Miles of frost

by Buson

English version by Lucien Stryk and Takashi Ikemoto
Original Language Japanese

Miles of frost --
on the lake
the moon's my own.

-- from Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter, Translated by Lucien Stryk / Translated by Takashi Ikemoto

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

This haiku doesn't emphasize that pivot that startles the awareness into new insight. Instead, it offers us a pure moment of winter solitude at dusk.

Miles of frost --

This phrasing suggests not only a chilly evening, but a landscape of silence. No activity. No carts on the road. No animals scurrying in the underbrush. Nothing but untouched frost upon the land.

In the midst of this scene of chill stillness stands the implied observer -- us. We stand there alone in the quiet scene, elevated as the solitary presence, wrapped in curling mist of our own breath.

And then we see the moon reflected upon the lake's surface at twilight.

on the lake
the moon's my own.


With no one else to witness it, the moon becomes a private gift. The moon and the observer share this moment of intimacy in the silent company of the lake.

We can, if we choose, read this in a more consciously spiritual light: The full moon is often used to suggest enlightened awareness. The lake is mind. When the surface is still, the mind has grown quiet and it reflects the serene light of the moon. The miles of frost can suggest the wider world as perceived by the senses has also been quieted through spiritual practice. In this unified state of stillness, the moon, enlightenment, becomes one's own.

Or perhaps it is only a lake and the moon on a quiet night. Then again, perhaps the moon's reflection whispers to us of enlightenment, whether we recognize it or not.



Recommended Books: Buson

Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breeze Enter The Poetry of Zen: (Shambhala Library) The Moon Over Tagoto: Selected Haiku of Buson



Miles of frost