Conversation 46: NATURE AND HAIKU – Season Words

“Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves. It is in” our hearts “that the life of nature’s spectacle exists; to see it, one must feel it.” Jean Jacques Rousseau

During Covid19 there has been somewhat of a renaissance back towards nature. People are appreciating nature, understanding and wanting to preserve nature, needing to get out into it, sense it and bring it into their homes.  

This week I attended a webinar SHARING STORIES FROM NATURE – A LISTENING SPACE co-hosted by Network of Wellbeing and The Heart Movement. Reflecting on our experiences around nature during this year common threads emerged.  Many are taking more time to get to know the places where they are living. By slowing down we are noticing more through being in tune with the changing seasons. We are discovering new places and paths, also rediscovering old places and paths. Some are embracing new ways to be in nature alongside walking such as gardening, cycling and swimming. Connecting with others in nature is enhancing friendships and family bonds. Gratitude and respect is felt alongside an awareness of both the nurturing and destructive sides to nature. We are feeling uplifted by seeing resilience in nature.   


Traditional haiku embraces the natural world focusing on directness and intensity to create a vivid impact in 3 lines. Crucially it involves a Kigo or Season Word; alongside a Kire or Cutting Word that allows the shift from one contrasting image to another. Basho’s famous haiku, with notably numerous and contradictory translations, uses FROG as its Season Word (indicative of Spring) and POND as the Cutting Word.

The old pond;                                     Furu ike ya
A frog jumps in —                              kawazu tobikomu
The sound of the water                          mizu no oto


Modern haiku has taken on some of its traditional haiku roots but mirroring other literary forms has adapted with the times. On THE DAILY HAIKU after a suggestion to offer a SEASON WORD by Eric McLachlan and a poll to see how this might work we will now offer a Weekly Season Word. This will allow those who want to Kigo to do so whether as traditionalists or modernists and those who want to see the Season Word as another theme to also engage around a desire to engage in nature.


Season words or Kigo once followed a strict format and there are whole dictionaries dedicated to terms that can be used. But of course our perceptions and experiences of nature  are now very different compared to hundreds of years ago, or even a hundred years ago. Also we live in a global world where seasons shift at different times. Season words may now involve city life and living, climate change and personal, more senryu-like perspectives on seasons.


A Season word can, no matter your approach, focus the mind on the nature around us and perhaps feel more in touch by expressing our thoughts condensed into writing haiku but also sketching, photographing and collecting natural items too. It can also allow us to recall experiences from other times or imagine places we might want to visit. In the SHARING STORIES FROM NATURE webinar we were encouraged to bring an item from nature into the session which we were able to talk about and these sensory touchstones initiated deeper reflections.


It would be good to build up our own compendium of SEASON WORDS so do please include your suggestions here by connecting to your own observations of the seasons around you and wider details including weather conditions, plants, food, wildlife, traditions and celebrations.



ALAN SUMMERS: More Than One Fold in the Paper: Kire, Kigo, and the vertical axis of meaning in haiku

The British Haiku Society: Resource on How to Haiku ‘The Heart of Haiku’ Series The British Haiku Society

A Dictionary of Haiku Classified by Season Words with Traditional and Modern Methods by Jane Reichhold with haiku

Season Word List

Five Hundred Essential Season Words—————————&fbclid=IwAR3ldyJRORX-NOF-Q5uPUiOtzgWctNtLqzKMue8LffBe0cSuvdiV1aLCzFA

Network of Wellbeing @NetwrkWellbeing

The Heart Movement @TheHeartMovUK


10 Comments on “Conversation 46: NATURE AND HAIKU – Season Words”

  1. Looking at the translations there of Bashō’s classic: the dash in English versions is customarily used as the equivalent of the kire, so as rendered above the haiku has two ‘cuts’ which would be unusual. In the romaji version of the Japanese, the kire (ya) comes after the pond, as you say. So, in English if there is to be a dash it should come after ‘pond.’ And then the haiku reads differently as the second and third lines elide (and I remove the clunky second ‘the’ in the last line:

    the old pond –
    a frog jumps in
    the sound of water

    I never thought about it like that before – the haiku is become so widely quoted that it is almost a joke – but now, it makes sense to me.

  2. 古池や蛙飛び込む水の音

    Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉)
    1686 (when he was 43 years old)

    Romanised Japanese:

    furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto
    furuike ya kawazu tondaru mizu no oto

    English version (Alan Summers):

    old pond the frog jumps into the sound of water

    As the old Japanese word, kawazu, rarely used even in Bashō’s time, is both plural and singular:

    old pond the frogs jump into its sound of water

    And a partly fun version by myself:

    sound of the universal pond jumping into a frog
    sound of the universal pond jumping into all frogs

    When I had a rented Queenslander house, with its plumbing exposed under the building, we’d have frogs all hanging about, and the place would reverberate with the sound of frogs in and around the water. There is something comfortably fascinating, calming and basic about the sound of water in the company of frogs.

    I’d even have at least one frog pop up in the indoor toilet! It was like a greeting from the world’s past, and its origins.

    Alan Summers
    Call of the Page

  3. Here are a couple of season words and honorable mentions off the top of my head.

    blossoms, melt, sprout, grow, migration, longer days, shorter nights, plum [trees], cherry blossom

    beach, heat, ice cream, surf, swim, sun, grass

    acorns, fall, turn, fruit, store, migration, lengthening nights, shorter days, maple [tree], oak [tree], ginkgo [tree]

    frost, snow, blizzard, cold, ice, barren, hail, dark, hibernation, hot springs, skiing, hot chocolate

    OTHER words could be season words; despite not being necessarily fixed to the same season everywhere. For instance, both Cape Town and Japan have seasonal wind.
    rain, wind, typhoon, hurricane, mist, fog, storm, whales, flood

    New Years, St Patricks, Easter, Halloween, Black Friday, Equinox, Solstice, Christmas

    NATURE: Although perhaps not seasonal, they are certainly nature references worthy of an honorable mention:
    Coffee, Tea, Dawn, Sunrise, Noon, Sunset, Dusk, Midnight, glaciers, aurora

    I’ll try to think of a few more.

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