Quietude and the Ant


.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Quietude

The Sound of Wind

Sitting outside the first night after a long winter.
All is so quiet.. the stars amazingly near...

quietude -
an ant is sneezing
in a far galaxy

Photo of an ant spider by:


i really love this haiku, gabi san...
there are those who will say that this is not real.. but everything we think or imagine is real,,,
a big wow!
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

Gabi, Thanks for sharing your special moments.

The universe so large
The ant so small
Yet both are related

ai, Berg


Gabi san, this is beautiful!
What fun to listen to an ant's sneezing! :-)))
I wish I could join you at the moment ... :-)
I sometimes hear almost the same silence in my garden in early morning:

morning mist --
a cracked bud wakens
the garden

Origa even has a haiga here:

Comments by Chibi and Andrew.


Since you like this haiku so much, here is more about the background of the ant sneezing in the universe.

Kaze no oto - The Sound of Wind

Kaze no oto
Takeyabu ni kaze
Matsu ni kaze

The sound of wind
Wind in the bamboo grove
Wind in the pines

We had moved to the old farmhouse in November of 1995, spending about half a year frentically repairing and mending the rotten structures, busy, busy, busy. In May of 1996, I wrote the following text。。(originally in Japanese) and the above poem to the friends back in the Greater Tokyo City-area.

The Sound of Wind

It has become nice and warm. Finally I find time to sit down and enjoy the quietness of the terasse. It is really quiet, believe me.
Some birds twittering happily in the tree over there. Cat silently paws over stone as she tries to get near her prey. The dog above howling "take me for a waaaaaalk". Slowly my heart calms down.

From down the valley a wind blows up. The sound of the wind passing the bamboo grove. The sound of the wind when it hits the big stem of the pine tree. The sound of the wind when it bangs on my large tin roof. The sound of the wind when it blows through the forest. The sound of the wind over the weeds. All of them so different.

I become all ears. The body drops and seems to concentrate into one big ear. My ear enjoying the great big NOW. No sense of time. If an ant would be sneezing on a far away galaxy, I am sure I would hear it now!

Suddenly I become aware of something:
Right now, I am not listening with my EAR, I am listening with my brain. I am not listening to the wind as it is, I am classifying it .As if two of these great Buddha statues who stand in front of every temple like big police-men on guard, these Nioo-San, would be standing there asking the wind: "Where do you come from?" " I come from the bamboo grove." "Ok, you may pass!" the Police watchman would plaster a lable on it, show him into the brain for easy understanding.
Not really listening with my ears, but with a watchman between my ear and my brain.

As this dawned on me, I straightened my back, took a more formal sitting position and tried to go back being all ears. And right, this time it was different.

This time a whole new world of "The Sound of Wind" revealed itself.
Seeing the wind, feeling the wind, tasting the wind, beeing the wind. One world, one sound.
Hard to put into words later on.

The bamboo grove is still one of my favorit teachers.
Thank you, Bamboo Sensei.

.. .. .. .. .. ..

And this is the comment of Susumu Takiguchi Sensei,
February 2004

"This time a whole new world of "The Sound of Wind" revealed itself.
Seeing the wind, feeling the wind, tasting the wind, being the wind. One world, one sound. Hard to put into words later on." (Gabi)

This is most likely to be how Doho interpreted Basho's teaching of "learn from the bamboos". He thought the teaching meant that we should leave out our "shi-i" (or self-will, selfishness, self-bias, private thought, one's fixed idea or prejudgement). He then said, "To learn is to enter into the thing ("das Ding an sich") and its subtlety will manifest itself and its emotion will be felt, in whose event they will turn into a haiku poem.

[However,] even if something is manifestly mentioned, unless it is the emotion emerging from the thing naturally and spontaneously, we will end up in duality of having the thing and ego, and the emotion will not amount to sincerity. That would only be an artificial product of the 'shi-i'..." ("Sanzoshi")

You put it so beautifully and convincingly, Gabi-san.

