Putting Images and Meaning into Context
In haiku, a leaf is a leaf. It is not a symbol for something else. We see it and hope to express it sono mama - as it is. But its leaf-self and all that happens to it can express infinite truth and meaning that we can identify with and appreciate simply because we have life and existence in common with all things animate and inanimate.
A leaf - and any other image from the natural world - becomes meaningful in context. When the context changes, the meaning changes. Take for example the cherry blossoms present in Japanese haiku. We do not have the same cultural concept of cherry blossoms as the Japanese and therefore do not completely understand their special meaning. Cherry blossoms appearing in American haiku have an entirely different context.
Context means the place or situation in which you perceive the image. What contexts do the following images suggest to you?
A green leaf falling __________________________________________________
A leaf spiraling as it falls_______________________________________________
A fallen leaf in a little girl's hair _________________________________________
A fallen leaf in an old woman's hair ______________________________________
A tidy pile of raked leaves in your neighbor's yard ___________________________
A child diving into a pile of raked leaves ___________________________________
A fallen leaf cupping first snow ___________________________________________
Yesterday's fallen leaf in today's new pond ice ________________________________
A leaf caught between two boulders _________________________________________
Leaves on the forest floor _________________________________________________
The first colored leaf of autumn ____________________________________________
The first budding green leaves of spring ______________________________________