Frame a Moment
Our lives are made up of moments–ordinary and extraordinary moments– that speak of God’s presence with us. However, we are often inattentive and miss them or don’t give them a second thought. Poets, artists, composers, writers, and contemplatives invite us to pay attention and notice what is right in front of us: the sleeping child, the way the sun is caught in the water as it sprays from the faucet, the katydid that rests on the twig, the lonely look in the face of the stranger, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye.
One way to pay closer attention and capture those moments is to use the ancient Japanese poetry form called Haiku. Frederick Buechner likens the exercise of writing haiku to framing a moment. He says that the frame makes us stop and take notice. 1.
Haiku is a three-lined poem with a syllable pattern of five, seven, five.
The first and last lines contain five syllables; all the words that fit in between must be contained in seven syllables whether in one or two lines.
The discipline of reducing an experience to very few words requires that we stand still and enter into it. It invites us to look with lover’s eyes at the beauty and radiance of the moment whether painful or joyful. As we paint the picture with few words we reverence the Presence in our lives.
1. Begin with prayer. Look into your heart’s archives. Let memories roll by like pictures on a movie screen. When a memory appears that takes hold of you, stop! Put a frame around that memory. Stand back and gaze at it. Savor it. Take a walk. Have a coffee break. Find a chapel or some sacred spot, and sit in reflection. Choose whatever works for you. All this is preparation. It is also prayer. When you feel you have spent sufficient time musing over this memory, settle down in one of your favorite holy places with your notebook and begin writing your haiku.
2. After writing your first haiku, let the memories roll again. Perhaps you will want to write a second and third. As you create your haiku, try to capture different emotions: joy, sadness, delight, disappointment, satisfaction, awareness…
A few examples from Basho and Macrina:
An old silent pond.
Into the pond a frog jumps.
Splash! Silence again.
A tiny gold leaf
Offers a silent sermon
From a barren branch.
Fear is in my heart
Buttercups console me
In my healing field.