288: “An Ancient Pond” (Matsuo Bashō)

                Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water—
A deep resonance.
-Matsuo Bashō, translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa

                I was once involved in a school wide push to redefine a high school schedule. We talked a lot about when students should have break, and for how long. A group of us were big defenders of “unscheduled time” (what a strange phrase), but our language was all about efficiency. Efficiency of learning. Transition time for a mind moving between tasks. I can’t remember anyone pointing out how strange that was, how much we’d all bought into the idea that sitting still for a moment only had meaning if it made you faster when you got back up. Maybe I wasn’t listening.
I’ve been trying to remember other ideas of quiet. Other ideas of rest.
Last semester, in discussing a haiku, a friend said: “Those are my favorite kind of poems. The ones that say, there was a sound just now. Hear it.” The comment stuck with me, because I like those poems, too, and then sometimes I’m confused by them. And then sometimes I’m “bored” of them. It’s hard to see what a poem like that might “mean” unless I move over a bit, unless I step out of where I was. In looking at Bashō’s haiku, the translator Yuasa notes, “We start with silence and we end with something moving towards silence, the ripples of the splash.”
A neighbor’s walking past my window, shoes in the snow.
Somewhere, a door.
I’ll rest here.

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