Monday, August 2, 2010


The moon and sun are eternal travelers.  Even the years wander on.  A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

In these wonderful lines from Narrow Road to the Interior, Matsuo Basho, the celebrated 17th century Japanese poet and haiku master, has reminded us that home is not the destination of our journey; it is the journey itself.  With a philosophy rooted in Taoism and Zen, Basho understood that life can only be lived when one is fully awake, fully aware, and fully invested in the mystery and glory of the present moment.  Home is the uncertain path beneath our feet, the mysterious dance of form and color around every bend, the unexpected wind upon our face.  Home is a fading church bell, the intense fragrance of flowers in the early evening, the haunting sound of whippoorwills calling to one another at twilight.  Home is the restless dragonfly, the solitary heron that feeds in the shallows, the bluebird that sits outside your window pondering the meaning of an early snowfall.  Home is both movement and stillness, the stillness in our movement and the movement in our stillness.

Many of the treasured moments of Basho's life were expressed in his celebrated haiku verses.  I have chosen several of these verses and paired them with some of my photos that seem appropriate.  Enjoy!

Temple bells die out.
The fragrant blossoms remain.
A perfect evening!

Silent the old town 
the scent of flowers floating
and evening bell

The dragonfly
can't quite land
on that blade of grass

Even that old horse
is something to see this
snow-covered morning

Now in sad autumn
as I take my 
darkening path
a solitary bird

A lightning flash --
and, piercing the darkness,
the night heron's cry

Twilight whippoorwills
whistle on,
sweet deepened
of dark loneliness

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers'
imperial dreams

First white snow of fall
just enough to bend 
the leaves
of faded daffodils

In summer mountains
bow to holy high-water clogs
bless this long journey

One more -- one that not only captures the essence of Basho's life, but also provides a good template for the rest of us:

A wanderer,
so let that be my name --
the first winter rain


  1. Perfectly beautiful, especially paired with your tremendous photographs.

    This morning --

    Hot as a brand
    but hanging laundry
    suddenly a breeze.

  2. To Ruth,

    Thanks for the nice comments.

    Cool for a change here
    Dry grass hears whisper of hope
    A cardinal darts.

  3. George, both the words and the photography are so very beautiful that I want them, printed out, on the wall of my study so that I can refer to them every day.

  4. Both words and photographs are utterly beautiful, I shall come back and spend more time absorbing them both. Thank you for a lovely post.

  5. Stunning pairings George! So I guess one could then say:

    Transit Notes are sent
    From home, that welcoming place
    Of Wabi-Sabi.

  6. To Pat,

    Thanks for the lovely comments.

    Reality now
    Speaks words on Wensleydale walls
    Fresh eggs from new chicks

  7. To Rowan,

    Thanks for the kind note. Glad you liked the post.

    Coming and going
    Seasons leaving gifts of change
    Circle of the year

  8. To Bonnie,

    Thanks for your nice comments and the special gift of a haiku verse.

    Wabi-sabi true
    The Tao and a taste of Zen
    Life peels the apple

  9. What an utterly wonderful post—lines of wisdom and grace paired with magnificent images from a soul-connected eye. You are the real deal, my friend…

  10. To Grizz,

    Delighted that you have enjoyed this post. I am both honored and humbled by your comments. I love your expression, "soul-connected eye." I don't know if it is connected well enough, but I keep on trying. As you know as a photographer, the clicking is secondary to the seeing.

    River and seasons change
    Not the small cottage witness

  11. Second to Weavers comment...and for the first time I'm having computer envy...I want a bigger I can sit further back and enjoy the lines with the pictures.. Wonderful post.

  12. To Karin,

    Thanks for the nice comments.

    Computer problem
    Solved by looking out the window
    Sun on the bird's wing

  13. Very enjoyable! Beautiful words and photos!

    "Home is both movement and stillness, the stillness in our movement and the movement in our stillness"...such meaningful words for me.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. To Wanda,

    Thanks so much for the nice comments, especially about the lines on movement and stillness. It's paradoxical but true, at least for me.

    Moments of your life
    Framed in captured morning light
    Starbursts miles away

  16. Days at the Lake
    Then, home again,Internet,
    And charming haiku.

    Not really poetry, just history.


  17. A post with echoes of Nature - the photos seem to embody the lines "the stillness in our movement and the movement in our stillness". As I write this, it's raining here in the mountains - a cold rain that signals change.

