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:
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.