Sarvananda Bluestone’s blog entries for the past weekend capture the whiteness that blanketed the region and disrupted its power. Of course, as with all his writing of the past 16 years since he moved to the top of Ohayo Mountain, it was all in haiku, that 17 syllable form of very short Japanese-inspired poetry.
There are no sounds now
Save for the distant barking
Of a pent up dog,
he wrote in the midst of Sunday’s blizzard alongside images from his daily walks along Yerry Hill Road.
They call it a ‘storm’ —
But the wind is so gentle;
The snow so quiet.
Bluestone says, in a more prosaic interview by email, that he used to go swimming at the Kingston YMCA for exercise but started to look at the pool’s chlorination as a form of “self-poisoning.”
“When I first started walking, I found that I would mind trip myself. I would get into arguments with people that were no longer there, conjure up past hurts and all the stuff that a retired intellectual can do. At the beginning it was the farthest thing from relaxation. I would get into fights with my ex-wife who was 1000 miles away and by the end of the walk I would feel exhausted mentally and physically,” he noted. “So, being a person who is naturally unobservant, I decided to write haiku on each walk. What better way to force myself to notice the world around me? Shortly thereafter, I created a blog, www.sarvananda.blogspot.com. It is called Yerry Hill Road Haiku. Soon, I accompanied the haiku with photographs. The blog presently has about ten thousand haiku and pictures.”
Haiku, Bluestone continued to explain, “is an ancient poetic form that relies upon total observance. Since it has only 17 syllables, it also forces one to be precise. I thought I would give it a try. That was in the year 2000. I have been doing it ever since.”
The form, originally, included rigid traditions to be worked into each individual haiku, including “cutting words” to separate thoughts, a reliance on one’s observation of nature, a nod to seasonality, acknowledgement of the music of which words get used, and endless variations on the basics. It started entering Western literature in the early 20th century, with much help from that poetic firebrand Ezra Pound. By the 1950s it had become something of a craze, with popular books disseminating its easy and more difficult possibilities and truths. Jack Kerouac gave the form a good run in between his fast-written novels; Gary Snyder rode haiku’s precision to his own sense of intimate exchanges with deep ecology…and a Pulitzer Prize.
Where did Sarvananda Bluestone come to it all from?
“I have been in Woodstock for 32 years. I was a professor of humanities (history) at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury and Roosevelt University. Dropped academic life and went to live in the spiritual community of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. There I taught, drove buses, did legal research, built irrigation systems and even though I had been playing around with the tarot since 1973, I began doing it professionally in 1986. For 20 years I did psychic readings in the Borscht Belt of the Catskills,” he answered, leaving his chosen form for a moment (but writing on an iPhone to keep himself from being “even more verbose.” “Have two published books, How to Read Signs and Omens in Everyday Life and The World Dream Book. I have been head counselor and one of the theater directors at Appel Farm arts camp in southern New Jersey. I have one daughter and one granddaughter who are the jewels of my life.”
Diving into his Yerry Hill Haikus and the photos Bluestone has taken on the walks that keep inspiring him, several seasonal items arose.
White rippling clouds/ Shine in the instant pond—/As above-below, comes in the Spring. The first daffodils/ Poke their trumpet head stems/ Into gray morning.
Summer gets similar treatment, short and succinct and lent added precision and poetry by the man’s simple nature photography. Along with Autumn. Not the silencing stunned greatness of the best the form can offer, which is rare, but an achievement of persistence and consistency, of engagement with the world we inhabit here.
“I just realized you asked for a sentence or two,” Bluestone emails after his haiku blogging story has been started, and is nearly finished. “How about a haiku?”
Sure, why not…
Walking Yerry Hill
The whole world opens itself
In front of my nose.