the mountain’s timeless
spring fashions

A haiku prompted not merely by the image but by the specific processing I decided to give it. So then of course I needed to use an old-fashioned font, too. Somewhere in the editing, “fashion” became “fashions” and I decided to stick with that.

what flutters

in the leaf litter

This one’s a little high-concept, I guess. I like the way that hepaticas face in all directions, and imagined them trying to ask Marie Kondo’s iconic question about their environment: What sparks joy? A web search turned up a post at Dictionary.com about the Japanese verb she uses, tokimeku

In Marie Kondo’s books, spark joy is a loose translation of the Japanese word ときめく(tokimeku), literally “to flutter,” “to throb,” “to palpitate,” or “to beat fast,” as your heart would when it feels excited.

Now, I’ve forgotten more Japanese than I ever knew, but I still do know how to use a dictionary and such, so with some tinkering around I came up with a translation that even manages to adhere to the traditional 5-7-5 haku pattern. (If anyone more conversant with the language wants to correct me, please feel free!) Hepatica nobilis is a five-haku word, misumisō:

rakuyō ni nani ga tokimeku misumisō

As for the English original, I ultimately ended up changing “sparks joy” to “flutters” so the whole Kondo connection becomes more a feature of the process than the final product. Is it a great haiku? Nah. But it makes me smile.

UPDATE (7 April): Swapped in the kanji for misumisō (hepatica/s), 三角草. Thanks to my old friend David K. Groff, translator of The Five Rings, for the advice (and for confirming that the haiku was otherwise sound).

water gap

hand holding up a blue-and-white-glazed shard of pottery against a background of bare trees and a mountain outlined against the blue sky

a cellar hole open
to the sky

Plummer’s Hollow Run empties into the Little Juniata River where it flows through Bald Eagle Ridge at Tyrone — a classic Appalachian water gap. There’s a ghost village there, Upper Tyrone Forge: 200-year-old cellar holes from the charcoal iron era. The last two houses were still standing when my family moved here 50 years ago, when I was five. My brothers and I spent many a happy hour digging for old bottles in the woods.

I wondered about leaving the word “hole” out as not entirely necessary, but whenever I’m unsure about word choice I always default to my ear and my ear said keep it.

April woods

the sun and I on
the same path

Before the trees leaf out in spring is an exciting time in the eastern forest, when so many ephemeral wildflowers rush to open and get pollinated before the shade closes in, giving hikers an incentive to get out there even as we risk sunburn.

I’ve already forgotten the name of this font, but getting the color as close as possible to the sunlit part of the leaf seemed essential to the ku’s insight.

favorite childhood spot

that rusty bucket

And I do miss it! This is just over the line onto a neighboring property, where at some point someone must’ve decided to get tidy. I hate when that happens. Old galvanized steel buckets just want to go slowly back to the earth. I used to sit on that one and admire the hawthorns and mayapples, which will soon carpet this area once again. (Have I mentioned I grew up without TV?)

spring fling

one look back and we’ve both
grown old

I don’t support carving up trees, but I’m not above mimicking that look in a haiga. (The little hearts here are a standard Snapseed font feature.) Fortunately, Plummer’s Hollow is off the beaten path enough that the few graffitied beeches are vastly outnumbered by those with only natural markings, such as these wonderfully eye-shaped limb scars.

I’m not sure what the rules are about Greek mythological allusions in haiku, but certainly in Japanese haiku, literary allusions are one of the traditional ways to allow haiku to suggest more than their brevity otherwise permits.

question mark butterfly

my shadow
taking the shot

A little too comic, a little too obvious… fine, it’s a senryu. Bring on literalism in the haiga, complete with speech balloon.

As an adult butterfly, the question mark seeks out rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, or carrion as food sources. Only when these are unavailable do question marks visit flowers for nectar. This dietary adaptation is especially beneficial to the late spring / overwintering / early spring brood when nectar sources may be limited.

Polygonia interrogationis – Wikipedia


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.