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Friday Favorite – Basho and Thoreau

Morning Mist Basho and ThoreauThere is a small book on one of my shelves called Morning Mist: Thoreau and Basho Through the Seasons, by Mary Kullberg. As Kullberg explains in the Preface, the book is “an open window through which the reader can look into the thoughts of two poets (Matsuo Basho and Henry David Thoreau) for whom oneness with nature was a way of life.” At the top of each page is the translation of a Basho haiku, at the bottom a poem or passage by Thoreau.

Although Basho and Thoreau lived 700 years and half a world apart, they were remarkably similar in their observations, and to some degree their paths. Both traveled through the seasons, both sought solitude, both understood the richness found in being awake to nature. And both, in their respective styles and genres, shared their love of nature in their writings, infusing their words with a sense of serenity and wonder that transcends space and time.

It’s probably not surprising that I’m inevitably drawn to this small volume as summer turns to fall and red leaves rustle with the autumn winds. The words, so simple, say so much… and here, from page 108, are some of my favorites:

All night
the autumn winds rushing
beyond the mountains.
––Basho


At night you are sure to hear what wind there is
stirring. The wind blows––the river flows without
resting––

 … The sound of the wind in the woods. I, whose life
was but yesterday so desultory and shallow, suddenly
recover my spirits, my spirituality, through my
hearing.
––Thoreau