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Guerilla Haiku Movement

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Within days of moving to New York City, three years ago, I was approached on several occasions by clipboard holding agents. Each of them asked me to commit to something different. “Love children? Sponsor one in Africa! Don’t have time to chat about the child in Africa? You must be pretty selfish.” “Want a puppy for that apartment you barely fit in yourself? We’ve got bags of them!” “Do you love the environment? Prove it. Stop and talk to me. If you don’t I’ll make sure to note that you hate the environment. Your carbon footprint is the reason our children will never breathe clean air.”  It was in those first days that I made a vow to never hold a clipboard and approach people. Ever. Even if the rent to my apartment depended on it.

This past weekend I broke that vow. But I promise–it was for good reason.

A little over a year ago, I met Caley Vickerman. She is the founder of the Guerilla Haiku Movement, a movement that aims to inspire people to get out and create/make art; a movement that brings joy to people’s lives; and a movement that motivates people to explore and celebrate the temporary and the virtually permanent. How does the movement do this? It’s simple: Through chalk and Haiku.

(Quick reminder: A Haiku is a three line-syllable based poem. The first line must have 5 syllables. The second line must have 7. and the last line must have 5 again).

Throughout the world, Caley organizes events that ask people to take a moment out of their day to pick up a piece of chalk, find a free space of blacktop or sidewalk, and haiku away. Each haiku can be about anything a person wants his or her haiku to be about. Easy.

When I met Caley, I became enthralled by her movement. As someone who can often be caught on the subway counting syllables and noting haiku on her phone, I wanted desperately to be a part of Caley’s movement. Unfortunately, my schedule wasn’t matching up to haiku events, and I kept having to miss them. However, I felt so inspired by Caley’s chalking movement that in December of 2012, I set out on a quest to chalk the word happiness into each of the five boroughs.

IMG_4854_2(THAT’s A LOT OF HAPPPPPPPY RIGHT THERE!)

The joy I felt in purely taking the time to write the word happiness and visit each borough was amazing. It was then that I had caught the chalk bug–I knew that I absolutely would need to take part in Caley’s Guerilla Haiku Movement–as soon as I physically could.

It’s difficult to explain how honored I felt when Caley reached out to me just a few weeks ago about an upcoming event in New York City. She asked me if I could be a haiku agent.  Joyously, I went to type yes–but substituted yes, with an inquisitive: “What is a haiku agent?”

“You’ll stand with a clipboard, a map, a scavenger hunt, get people to join you, and keep track of the hailing/get social media photos, and more.

I hesitated for a moment, while Caley patiently awaited my answer. I sighed. A clipboard. Can I really do this, I thought? I made a vow NEVER to agree to hold a clipboard unless it was for a television or film project.  BUT this past year, I also made a vow to refuse the word “no.”
My friends, that is what we call a catch-22.

Alas, I decided that only the power of haiku could put a clipboard in my hand on the streets of New York City in order to approach people and ask them to do something–because I knew what kind of JOY it could possibly bring someone–even if it were just one person.

And honestly, I couldn’t be more happy that I broke my vow of going against the clipboard. Within minutes of chalking my first haiku of the day in Columbus Circle, I could feel the excitement bubbling. “Okay, this is awesome. Clipboard or not. I get to ask people to have fun doing this?! HECK YA.”

IMG_1951“Go find your passion
and believe in it–Be Brave
never stop reaching.”
-Libs Segal

After penning a few more of my own haiku poems, I met my co-team leader, James and the rest of our team. Their excitement was contagious, and as a team, we decided that infiltrating the park may be our best course of action. Our second best course of action was choosing a small bridge on the south side of the park–where within twenty minutes, tens of people were on their hands and knees haikuing away.

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This chalk traffic continued consistently for the next hour and a half. And through our chalk adventures…

We met people who wrote in Bengali….

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And people who wrote in Gaelic

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We met families!

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We met a father and a son who decided to take a break and haiku, because they thought it would make a great memory on Father’s Day.

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We saw a haiku written about zombies!

