A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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Archive: Contents of American Haibun & Haiga Volume 1

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Phil Cook


Several years ago, as part of my general interest in gardening, I acquired a few plants of hanashobu, the Japanese iris. From this modest beginning, my appre-ciation for these remarkable plants has grown into an obsession; I am now a collector, hybridizer, and hana-shobu evangelist. The hanashobu are the last of the irises to flower, with peak bloom in Vermont usually occurring around July 10. People who see them for the first time are awed by their size, their rich colors, and their variety of markings and shadings. In the warmth and humidity of July, they evoke the languid ambience of a tropical land. The flowers are especially beautiful on cloudy days or in early morning or late afternoon when the light is softer.

summer evening-
in the fading light
a flower glows

In Japan, a meditation ritual centering on hanashobu was practiced during the later 1800s and early 1900s. The flower expands and opens over a period of a few hours and will change color and form as it ages during its three day existence. This transformation is called "the Act" by the Japanese. Potted hanashobu are brought inside and placed in front of an ornamental panel just before the bud begins to open. The meditator sits in front of the panel and watches the Act while presumably reflecting upon the mystery of the transformation. Apparently, symptomatic of a changing life style, this ritual is rarely practiced today.

half open-
the flower also watched
by a bee


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