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March 2009 cover image of Pedernales Falls State Park

Scout: Haiku Hikes

Slow down, observe and write at Government Canyon.
By Terri L. French

Poet, educator and master naturalist Mobi Warren began leading monthly “haiku hikes” a year ago at the Government Canyon State Natural Area in San Antonio. Her goal is to offer visitors an experience that combines immersion in the natural world with a creative writing experience.

The leisurely 3- to 4-mile hikes are walked in silence so participants can become more in tune with nature. An appreciation for and reverence of nature and man’s interdependent relationship with the environment is essential to writing the short Japanese poetic form known as haiku.

In Japanese, the verse traditionally consists of a single vertical line of 17 sounds called on. In English, haiku typically appears in three lines, often with a short-long-short pattern of 17 or fewer syllables. Japanese haiku is considered incomplete without the seasonal reference called kigo.

In today’s fast-paced world the intricacies of nature and the subtleties of the changing seasons are often overlooked. “I talk about allowing oneself to slow down, to open one’s senses to the tiny, fleeting sounds, sights, scents, and ­textures that we ordinarily miss,” says Warren.

During the hikes, 15-minute “writing stops” are signaled with the ringing of a small bell. The hike culminates at the picturesque Bluff Spurs overlook for a final writing session. Individuals then share their haiku, like this one written by Warren.

In a cup of rock
a dung beetle
naps

“I like to think that every haiku written and shared on these hikes helps weave us back into a healthier, more intimate relationship to the natural world,” says Warren, “and that the experience, by restoring our spirits, strengthens our resolve to restore and protect the environment.”

Besides writing haiku, Michael Dylan Welch, longtime vice president of the Haiku Society of America, enjoys nature photography and hiking. These two haiku by Welch were inspired while on the trail.

A red berry on the trail
I look up
to the chickadees songwriter

first on the trail —
the pull of the spider’s strand
across my face

The next time you visit a park, walk in silence and really observe your surroundings. That rock, leaf, squirrel or toad just might inspire a haiku.

For more information, visit <www.friendsofgc.org/schedule.html> or <www.tpwd.state.tx.us/governmentcanyon>.

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