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.

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.


bird’s nest of roots
nowhere to turn

One of those images so laden with potential significance that I had to spend quite a lot of time deciding what not to include, e.g. the fact that I found the nest on the road, the (hopefully obvious) fact that it fell out of a tree, etc. Even once I settled on turn/turning as the key abstraction, there were many enticing possibilities to rule out.

All of which is to say I’m not entirely sure there isn’t a better haiku hiding in this image. Perhaps that why I chose to half-hide the image behind the words.

It kind of looks like an album cover, though. Perhaps a more understated approach to the haiga would’ve been better.

trailside camp

the Indian cucumber root’s
second story

Another from Friday’s hike in the Seven Mountains. Not bad for a quick cellphone snapshot if I do say so myself. I love the way Medeola virginiana sends up a second whorl of leaves if it’s going to flower, but then half hides the flowers. Is it possible to be shyly flamboyant?

stopping for the view

an inchworm’s pure green
on my hat brim

This is the oldest section of what became a long distance hiking trail stretching from Maryland to New York state, the Mid-State Trail. The guy who led the effort, a Penn State physics professor named Tom Thwaites, was exceedingly fond of scenic views, which to me are relatively uninteresting compared to trees, rocks, wildflowers, birds, insects, lichen, etc. So as many times as I’ve been here, I’d never actually checked out most of the viewpoints along this stretch of trail until Friday, when I made a point of going to each one. And of course I then found plenty to interest me, such as the inchworm mentioned here.

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.

rain still falling from the trees

wood thrush song

A nano-puddle in a fallen oak leaf. A wood thrush was singing while I crouched to get the shot. I was working with a much broader crop when the limitations of the free Snapseed app—most of the best font options, including this one, don’t permit line breaks—led me to experiment with bleed-through of contrasting colors at ~50% opacity to emphasize the semantic break.