease — a disease that took my late teacher, that attacked my mother (who is still very much with us thank goodness), and which is battering dear friends of mine as we speak.
Part of my own personal silence here at The Poet’s Dreamingbody has also involved a process of questioning; questioning about projects, questioning about the upcoming year.
Questions are good. Questions can be like a microscope or even a telescope. Unlike some expressions of religion in the modern-day, my teacher’s spirituality was one predicated upon actively including doubt and questioning as part of the path. In other words, doubt was not pushed away, questions were embraced, and deep inquiry was at the very heart of everything we did.
We see hints of this essence if we look at the Japanese language. In the script used in Japanese for the word ‘question’ (問), it’s interesting to note that a portion of what makes up the kanji is the symbol for the word: “gate.” (門). It implies a sense that the process of asking is itself a journey through something.
Any question we hold, walk with, and actively work with serves as a gate.
Any question we ask leads us to a path that waits for us on the other side of the gate.
That path leads us into new terrain; a new territory yet to be explored.
This makes the questions we hold particularly important for the lives we’re here to lead.
Another interesting word in the Japanese language is junrei ( 巡礼 ), which translates as “pilgrimage.” A direct translation of the two kanji forming the word junrei ( 巡礼 ) is: “tour of gratitude.”
As we enter the new year 2023, I invite you to consider these two aspects as possible points of inner work for closing out the old year and welcoming in the new, specifically: question-as-gate ( 問 → 門 ) and pilgrimage-as-tour-of-gratitude (巡礼).
2022 was no cakewalk for anyone. Neither was 2021 or 2020 for that matter. But, if you send the eyes of your heart-mind back across the calendar year 2022 as a “tour of gratitude,” are there memories, are there moments, that stand out in your mind’s eye as poignant aspects worthy of remembrance?
Likewise, as you turn to face the oncoming new year, a year deemed as the Year of the Water Rabbit in East Asian tradition, is there a pivotal question deeply rooted in your soul that can serve as a gate for the journey of the next year?
I also wanted to mention a few books that are either hot off the presses or forthcoming, including one I contributed to that will enter the world in January.
The first book is Nirvan Hope’s latest: words and photos: a little bit zen
This is the latest in Nirvan’s multi-release “Words and Photos” series — 33 images accompanied by verses. To learn more about the various creative offerings of this Nature-oriented wanderer, visit her website: Nirvan Hope
Additionally, we have Heidi Barr’s forthcoming release on Broadleaf Books entitled COLLISIONS of EARTH and SKY: Connecting With Nature For Nourishment, Reflection, and Transformation. I am currently reading an advance copy and it is a compelling account of healing and a deep relationship with landscape and all that landscape encompasses, along with contemplative reflections that invite us to consider our own.
Lastly, we have DAWN SONGS: A Birdwatcher’s Field Guide to the Poetics of Migration, edited by Jamie K. Reaser and J. Drew Lanham. In this forthcoming collection, a variety of writers including ornithologists, naturalists, ecologists, essayists, and poets collaborate in four sections: To Know, To Wonder, To Lament, and To Celebrate. I have two contributions in the collection including my poem “What the Bird Knows” and a call-and-response activity for “the little ones” (5-9) called “Namu Namu Chirp Chirp.” It will be released by Talking Waters Press in the first quarter of 2023.
Let’s switch horses here and explore a few curated verses of some of the old Wayfaring poets that are anchored to the theme of the New Year.
For this reading, we’ll be focusing on the poets of the Japanese branch of the Wayfaring Poet tradition including the revolutionary haiku poet Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902), painter-poet-lay Pure Land priest Yosa Buson (1716-1783), the renegade nun Otagaki Rengetsu/Lotus Moon (1791-1875), the holy Zen clown Ryokan Daigu (1758-1831), the much-beloved Pure Land Nature poet Kobayashi Issa (1763-1827), grand-maestro of the haiku tradition Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the wandering poet Saigyo (or “Western Journey”, 1118-1190), and the Pure Land Wayfarer Lady Chiyo-ni (1703-1775) — all men and women who were followers of the Wayfaring Way, but who did so each in their own way. In each of the poems that are shared you’ll notice that they represent a moment in time when the Wayfarer pauses and with the faculties of “soft-attention” they mark the passage from the old year into the new.
VERSES OF WAYFARING POETRY READING ON AUDIO ONLY
BOOKS CITED FROM FOR POETRY READING
A House By Itself / Selected Haiku: Masaoka Shiki, translated by John Brandi and Noriko Kawasaki Martinez, White Pine Press
Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master, translated by Patricia Donegan and Yoshie Ishibashi
RENGETSU: Life and Poetry of Lotus Moon, translation and biography by John Stevens
ONE ROBE, ONE BOWL: The Zen Poetry of Ryokan, translated by John Stevens
The Pocket Haiku, translated by Sam Hamill
The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa, edited by Robert Haas
GAZING AT THE MOON: Buddhist Poems of Solitude / Saigyo, translated by Meredith McKinney
Brilliant! What a great Ah ha moment. I see how asking questions opens my awareness to new possibilities and "opens the gate." It sets me on a path of discovery. It brings me "into my future" by disengaging me from habitual patterns; it changes the course of my thoughts; it allows spaciousness and new vistas. Big Smiles and Happy New Year!
Happy New Year~here's to the questions.