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.


of clouds

I keep trying to accumulate enough haiku to make submissions to certain hoity-toity journals that only consider haiku that have never been blogged or shared on social media, and then finding excuses to post them here anyway. Oops! In this case, the excuse was provided by an eight-spotted forester moth that landed on the brim of my ball cap, then obligingly stayed there while I de-capped, fished out my phone and took some snapshots.

coffin-shaped spring

the plucked banjo string
of a tanager

One of 24 haiku (many of them admittedly pretty bad) that I drafted in the course of a ten-mile ramble through central Pennsylvania’s Seven Mountains area on Friday, mostly on trails that I’ve hiked and camped along dozens of times over the decades. This old ridgetop spring was originally built for watering horses, I believe.

I didn’t think I was the only one to compare a scarlet tanager’s “energetic and very distinctive chick-burr” call to a plucked banjo string, but a web search only turns up my own posts. Oh well.


of a bear
I stay out
with fewer words

This power pole has always been a major message board for local and visiting black bears, who indicate their size by their claw marks, and also add pheromones to encode other information, e.g. whether a female is in estrus. Naturally, they tend to resent human additions (though when the power company replaced the pole three years ago, they adopted the new one without a fuss). As for the tanka, I decided to try to push ambiguity to the limit. I don’t think it would work on its own, without the image.

Earth Day

millipede on the green
bathroom wall

waves passing through
its carpet of feet

Good to find a use once again for the target-shaped text option in Snapseed. The auto-generated font sizes and lines were a good fit for this tanka as well, I think. All in all, I’d say my smugness about this haiga-like thing is appropriate for the day, which has long been mainly an exercise in corporate greenwashing and liberal performative virtue.

football stadium

pear trees advertising
for sex

Penn State’s annual Blue and White game, where the team plays itself, was in full swing yesterday while I was getting my first Covid jab at the indoor sports arena next door. I’m not 100% sure these are Bradford pears but I want them to be: spectacular in an obvious and somewhat tiresome way, just like American football.

Dutchman’s breeches

April clouds drift to a soundtrack of traffic. It could be anywhere, but it isn’t just anywhere, it’s the eastern part of western Pennsyltucky.

Dutchman’s breeches
trembling in the breeze
of passing trucks

The font used here, as for a number of these haiga lately, is called Gloss and Bloom, which seems appropriate.

Road cuts end up serving as wildflower refugia in many places for two simple reasons: they’re often moist with seeps, and white-tailed deer don’t hang out there.


in the forest
the footfalls of moss

Given haiku’s extreme concision, it is sometimes necessary to adjust the facts to fit the reality of an insight. In this case, the tar paper roof is not on a shack, exactly, but a corncrib-like feeder for deer. (This is a former hunting camp acquired by a land conservancy and just transferred to the public in the form of new Pennsylvania state forest land.) But there are plenty of hollows around here where people are poor enough to inhabit shacks with roofs very like this one, so if readers imagine that kind of scenario, they’re not wrong.


to warm up your engine
solitary bee

This rusty iron “flower” at the edge of my friend L.’s yard has always fascinated me. Today it got me thinking about the mechanistic metaphors often used to describe nature, as well as the early pollinators of spring. To paraphrase Philip K. Dick, do iron flowers dream of mechanical bees? But real bees are “engineered” by evolution so ingeniously that humans would have a hard time replicating them:

The major cold weather adaptations of bumblebees in general, and of the arctic bees in particular […] are the mechanisms that allow them to raise their body temperatures and to be active when the weather forces other insects into a deep torpor. The shivering of their flight muscles generates heat in the thorax up to 60 degrees F above the air temperature. Like all other bumblebees so far investigated, arctic bumblebees require a flight muscle temperature of at least 86 degrees F in order to fly. But flight is clumsy at such muscle temperatures, and fast-flying bees need to heat up to at least 95 degrees F. Being able to shiver, to heat up, and to fly so early in the season means being able to go out and bring back nectar and pollen to the colony. This allows colonies to grow during the cold nights as well as during the days.

Bernd Heinrich, Bumblebee Economics