  18. Hi George

    I enjoyed your Basho walk through haiku and fine imagery.

    Walking the countryside through small villages in Japan was one of the highlights of my life. Composing haiku as we walked seemed a natural thing to do. At nights in old traditional country inns, sitting on the tatami, after superb dinners we would share our haiku...

    Two of my favourite Basho Haiku follow...

    Long conversations
    beside blooming irises
    Joys of life on the road

    The lillies
    the stems, just as they are
    the flowers, just as they are...

    and for you from me...

    Across vast oceans
    though seasons and cultures change
    we join through haiku

    Happy haiku days

  19. To Kristi,

    Thanks for the visit and nice comments in haiku.

    It's all poetry
    Lake days then home again
    Your bright history

  20. To Barb,

    Thanks for the lovely comments.

    Cold rain in mountains
    Wind lifts fallen dry petals
    The promise of change

  21. To Delwyn,

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and generous comments. Your trip through the Japanese countryside sounds wonderful.

    I love the two Basho haiku verses that you quoted. The one about "the joys of life on the road' really resonates with me, not only because of its metaphorical significance, but also because I am a passionate walker/hiker. The second one about the lilies, the stems, the flowers, "just as they are" is one that I haven't seen for some reason. Very, very lovely.

    And thanks, especially, for the wonderful little haiku you composed for me. It says so much about the joys and infinite possibilities of blogging.

    Australia there
    Its quiet song beckoning me
    Time to take wing -- now

  22. George
    There is such a lot in this entry.
    I must get out, the light is fading here.

  23. Thanks for the comments, Tramp.

    May you and Lady
    Find birdsong and peaceful bliss
    Walking at twilight

  24. What a beautiful post. I found your blog through Weaver of Grass and Riverdaze. I love the Basho and your accompanying photographs.

  25. To Annie,

    What a pleasure to have you visit my site, Annie. I'm glad you liked the piece on Basho and haikus.

    Welcome visitor
    Come back with your comments soon
    Something new -- always!

  26. Haven't had much time for comments lately but wanted to let you know how much I've enjoyed your last three posts. I'm not sure what I like best about your blog - your writing or your photos. I look forward to more of both.

  27. To Fireweed Meadow,

    Thanks for the nice comments. I just hope you are safe from the fires up your way. I enjoy following your interesting life in the mountains.

    Life in green mountains
    Windsong, berries, and wonder
    Solitude and awe

  28. such exquisite images and so diverse... all beautiful

  29. To Gwen,

    Thanks for the lovely comments.

  30. Fantastically insightful blog that you have here, Mr. McHenry! I am curious as to your thoughts on the Ayahuasca. Wishes for a wonderful night to you!



  31. To Neesha,

    Thanks for the kind and generous comments, Neesha. I have not had a chance to read the article on Ayahuasca, but I plan to in the next few days, at which time I will give you my thoughts. Best wishes and good luck on your journey.

  32. what wonderful pairings-- Basho's haiku with your beautiful imagery-- the the words are wonderful as well-- I will be back.

  33. To Donna,

    Thanks for the nice comments. As you well know, pairing visual images with inspiring words is great fun!

  34. Sitting down to catch up on your blog, I'm immediately transported! What lovely conjunctions of word and image. Your heron pic reminded me of a haiku I wrote inspired by Dylan Thomas's phrase 'the heron-priested shore':

    heron at dawn
    stalking the slow streams -
    hungry ascetic

    and another 2 paired haiku entitled 'yang and yin':

    heron priest
    with pointed beak
    penetrates fish hearts

    but heron priestess
    plumbs their souls
    with piercing eyes

  35. To Robert,

    Wow, Robert! Thanks for going back and reading the postings I made while you were away. I always appreciate and enjoy your comments.

    I love your haiku verses. The images of the heron as priest or priestess are wonderful and so appropriate for this stern, stiff-necked creature.

  36. Love the poetry paired with your work.

    Beauty seizes, yes!
    At last, a blissful moment.
    Vanishes too fast.

  37. To Chesley,

    Toll the welcome bells
    Chesley, Joaquin, and Brody
    Happy is Daddy George

    Thank you the kind comments and the wonderful haiku.

  38. I love Basho and I delight in your photos!

  39. To Pat,

    Thanks, Pat. Nice to have you stop by and hope you return. Have a nice day.