Your words are those of a poet and of a person. The words of Doho are those of intellectual analysis and of a book. We need both but poets need only your words spoken by your body and soul. Both you and Doho are talking about the same thing differently: a person and a thing merging in harmony.

The important thing is that here a person is not removed, as many commentators mention undiscerningly, but right there exactly with the thing itself. In this sense, it is not in conflict with Cartesian self: the consciousness, or self, is needed, and does not get removed, to see the candlelight go. It may even surpassed Kantian scepticism.

In this merger, East and West can meet.

Let us keep learning from the bamboos, shall we?



A friend reminded me that an ant cannot physically sneeze, as you can read extensively in comment Nr. 3 below.

“In the instance of the ant, its physical anatomy prevents it from sneezing because it breathes from through its exoskeleton through pores in its stomach.”

Well, this may be true for earthly ants, but I was haiku-ing about an ant in a far away galaxy. There, the ANTS walk on two legs, wear velvet pANTS and some even have long gray beards :o).
And when the Great King of the ants in the galaxy a little left from Saturn dies, which happens once in a millennium, they use a big megaphone to catch his last sneeze, before he is send to Death Valley, or should I say, to “Death Earth”, where he will be reborn and has to start his life cycle once more as an ant, this time one species which can not sneeze !

I have also written of the Fart of a Frog before, where the fart of the frog or sometimes the kappa is the Voice of Buddha .. ..

Look at it in this light, the sneezing ant is the voice of the Buddha too. And when Old Issa tallks to the ants and all the other little ones around his home, he is always also talking to the Buddha, because that is his life reality, his haiku reality.

Now let us consider other possibilities:

quietude –
an elephant sneezes
in a far away galaxy

I hope you agree, that would not work at all, we would be blown away by that one !

quietude -
my husband is sneezing
on the couch

this might be the reality behind it all, but what a drag, a human with a cold…
and when my husband sneezes ten times, our whole valley is reveberating with sound and the quietude is gone for ever.

.. .. .. No. No. No.
The sneezing ant in the unknown galaxy is able to sneeze, no doubt about it.

Just as a monkey is able to pee on a tree which is in fact the little finger of the Buddha, but THAT is a different story.

Now smile and enjoy your sneezes and your quietude !


Dear Gabi,

I was in the death-room of Kralska the Second, the wise King of ants.
He was sneezing just before dying.
His mild-mannered servant, Louis junior, told me: 'This is the sign to half-mast the flags of this kingdom.'
I bowed deeply while the moon was crying.

Surprise: the dead king transformed into a frog and master Basho wrote his first haiku.

I send you a recent photo of King Kralska the frog.


Whow, Geert, thanks a lot for this vivid spinning of an ant spider thread !



Read more of my Bamboo Sensei here:


If asked the nature of chanoyu, say
it's the sound of wind blown pines
in a painting.

Sen Sotan
Third-Generation Grand Master (1578-1658) 

天高し 早く流るる 雲の音
ten takashi hayaku nagaruru kumo no oto

bright autumn sky -
the sound of clouds
moving so fast

Gabi Greve, September 9, 2006

... ...

Let me add one famous ku from Santooka

oto wa shigure ka

the sound, oh,
it's sleet !

Santoka (Santooka 山頭火)






bodicechecker said...

I absolutely love this!

--Cris Grama.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of that old puzzle about the tree falling in the forest, and if no one heard it fall how do we know it did?
That must have been an infinitesimal
Deep, this one!

Gabi Greve said...

> Dear Gabi san
> As just a point for discussion, it is not in an ant's physical nature to sneeze, therefore, this attribute is soley in the writer's imagination, which is all well and good, for I truly like and enjoy imagining an ant sneezing.
But... it brings up a point in haiku, the verse representing "reality" as recommended by the masters Basho, Busson, and Shiki. How "far" should a poet go in relationship
to nature?

