without knowing the future

monarch butterfly

One advantage to only using a cellphone for photography is that it requires one to get physically close to one’s subjects for photos like this, which involve lots of patient stalking. Out of such absorbing experiences, haiku sometimes emerge fully formed. Such was the case with me and a series of monarchs this afternoon. And it’s a great example of how scientific knowledge contributes to a sense of wonder. So yes, I had a direct experience in a sort of Zen way, but that experience was shaped by my knowledge of monarchs’ multi-generational, epic migration—an epic they themselves presumably have no intellectual grasp of. Like most animals, they are, we suppose, in the moment at all times. Which is simultaneously attractive and terrifying to contemplate.

moon-gazing [2]

a mosquito wheal rises
on my bald head

Hadn’t intended to start a series, but here we are with the second moon-viewing-with-insects haiga in a row. It helps of course that I actually managed to get a half-decent shot of a moonlit night for once.

The font is Corbel Light, which is a digital native, designed by Microsoft “to give an uncluttered and clean appearance on screen. The letter forms are open with soft, flowing curves.”


sad face circled
by a moth

Night-flying moths will come to pale faces for the same reason they come to a light, I think: their navigation systems have evolved to orient by the moon, which of course is constantly changing, so they have to be flexible. So I’m afraid that countless generations of Sufi-influenced poets have gotten it wrong: moths don’t fly into a flame out of mad passion. They’re simply lost.

The image is a shot of sulfur shelf mushrooms from above, processed in Snapseed. I wanted something that looked like a Creator’s rough draft of moon, moth, or face all at once.

turning over a new rock

black bear

A yearling bear and I startled each other the day before yesterday as I was walking down the road and it was lying in the stream to beat the heat. For once, I prioritized wildlife watching over photographic documentation, so here instead is a photo of a rock flipped by a bear looking for edible larvae and other invertebrates.

It was sheer serendipity that a new(ish) leaf happened to be in just the right spot in the photo!

July’s white heat

blossoming wintergreen

Crouching to photograph a parasol mushroom, I spotted the white, bell-shaped blossom of Gaultheria procumbens next to it. My first reaction:

white bells in the summer woods wintergreen

which is kind of superficial and obvious, but definitely a haiku I would’ve been satisfied with just a few years ago. Then I gave it a thought and came up with

wintergreen in July’s bridal white

which seemed to point a way forward. I thought of Wallace Stevens’ great poem “The Snow Man” — very meaningful to me as someone born in winter

mind of wintergreen blossoming in July

But that struck me as too cerebral, both literally and figuratively. I’m not saying the haiku I chose for this haiga is my final say, but I do think it preserves multiple possibilities for the reader.

gypsy moths

finding each other
without mouths

Although at least 95% of the gypsy moth caterpillars stripping our ridgetop oaks this summer died of diseases before reaching adulthood, enough did make it to ensure another generation. There were so many interesting details of gypsy moth life history I could’ve focused on here, not to mention the unsettling (to a human) scene of apparent devastation, the tree trunks still covered with caterpillar corpses, etc., but the “I HAVE NO MOUTH BUT I MUST MATE” aspect kind of encapsulates the whole horrific reality, I think, and I liked the word music here, including the almost rhyme of moths and mouths which, to me at least, echoes the male and female moths’ similar but contrasting looks.

The new-to-me font is Bellota Regular. The cursive swashes in an otherwise non-cursive font make it a pretty good match for modern haiga, I think.

lost time

the scarab remembering its wings

Quite by accident, looking for a recent photo on my phone, I hit the wrong thing and found myself back in September 2019, and this snapshot from Palma de Mallorca’s cathedral museum cried out for re-editing. I opened it in Snapseed, feeling that there might be a haiku in it. There was.

Of course I’m thinking of Proust, but also of ancient Egyptian symbolism about scarab beetles, and the way Japanese use the word 蟲 mushi, commonly translated as bug or insect, to also indicate a kind of second soul, “closer to the depths of one’s being.” All this was brought to mind not only by the photo but also by a real encounter I had the other week with a large black beetle, which was moving too quickly for me to photograph, and chose to escape not by flying but by tunneling into the earth.

day moon’s polypore

the smell of heat

Haiku sparked by seeing the half moon in the morning sky, after a walk up and down the hollow, where I’d spotted a black cherry log covered with oyster mushrooms. The first draft had “daytime moon’s inverted cup…” but I thought that was a little trite. Then I thought of the mushrooms and drafted a couple of very over-thought haiku about them (e.g. “oyster mushrooms mining a whole log for their missing halves”), before deciding to cut my losses and merge the two efforts. The Snapseed app was more than adequate for this.

Day moon might sound a little too telegraphic, but I like the sort of fellowship with terms like day drunk and day trip.

Haiku drafted, I went back and picked the mushrooms for supper.

taking it slow

through the humid forest
yellow plasmodium

Two weeks since my last post, and I’m still writing about the humid forest! My inspiration always flags a bit in the summer, which is a shame because there’s so much more going on in the natural world than in the winter, when I usually feel the most creative.

“Plasmodium” is somewhat obscure, but no other word will do the job here. “Slime mold” is just such an inaccurate and unfair term for these amazing, acellular organisms capable of slow movement in the plasmodium stage of their life cycle.