Tumamoc Hill, Tucson, AZ

Writers’ Trigger: Haiku is an unhrymed Japanese poetic form of three lines consisting of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. The images are from the natural world . From Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) the most famous of Japanese poets:

Falling upon earth, / Pure water spills from the cup / Of the camellia.

The first two lines are straight forward, but the third line takes an abrupt 45 degree turn. The reader’s delight is in the unexpected third line. We expect the water to spill from a drinking cup. The surprise is that the cup is a flower. Note also the sensory detail. We feel the rush of the fall; we hear the spill of the water, and we see and smell the camellia.

When reading translations of Japanese haiku, don’t get too concerned about the syllable count. Remember that when the poem was written in Japanese, the syllable count was correct. Translating the poem to English often throws the count off.

  • If you have never tried to write a Haiku, do so now. Some might think that Haiku with its mere three lines and scant 17 syllables, would be easy… certainly easier than longer syllabic verse. Not so. The focus on nature and the unexpected turn on the final line is a challenge.


Pausing to take photographs, we walked and paused and paused again as we climbed Tumamoc Hill overlooking Tucson. The grade was steep – so steep that we stopped to measure the grade. Ruins dating back 2300 years suggest that it is an old hill. Since 1906, the 870-acre site has been in the hands of the University of Arizona and protected as an ecological, desert lab.

Given its steep incline and from the top, the bird’s-eye view of Tucson, the hill is  frequented by athletes, day trippers, overweight women, mothers pushing prams, and fathers shouldering toddlers. Very impressive. Heartening, in fact: the hill is not for wimps, and yet among the fit, entire families of the unfit give the climb their best.

At the bottom of the hill, Our Lady of Guadalupe stands ready… to ask for strength for the climb… to thank Our Lady for a climb accomplished… to leave a token, to say prayer, to pay your respects.

In brief, the Spanish defeated the Aztecs in 1521. Ten years later, legend has it that Holy Mary appeared before the local bishop and asked him to build a church in her name. Startled and skeptical that the woman was indeed Mary, the bishop asked for proof.

At which point Mary went into the desert and brought forth an arm-load of roses. As further proof, she left an image of herself on cactus cloth. Today, some 479 years later, that image- which in on display in the Basilica of Guadalupe, Mexico City- shows no signs of decay. For images of the new basilica opened in 1976 visit www.sancta.org/basilica.

You don’t have to be a believer to experience a strong emotional response to the tokens left at the statue standing at the base of Tumamoc Hill.

The pictures of loved ones always capture my attention. What is the story? Have the children been abducted? Are those pictured plagued with mental illness, cancer or some other misfortune?  Perhaps someone is unemployed. Perhaps someone has lost his house. Perhaps someone has died.

There… pinned to Our Lady of Guadalupe, is the human condition.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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