death in autumn

that inevitable cliché


the deplorable rightness of nature


Black gum leaves in the first photo; a red-tailed hawk and northern watersnake black rat snake locked in combat for the rather more dramatic second haiga. Both snake and hawk lived, as far as I know. I had to move them in order to drive past, so I turned the hawk over with a stick and as soon as both wings were free, it flew very unsteadily off, and the snake headed for the stream at top speed. I suspect the hawk had been badly bitten (painful, but not venomous) and perhaps suffered a concussion when it hit the ground. It wasn’t moving when I discovered them.

I went for a twelve-mile walk to shake some thoughts loose, and the two haiku came as a pair just before I got back to the car. It’s a useful challenge, I think, to hold two competing ideas in mind without favoring one or the other: that life is duḥkha, and that our sense of order and beauty ultimately derives from nature.

felled on migration

the clouds in his eyes


Apparently the chestnut color in the tail feathers means this is a great-crested flycatcher and not an eastern wood-pewee as I’d initially assumed. A flycatcher regardless. [Edit] A crack birder is telling me it looks like a catbird to him. I didn’t even think of that! IDing dead birds turns out to be surprisingly difficult, without all the little mannerisms and noises to go off of.

I’m a big believer in “first thought, worst thought,” so I want to share my first attempt here because of how terrible it was:

killed by a fence the migrant flycatcher’s empty claws

So obvious, yet needlessly confusing (Killed how? Do small birds really have claws?). The need for an at least slightly more oblique relationship between image and text is ultimately what led me past my overly clever first impulses.

Deer fences do kill unwary birds who collide with them from time to time — a tragic consequence of trying to save the forest from a super-abundant herbivore in the absence of natural predation.

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.

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.