Haiku XIII

Geese snapping arrow
South sun slapping wing flashes
Oaks below browner.


Haiku Hiatus

Haiku hiatus
Who makes rules, who enforces
One breath, trap door step.

I’ve been out on the internet, looking at haiku blogs, and found many haikus that don’t conform to the usual 5-7-5 syllable scheme, with seasonal images and a turn of some sort.   One blogger said a haiku is essentially an experience expressed in a single breath, that’s all.  No other rules.  While the Wikipedia definition does point out that the 5-7-5 scheme is part of traditional haiku, that refers to moras in Japanese, which aren’t the same as syllables in English.  The definition does include a seasonal reference, and some sort of turn to another image, or a “cutting word.”

Right now, none of that seems particularly relevant.  The fly trying to escape the coming winter is buzzing like mad at the sunny window in my study.  Very annoying, which fits my mood.  It’s been a packed week with too many late nights working and too much clutter in my head to stay focused on 17 syllables expressions, whether a single breath or not. 

Another trap door has opened up in my life.  I got the “trap door” reference from Forrest Church’s book Love and Death.  He talks about the sudden challenges and losses in life as trap doors — grave illness, the death of a loved one, those life events that make you take a sharp turn to the left, or right, or maybe not a turn at all but a fall through a gap in the floor.

Cancer had been marching closer for two weeks.  First, the partner of a friend at work was diagnosed with a plum sized tumor on her ovary.  Then another close friend’s husband was scheduled to start hormone treatment for his prostate cancer, a step they’d been putting off as long as possible due to the grim side effects.  Then my sister, a breast cancer survivor of 19 years was diagnosed with cancer on her spine.

Suddenly the floor in front of me is an open door and clunk!  I’m in the basement again.  Okay, I know the basement.  Get out the flashlight, stoop so I don’t hit my head on the rafters, wave my arms around in front of myself as I move so I don’t walk into cobwebs.  It’s cold and damp and dark down here and I’d much rather be in the living room, on the couch, next to the fire.  But I know there are stairs out of the basement, and I won’t be here forever.

Cancer sucks.

Haiku XII

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Maple flames to oak
Spanning green, yellow, russet
Red returning brown

Al’s Gardens

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Today was the annual Deerfield Arts Tour.  Eighteen artists and craftspeople in Deerfield open their studios for the weekend, showing their painting, photography, custom furniture and woodworking, ceramics and jewelry.  Last year David and I only got to two of the studios, my friends Kathy and Al.  I had talked about both Al and Kathy to David, as they’re both accomplished ceramic artists with unique styles, and I knew David would connect with their creative sensibilities. 

But last year it was a cold, dismal and rainy day so I didn’t get to show David Al’s garden.  Today was glorious — cloudless and crisp.   We drove under yellow and orange maples and russet oaks along the half mile woods road Al built to get back far enough into the woods to create his home.  Along the road are occassional ceramic houses and tiny castles that Al crafted, sitting atop granite outcroppings as the road twists and climbs up to his open land.  Decades ago Al cleared these acres, creating fields that ripple over the hummocked landscape.  He’s built two houses (the first one burned), a studio, numerous sheds, and now has a large kiln building.

But most spectacular is his garden.  With hand stacked stone walls reminiscent of the high walls in Wales, arches built from curved tree limbs and woven branch trellises, walking by and through Al’s garden is a delight.  Form, function, variety, and the obvious hand of long attention and eye for composition makes Al’s garden, yard, terraced walkways and plantings of trees a whole piece of art in itself.

“This is a life I didn’t live,” David said as we walked up towards the walled vegetable and flower garden.  When we arrived, David had stood on the slight rise where the cars were parked, looking over the expanse of slope down to the stone walls and then up to the house on a higher hill.  A maple tree was screaming red against the blue sky.  “This is what staying in one place can create.”

We opened the gate in the stone wall and walked along the central path of the garden.  A trellis heavy with grape vines created a green tunnel, led into the open, and then under the curved arch entrance on the other side.  We walked up the hill to the studio to find Al and look at his ceramics.  When Al saw me I got a big smile and a bigger hug.  Then he turned to David.  “You’re still together?” he said, smiling more.  “I’ve been wondering all year.”

“Yes,” I said, “and you?” 

“My David is downstairs,” he said and now I was smiling.  Last year when David and I arrived I introduced the two of them and Al said, “I have a David too, he just left.”  Al and his David had just met weeks before, and Al was obviously happy to have a partner again.  Like me.

Today we all went out in the yard behind the studio so Al could show us the path to the high ridge on his land that looks down on his pond.  The shade was cool, the sun warm.  Al told us about the trip he and his David are taking in two weeks to Spain.  I stood in the sun, running my hand along the curved and twisted rim of a three foot clay vessel standing on a stump.  It had rain water in the bottom, colored leaves floating on the surface. 

Art, sun, leaves, another year of love and a life in a garden.  It was a good afternoon.  We bought two mugs for our morning capuccinno.


“That meeting was so ridiculous,” Jill said, coming in late and heading straight for the bathroom. “We spent so much time talking about whether we were on the motion or the amendment to the vote on the motion and other stupid minutiae of the process instead of the issues themselves. We couldn’t get anything done. It’s those Rigley’s or Riley’s Rules or whatever.” She was standing in the bathroom doorway.

“It’s Robert’s Rules of Order,” Jen and I said, at the same time, laughing, which we do a lot of when the three of us are together.

Jill shut the door and called out to us as she peed. “I’m upset that you both knew the right name of those Rules and I didn’t.”

“It’s just all the boards we’ve been on,” Jen said, still laughing.

Jill came out of the bathroom and stood next to the couch. “Okay, I’m going to write a book.  Robert Sucks, Rockey Rules: How to Get Shit Done.”

If you know my girlfriends, you’ll get the joke and you know we get shit done.