In the instance of the ant, its physical anatomy prevents it from sneezing because it breathes from through its exoskeleton through pores in its stomach. Sneezing is a very prmitave response of the body for only animals with lungs, I believe. I am not sure, but, it may be exclusive to mamals... though I suppose amphibians and birds can sneeze as well, but I am no biologist to know for sure.
> One of the wonderful intersections that haiku brings is to know that intersection between the world of nature and our world of mind, especially on how our "feelings" can be expressed in words to represent that intersection.

A "grey area", I suppose is if we do not know "real" nature then the affect on our feelings maybe based
on something not real. The use of "kigo" to anchor us in the "real" world of nature is essential, perhaps? The idea that haiku may be a door to exploring "real" nature is one that I like to use.

CH. san

And here is the answer of another friend.

birds sneeze at least mined oes....i guess its an instinctive
reaction to having chaff or whatever in his nostrils afater foraging in his seed bowl....

Issa enjoyed addressing insects and invertebrates directly in his
haiku, as well as endowing them with human characteristics
(anthropomorphism)....although its some no practised so much these
days ...

For you fleas too
the nights must be long,
they must be lonely.


(not sure why the translator skipped form second person in line one to the third in the last line)

Don't kill that fly!
Look--it's wringing its hands,
wringing its feet.


Bright autumn moon;
pond snails crying
in the saucepan.


Contributed by S.san

Posted by Gabi, because I think this is an interesting discussion in the WHCworkshop.

Anonymous said...

...and i who thought i was the only one who heard it! lol

Seriously, Gabi san, this is GREAT!


Gabi Greve said...

Two more comments from friends:

> quietude -
> an aunt is sneezing
> in a far galaxy
aunts can physically sneeze, so....hahahahahahaha
> JJ

Gott segAUNT Sie (hehehehe) GERMAN

Gud väsigAUNT du (hehehehe) SWEDISH


Anonymous said...

Gabi san,
I absolutely love this page...it's now one of my favorites in your wonderful collection!
Thank you for the smiles -- and for stretching our imagination.
I laughed so hard when I read about your king of ants and how they had to catch his last sneeze -- I couldn't help myself...

an ant's sneeze
caught in a cloud -
April showers


Anonymous said...

this haiku, gabi san, is magical!


Gabi Greve said...

kaze no oto


A very enlightening read! Thank you for the link. One of your best!

The part that struck me the most was where you wrote about becoming aware of how you were listening, which caused you to start listening with your categorizing mind as much as with your ears, and how you corrected it:

"I straightened my back, took a more formal sitting position and tried to go back to being all ears."

I straightened up in my chair when I read that! I'm still sitting properly even now... breathing in... breathing out...




Gabi Greve said...

very nice selection , i like that.

best wishes, karina
from a thankfully cooler LA

Director WHCpoetrybridge


Thanks for popping in, Karina san!

Anonymous said...

listening to the "sound of clouds" :-)
and feeling: HAPPY!

Thanks, Gabi !

Anonymous said...

on a cloud
I dream about
the earth

Anonymous said...

I quite like this Gabi; thank you for posting it....
D. from America

Imelda Senn said...

Dear Gabi,
I like your reflexions about Haiku and Dharma!

天高し 早く流るる 雲の音
ten takashi hayaku nagaruru kumo no oto

high among the sky -
drifting in the early morning
sounds of moving clouds

I made a new attempt of translating that haiku, what do you think about?

Gabi Greve said...

Dear Imelda,
thanks for taking a look at the moving clouds.

Your haiku is not really a translation, I think, but your wording of the idas.

Ten Takashi ... refers only to the autumn sky as a kigo

there is no mention of "early morning" in the Japanese.

But thank you for your great feeling of the situation!

I see these clouds very often here in my valley, and hear their "sound" ... as they bump on the mountains ...

Greetings from a sunny morning in Japan.