Basho’s Haikus

I am very tired this evening and homesick for Michigan.

I miss sitting in the pines and watching the grey waters of Lake Michigan swell into white capped waves. In my mind’s eye I can see the thunderhead rolling across the lake like a deity, rains scouring the water, winds bending the pale golden beach grass until the tops etch bone white sands.

I remember walking in May from my house to downtown. In May Michigan is lush with new green, flowers bloom, and the air is moist. The grass grows and vines climb. The light filters in diamonds through verdant canopies of broad leaves.

I miss a gentler landscape.

I miss the waves.

Basho’s Haiku remind me of my connection to things greater. Here are a few:

In the cicada’s cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die.

Won’t you come and see
loneliness? Just one leaf
from the kiri tree.

The sun’s way:
hollyhocks turn toward it
through all the rains of May.

Sparrows in eves
Mice in ceiling –
Celestial music.

Summer in the world;
floating on the waves
of the lake.

Now I see her face,
the old woman, abandoned,
the moon her only companion

Environmental Artist: Andy Goldsworthy

I was first introduced to the environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy when I took a design class. We watched the documentary directed by Thomas Reidelsheimer titled “Rivers and Tides.” Since then I have watched this film many more times. Andy Goldsworthy has been quoted as saying: “I find some of my new works disturbing, just as I find nature as a whole disturbing. The landscape is often perceived as pastoral, pretty, beautiful – something to be enjoyed as a backdrop to your weekend before going back to the nitty-gritty of urban life. But anybody who works the land knows it’s not like that. Nature can be harsh – difficult and brutal, as well as beautiful. You couldn’t walk five minutes from here without coming across something that is dead or decaying.” He is nothing short of a modern day druid in my estimation.

Goldsworthy who from the age of 13 worked as a labourer on farms in his native Britain has stated that the repetitive nature of farm work is similar to constructing sculpture. The sensibilities of working close to nature are seen in Goldsworthy’s work. He uses all natural materials which often include brightly-coloured flowers, icicles, leaves, mud, pinecones, snow, stone, twigs, and thorns. Further, he often sculpts with only his bare hands and teeth to shape his materials and position them where he wants them to effect the whole. He has been quoted as saying, “I think it’s incredibly brave to be working with flowers and leaves and petals. But I have to: I can’t edit the materials I work with. My remit is to work with nature as a whole.” Many of his sculptures are location specific. And they have a temporal element. In “Rivers and Tides” he builds a korm that is made from slate found near the ocean. As he is building the korm, the tide comes in. The rising water changes the aspect and gives the sculpture added poignancy.

Because Goldsworthy’s art is often ephemeral and transient, photography plays a critical part. For example, the melting of a sculpture of ice becomes as important as the form at its peak of completion or a wall of sculpted mud that dries unevenly displays beauty in its transitions and all of the transformations are captured in photographs.

According to Goldsworthy, “Each work grows, stays, decays – integral parts of a cycle which the photograph shows at its heights, marking the moment when the work is most alive. There is an intensity about a work at its peak that I hope is expressed in the image. Process and decay are implicit.” Goldsworthy’s art is not a static form, it highlights the transitory nature of creation. It shows change as a natural and beautiful process.

More information about Andy Goldsworthy can be found at: