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).

below zero

converting my loneliness
to metric

The best ones happen when I turn off the analytical side of my brain. Like, given the subject matter, why not choose a font that’s all sciencey? Why does it look better with a calligraphic font (La Guapita in GIMP)?

As for the photo, I’m a morning-shower kind of guy. And also, apparently, a caveman.

two-day snowstorm

Snow shovel half buried in snow beside a vole tunnel.

rodent teeth find
something to gnaw

Ordinarily I’d have gone with “finding” but changed it to fit the newspaper headline and sub-heading style. That came toward the end of two days (appropriately enough) of fiddling around with various textual and font possibilities. Out-takes included “two-day snowstorm my solitude growing voluptuous” and “two-day snowstorm the sudden snap of a mousetrap”.

The fonts are Perpetua Titling MT Bold and Gauge Oblique (which to my eye is indistinguishable from Gauge Italic, but what do I know).

sleep deprivation

A cursive-looking shadow of bare branches on a snowy gravel road.

a small bird’s shadow
crossing the snow

Haiku and snapshot both collected on this afternoon’s walk, though I didn’t link the two till I got back. I wanted a cursive font, so I edited it in GIMP on the laptop until I found one that worked. I actually preferred a different font, Rose of Baltimore, which seemed to have a more haiku feel, but the lower-case O’s looked too much like A’s, so for readability’s sake I went with a font called Work in Progress instead, with a kerning of -3. The one thing I neglected to do was to gray it out a bit, so the text ends up being a bit more dominant than I’d like. But since I’m a blogger and not a perfectionist, I’m not going to re-do it now. Lunch is calling.


Close-up of dead ghost plants (Monotropa uniflora) in the snow.

the afterlife
of ghost plants

Monotropa uniflora is a woodland myco-heterotroph with several common names, including Indian pipes, corpse plants, and ghost plants. Ghostly pale when alive, after the pipe-shaped flowers are pollinated they turn upwards and darken. The Wikipedia article notes “It is of ephemeral occurrence, depending on the right conditions (moisture after a dry period) to appear full grown within a couple of days.” But unlike many ephemeral wildflowers, it doesn’t just melt away again.

wind-sculpted snow

my caravan
of one

This is more a memory of past winters. What drifting we’ve had here, as in this photo, is just on the windward side of the ridges and easy enough to avoid trudging through (unless one is keen on a photo). The haiku occurred to me just now as I was going back through last week’s photos on my phone.