first fire

all the light that won’t
shine again


I was walking along a state forest road yesterday evening, trying to come up with a haiku to accompany a photo I’d taken earlier of a fallen oak tree that looked like a dragon, when I came across this old stump, ringed by saplings like witnesses to a crime (though they wouldn’t have been there when it was cut down). And that moment of insight and inspiration ended up being way more fruitful than the cool-looking thing — which I still haven’t turned into a decent ku.

old birch

the wild gestures of one
living alone


My favorite tree along my favorite section of Pennsylvania’s Mid State Trail. It stands apart, growing in the middle of a patch of mossy, ridge-top boulders. It’s a black birch, not a yellow birch, so it’s probably near the end of its lifetime.

slow fall

the standing dead
turn blue


An image-prompted ku, obviously. My first attempt, which I almost went with, was more conventional:

autumn woods
saving the best colors
for dead trees

But that made me yawn, so I slept on it and came up with the above instead.

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.