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And haiku that went deep–real deep:

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And haiku that made us laugh!

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 We saw people take a second to live in the moment. We saw people say yes to something they may otherwise not say yes to. We saw people leave their comfort zone–talk to a stranger–and slow it down.

And above all? We saw joy and we saw happiness.

What could have been a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

IMG_2015*Art strikes where it strikes*
*We happened upon this bridge*
*Art is where we are*

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If you are interested in taking part in a Guerilla Haiku Movement event (holding a clipboard or not), head over to www.ghm575.com and reach out to Miss Caley Vickerman–The Haiku Mistress.

AND I’m  inviting all to participate in the haiku joy. Submit your haiku below, message it, Facebook, or tweet it to me and  look for it to appear on the site later this week!!!

Cheers

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Happiness

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“If you want to view paradise–simply look around and view it
anything you want to–do it!
want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”

The Willy Wonka words echo off my computer as I awake on Saturday morning. However, in my head, I am changing the words–I am swapping out paradise, and slotting in Happiness. Because if you want to view happiness–I believe we can all look around and view it.

And Saturday, I was going to make sure of it.

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As I wake up, on Saturday, I say to myself, “Today–is an important day. Today, I am completing my 52nd hobby.” For anyone who has been following along, you’ll know that my original goal for this project turned lifestyle was to try 52 new hobbies in 52 weeks. About two months ago that goal changed–My new plan is to finish at least one hobby a week for 52 weeks, ending with a road trip across the country in February. But that doesn’t mean my 52nd hobby isn’t a significant one. In fact, it’s one of the ones that means the most to me–because it’s a sign of achievement–even if my new goal is to exceed it.

“Anything you want to, do it” plays through my speakers, and I smile.

“Today I am going to complete my 52nd hobby,” I breathe of relief.

***Never doubt a dream, always move forward…Like the song says…
Anything you want to do…Do it.***

But though my excitement for hobby 52 is high on Saturday, my will to go out and do it is quickly hampered as I wake up and see that it’s cold–and gray–but not just cold and gray–it’s pretty much a frigid apocalypse outside with gusting winds up to 50mph and snow flurries pleasantly beginning to fall. I struggle. It would be the perfect day to stay in bed–all day, to get dressed at 5pm and eat cereal for all three meals in my pajamas. But I had made a plan–and that plan included to complete my 52nd hobby, by traveling to each of the five boroughs and chalking the word happiness. I groggily got out of bed and decided that this was better than chalking happiness when the weather is perfect–because in the case of clear skies, people are likely to already feel happier. This was my time to spread happiness–even if the weather was threatening otherwise.

It took me no more than 7 hours to complete my trip to each borough and tattoo the word happiness into the sidewalk of each.

It took me no more than 7 hours to etch happiness right outside my doorstep in Brooklyn. It took me no more than 7 hours to experience the excitement of families going on the Staten Island Ferry and having an amazing view of Manhattan. It took me no more than 7 hours to witness the wealth of joy outside the doorstep of my favorite chocolate shop in Manhattan, as a homeless man approached me and thanked me for the happiness.It took me no more than 7 hours to clear my negative image of the Bronx and leave a positive message behind. And it took me no more than 7 hours to make my way to Queens and chalk happiness into a park that I once danced happiness into–just two years ago.

The truth was–that in each borough– It took me no more than moments to see that even though I was physically spreading the word happiness–it was all around me. It was in the faces of children who’d never been on a boat. It was in the faces of those who told me they had nothing but still felt joy. It was in the faces of those walking through streets of the Bronx—and it was in the faceof the child who stood up on the subway seat and peered out the window on an above ground train heading to Queens. It was in the taxi driver who got me from downtown Manhattan to Grand Central. It was in the cappuccino that I drank mid-morning. It was in the face of the man with his child who strolled past me on Fordham Road. It was in the skateboarders who skated through the park while I finished my last borough tattoo. Happiness was truly–everywhere.

And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.

Here’s to 52 hobbies–and many, many more. and here is to happiness. Cheers.

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