Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) was the Japanese master of haiku and a pioneer of travel as pilgrimage. In this awesome collection, Sam Hamill has gathered together Narrow Road to the Interior, a diary of his journey through northern Japan; three travel sketches; and over 250 haiku.
Basho once observed: "Nothing's worth noting that is not seen with fresh eyes." Whether viewing the moon, marveling at cherry blossoms, or meeting a sage unexpectedly, this vagabond always finds just the right words to describe what he's seeing. An example: "A pair of deer / groom each other hair by hair / with increasing care." Another: "The orchid's perfume / clings to the butterfly's wings / like temple incense."
As a seasoned traveler, Basho always brings himself to the present moment: "Yesterday's self is already worn out." With no set route to follow, he is free to move in zigzags. He travels light on straw sandals. One of his best pieces of advice: "Learn how to listen as things speak for themselves." On the road this poet and Zen master comes to a deep appreciation of the impermanence of life and the subtle beauty of the shining world. Reading this wonderful book, you will rejoice in what Hamill calls "the spiritual prosperity" of Basho's way of elegance.