Winter Solitude
volume 10 issue 2, December 2009

Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations. (Henry David Thoreau)

When I began working on this issue, something like the above often-quoted passage from Walden was in my thoughts: the crackle of embers in the fireplace as the rest of the family has gone to another room to watch TV and I am alone in the silence, looking out on a winter evening of deepening blue made luminous by the snow that has begun to fall . . .

Some years ago, to my surprise, my husband told me that ‘solitude’ does not have the same connotation in Greek, where the word for solitude, μοναξιά, is more commonly translated as ‘loneliness’. Other languages do not differentiate:  solitude in French, Einsamkeit in German . . .Search the World Kigo Database and you’ll find entries on both: there’s a link to a thought-provoking essay on solitude and the aesthetics of Wabi-Sabi, and the discussion of a haiku by the zen monk Joso in which Gabi has translated ‘sabishisa’ in dual versions as either ‘loneliness’ or ‘solitude’. 

Loneliness versus solitude: the first connotes isolation with feelings of bleakness and desolation; the second implies a contemplative withdrawal from society. Perhaps English is unusual in having two words, for it obscures that loneliness and solitude are two sides of this same coin. True solitude is more than a respite from the chatter and obligations of our social lives:  it’s where we confront our inner selves and deepest fears in a cosmos of change and loss. 

In reality, of course, we’re not alone. There are many other species on the planet with us though we don’t treat them very well.  Rather than devote this issue’s Contemporary Haiku challenge to the issue’s theme directly, we thought we’d explore by focusing on its opposite: companionship and the animals who for better or worse have tied their fates to ours. We hope you'll agree that this adds texture and depth to our exploration of theme.

In this issue, we’d like to give special recognition to Emily Romano, whose haiku has been chosen to poem Mary's painting of fireflies. As evidence of Emily’s wide-ranging haiga talents, you’ll find more of her work in both the Contemporary and Experimental sections too: surely a record for any of our contributors within a single issue! Initially what appealed to me about Emily's haiku was its delightful reference to Nick Virgilio's lily. Now, as I write this, it's a rainy December night and the news on television is that the Copenhagen Climate conference did not end as well as we might have hoped. Yet, in less than a week, the sun begins its northward journey, and for those of us in the northern hemisphere, Emily's haiku is a message of hope:

out of the darkness
...out of themselves
..................l i g h t


On behalf of the resident staff here at Haigaonline, our thanks once again to all of you for your continued support of the oldest haiga journal on the internet. Happy Solstice!

Linda Papanicolaou