East Meets West

This was the title of our Five in a Row lesson yesterday. We began reading the beautiful picture book Grass Sandals by Dawnine Spivak. It is a biography of Basho, the Japanese haiku poet from the 17th century.

The lesson introduced my kids to the differences between Eastern and Western culture. Whereas Western culture promotes adventure, going from one new thing to the next new thing, and a fast paced life, Eastern culture tends toward a slower clock and a gentle attitude with an emphasis on tradition. Western literature may be exciting. Eastern literature may be slow-paced with seemingly nothing happening at all. Certainly, Basho’s haiku poems are gentle and (if I wasn’t so determined to enjoy them) almost pointless.

So where does East meet West? Basho closed his little house, took up his simple possessions, and traveled around Japan. Exploring is a Western thing. He could have stayed home and written lovely, timeless poetry about the things he could see at home. But instead, he went out and became inspired by homey things from far away (the splash of a frog in the water, the blue strings of the sandals a friend gave him).

I am going to try a little Eastern sentimentality here and not make a conclusion. I enjoy the book a great deal, and I took out all the haiku books from the library, and you will be hearing more about haiku, I’m sure.

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