On Vashon Island, Washington, where I live, there is a long hill leading to the ferry that takes us into the large city of Seattle. Even though there is truly no advantage to racing down that hill, cars routinely scream down it, unable to stop at the crosswalk. My friend Hita vonMende and I were watching this habitual stream of traffic one day, as we waited to cross, and wondered what we could do to (possibly) slow these cars.
We remembered the old Burma Shape triplicate signs and how much fun it was to slow down in order to read them. Well, why not? We asked ourselves. And thus Hiway Haiku was born—three weatherproof signs spaced down the hill (on Hita's property) with one line of a haiku calligraphed in various alphabets, large enough to be read from a car on each sign.
On Vashon, we have a group of people who have been meeting the first Monday of every month at three o'clock for many years, to exchange and discuss their own haiku. For the past several years, I have been using these homegrown haiku plus an occasional classic one, to calligraphy and post roughly every two to three weeks. Some of the painted calligraphy becomes almost unreadable when battered by torrential storms.
Hiway Haiku don't have an agenda, don't try to sell or convince passersby of anything, some do not even adhere to the 5, 7, 5 syllable form. They are only a light-hearted moment in a harried day. They have grown into something dearly appreciated and loved by many Islanders. Now the Haiku that have been taken down are on exhibit at Rung, a Seattle gallery in Georgetown.
In April 2010, there will be a weekend celebration of two arts—calligraphy and haiku, workshops and performances, sponsored by Vashon Allied Arts.
If you have a haiku, send it to me—and who knows? Yours may end up on the hiway too!