autumn twilight (from Selected Haiku)
the wreath on the door
lifts in the wind
Read through Basho’s “Winter Solitude” yesterday with a friend. We focused on how “wind” so slightly hints motion and change. It can be passed over easily, especially by one concentrating on the starkness of his position.
The scene here ends with wind, starts with autumn twilight. Autumn twilight is ambiguous: is it somewhat bright, a soft color over the world, or is the sky rapidly becoming dark? (cf. Shakespeare, “Sonnet 73”) The rest of the poem is one thing, a wreath on the door lifting in the wind.
One could say that the speaker shuts out what’s left of autumn, that the central action is that of a closed door. But I’m thinking this: Why autumn, why wreath? Something about the season stays with the speaker. The wreath on the door, lifting in the wind, doesn’t just bear a resemblance to the leaves swirling around, at least for a moment basking in twilight.
Again, one could say nothing’s going on here. The wreath, constructed from leaves and twigs, is more man-made than natural. The correspondence the speaker dwells on is a fraud. But I wonder about the Greek word “kosmos,” which means “universe” but primarily means “ornament.” In other words: if you are properly decorated, if you participate in something truly beautiful, you speak the universe. The world is well-ordered enough that we may be making it without fully realizing it.