or apprehensive
old black birch

Unlike their cousins yellow birch, which can live for hundreds of years, black birch (Betula lenta) are short-lived trees on average, meaning they rarely get beyond 80-100 years old. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still have plenty of time to develop character. And it makes them more relatable, at least to those of us with more than half a century under our belts.

Photo shot today on a solo hike in the Seven Mountains region of central Pennsylvania.

spring migration

of sandstone

Proving that I have little sense of shame, here’s a haiga that I persisted in making despite being stuck with a mediocre to bad photo. (It was even blurry, so I added a glow effect to make the blurriness look intentional, suggesting movement.) The haiku adapts a long-standing family joke about annual rock migrations in the late fall and early spring. (Mountain humor, you know?) I wish I’d saved some of the drafts but they were all in my head as I walked up the hollow yesterday. It wasn’t until I stepped through my front door that “sandstone” occurred to me as an improvement on just “rocks” and then the whole thing clicked into place, simultaneously gesturing toward Orientalist notions of the exotic, the human rights of economic migrants, and geological deep time.

where the sun

don’t shine

I’m interested in exploring the use of colloquial language in haiku/senryu so there may be more to come in this vein. I’m also using Segoe Script for the first time, and I have to say I’m not terribly keen on it, despite its popularity with other makers of photo haiga.

This hollow snag was still a living tree, despite extensive porcupine damage, up until a storm topped it three years ago. (Chestnut oaks are so tough, winds rarely uproot them; bole snap like this is much more common.) I was bummed because an earlier photo of it was the basis for the lovely woodblock print that publisher Beth Adams made for the cover of my book Ice Mountain: An Elegy. Fortunately I have a framed copy to remember it by.

I love porcupines, but man, can they be destructive. There’s one currently ravaging what’s left of our hemlock trees near the bottom of the hollow. They den up in hollow trees, logs, rock shelters — sometimes even under the damn house.

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.