Snailing Up the Mountain.

O snail

Climb Mount Fuji,

But slowly, slowly!


Yesterday, I felt the entire universe quake when I discovered  this incredible Haiku. Of course, I am not alone in my response. This Haiku is widely known in Haiku circles. However, that doesn’t stop me from feeling that Issa wrote it just for me. That despite living long before my time, he knew me so intimately that he actually heard the silent cry in my heart.

Ever since I developed a muscle-wasting auto-immune disease ten years ago, I’ve felt the need to climb a mountain. After all, isn’t this what everybody does after they face a serious setback? Of course! Naturally, I never felt this compulsion when I was capable. That said, I have climbed Australia’s tallest peak, the Mount Kosciuszko which at  2,228 m barely scratches Everest’s knees.It’s not what I consider a serious challenge, even though I couldn’t do it now.

Given my disability and other interests, I put my mountain climbing dreams long ago and instead, turned my energies towards a more achievable challenge…skiing down the mountain, which I achieved in 2013.

Anyway, tonight over dinner I decided to share the snail Haiku with the rest of the family. Indeed I couldn’t wait. When something hits you straight between the eyes like that, it’s hard to concede that anyone could interpret it any differently. Surely, they would be equally blown away and appreciate how slow and steady can get you over the mountain…be it physical, psychological or spiritual.

However I’d forgotten that the kids had studied Japan at school and might have their own perspectives.

My daughter, who has a long history of asking difficult and lateral questions, didn’t disappoint.After I’d finished reading the Haiku, she asked:

“How does the snail climb up Mt Fuji if there’s snow? It wouldn’t stick.”

Of course, this necessitated yet another Google search. I sweart hat site could well be re-named “The Dumb Parents’ Salvation”.

In the past, kids’ questions like this were admired, considered rhetorical and left unanswered. Parents were let off the hook, although there could well have been the “Go ask your Father/Mother” to pass the buck. After all, nobody likes to be outsmarted by their ten year old kid even, if we do appreciate their intelligence!

However, you can’t get away with that any more. If you don’t know the answer,  you’re expected to find out, even if that means exploring the very frontiers of human understanding to get the answer…the intellectual equivalent of landing on Mars.

While I realised that my daughter’s question focused on a more literal than symbolic interpretation of Issa’ s Haiku, I still decided to follow through on her question. How could a snail climb to the top of Mt Fuji? I’d never even considered how a human could do it, let alone a snail, so I really did need some help.

That’s when I stumbled across a fabulous and very human account of climbing Mt Fuji and I thought that anyone who appreciates the Haiku, would also appreciate their journey: Climbing Mt Fuji

That’s helped me formulate a sort of answer to my daughter’s question. That the snail would need to climb Mt Fuji during the Summer months but given the huge number of human climbers, it could very well hitch a lift to the summit…even if that’s cheating. I also made a mental note to warn the snail to be careful. With that many climbers about, it would be all too easy to get stepped on.

If you are interested in Haiku, you might want to check out my previous posts:

My First Haiku

Haiku & Mash

Haiku for Four Seasons

Roses Aren’t Blue

Do you have a favourite Haiku? If so please share it and likewise, if you have climbed Mt Fuji, I’d love to hear how it went.

xx Rowena






11 thoughts on “Snailing Up the Mountain.

  1. roweeee Post author

    Thanks, Monika. I think Issa might also have done the image but I’m not sure. I am very new to Haiku but I’ve just ordered an illustrate book o animal Haiku put out by the British Museum so that may shed some light.
    By the way, I have been researching dead poets for the April A2Z blogging challenge and realised a good proportion of them committed suicide. That was a bit of a jolt as I’ve really connected with their work. However, when I woke up this morning, I was greeted by Lady and she was wagging her tail like crazy and her entire body was quivering with excitement and it hit me that these people couldn’t have had a dog. I mentioned that to Geoff who then said that Hemingway had cats. Interesting…Geoff is allergic to cats.
    Hope you have a Happy and Blessed Easter! We are having low key day tomorrow as we’re going to the Royal Sydney Easter Show on Monday. I’ll really have to pace myself doing that. We’ve never taken the kids before as I haven’t been well enough and they were younger and less manageable. I’m really looking forward to it! xx Rowena

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  4. Norah

    It’s a great haiku. I love it’s message – slow and steady is the way to achieve what you set out to. I appreciate your daughter’s question. It’s a good one, if not philosophical; but all questions are accepted in a philosophical discussion. I’d have to know is the mountain always covered in snow. Hitching a ride with humans may be a way of getting to the top with the least expenditure of energy. I don’t think it would justify the beauty or the power in the haiku though.

  5. roweeee Post author

    I don’t know whether you read the link through to the climbing story but that added some depth. I’m not sure whether Mt Fuji is snow-covered at the summit all year or not. Will have to check that out.
    Meanwhile, I shared your comment with Geoff about hitching a ride up. He mentioned hitching being preferable to dying. A valid point.
    I have ordered a book of Animal Haiku published by the British Museum and it has illustrations so I can’t wait for it to arrive.

  6. Norah

    I agree with Geoff. I’d rather hitch than die!
    I’m sure you’ll be sharing some of the haiku. I look forward to it. I used to play a game on the computer. It was sort of a hangman haiku. I had to guess the letters and work out the haiku. I really enjoyed it. Combined my love of puzzles and poetry. I haven’t done it for a long time now.

  7. roweeee Post author

    That Hangman Haiku sounds great.Can’t wait for the book to arrive but tomorrow I really launched in the A2Z and I remember what it was like last year. At the same time, I’m better prepared. However, now I’m doing more reading and research. You’ll particularly enjoy A and C. Actually, B too. Take care xx Rowena

  8. roweeee Post author

    Thanks so much for the shout out! Much appreciated. Sorry it has taken me so long to thank you but I’ve had trouble accessing my comments.
    xx Rowena

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