if I can’t dance

In a snowy, mountainside forest with long shadows, tall trees with curving, dancer-like trunks and limbs.

it’s not my revolution
winter trees

I’ve written so many things about winter trees, I’m forced to get creative… or simply repurpose a famous, if apocryphal, Emma Goldman quote. Trees are a lot of what I see these days. I’ve been leaving the mountain no more than once a week throughout the pandemic, yet I remain a gregarious sort of loner, so in a real sense the trees have become my people. I never get tired of their endless, inventive forms—especially in the winter when they’re all nude, and sometimes dancing very, very slowly.

The font is La Guapita in GIMP, where I’ve just learned how to rotate layers. (Ah for Snapseed’s touchscreen simplicity! But its limitations are severe.)

the shock of recognition

ant gallery

I may well have just ruined a nuanced and delicate haiku that took me days to write with an obvious visual joke, but I’m not sorry. Designing the badge (an option on Snapseed I’d never previously had a use for) led to a completely new understanding of “recognition.”

These are old carpenter ant galleries exposed on a standing dead tree as the cambium rots off.

Brush Mountain

the upward mobility
of water

Plummer’s Hollow, where I live, is cut into the northeast end of Brush Mountain, a typical long, low ridge in the folded Appalachians, raised above the valleys by differential erosion (and also shaped by periglacial processes during the Ice Ages). It would perhaps make more logical sense to talk of water’s downward mobility, but you know, I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.

Photo taken from my front porch yesterday morning after the latest snowfall. I’m not sure what the name of this Snapseed font is, but it’s perfect for achieving legibility against a busy background.

skinned alive

by a porcupine
sweet birch

Sweet or black birch (Betula lenta) has the same flavor as wintergreen. It’s a first-succession species, and over the past few years I’ve seen porcupines noshing on it so often, I’ve decided that this is the main reason it hasn’t completely taken over our old fields.


my breath freezing
to my beard

Some ridgetop rime where a cloud sat. This was one of two good photos from yesterday’s walk, the other more conventionally pretty. But it was the weird, hood-shaped maple leaf dangling from the wrong end that prompted a haiku.

melting snow

for tea
time alone

This one is dedicated to my hiking buddy L., who does things like this. (One of my favorite possessions is a pocket-sized, hand-bound recipe booklet she made years ago called Tea in the Wild, all about which trees, shrubs and herbs can be made into tea.) The first two lines were sparked by a YouTube video she shared last night about the Nenet reindeer herders of Siberia.

There’s a pernicious belief approaching dogma that haiku must be based on direct, personal experience, as if there’s one, best way to have an ah ha! moment. This ignores the fact that many classic haiku/hokku were products of the imagination (including the most famous haiku of all, about a certain ponderous frog). But it was a popular idea long before Masaoka Shiki codified it at the end of the 19th century. I’d argue that it was a conceptual frame to give haiku a patina of profundity by association with the Zen conceit of satori. Readers of Japanese poetry practice a similar willing suspension of disbelief about death poems, most of which were of course prepared and memorized well before the poet reached the point of death. But if you read them thinking this could have been that poet’s final word, they become so much more powerful. So it is with haiku and the notion of their artless spontaneity.

Speaking of death, slowing down time is the main reason, I think, for drinking tea or coffee (or for smoking, when I used to smoke).