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.)

hoarfrost

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.

just at the point

of running away
white-tailed deer


If you live in the eastern US or Canada, you know this moment: the white tail goes up in alarm, they turn to run then hesitate, take one more look back.

Found this stump three days ago, moments after the end of a snow squall. I thought I might as well just lean into the humor of the visual metaphor and try to imitate the look of early 20th-century postcards, which often had captions on the front in a font quite like the one I’ve used here.

trail maps

long parallel shadows of trees on the snow crossed by a squirrel's track

the easy chair’s
mountain


A few evenings ago, I was sitting on the folded-up futon reading when I looked over and noticed the chair in the corner piled high with trail maps, also looking very settled in and cozy. After a few overly verbose attempts I settled on the wording here. The next day I took a snapshot that sort of worked, but I wasn’t wildly enthusiastic — probably because I’d left the house with the intention of finding an image to accompany the haiku. This direct approach rarely works for me in videopoetry either. Then yesterday, just capturing images that spoke to me on their own, I came up with what would, I realized this morning, make a much better haiga.

I just love the long shadows this time of year. (Those are gray squirrel tracks, by the way.)

snow

whiter
oak


From this morning’s walk, an exercise in extreme minimalism. White oak (Quercus alba) is named for its pale bark.

I’m not sure it’s possible for a haiku to get this short without relying on some kind of double meaning. Snow White works for me as a resonance here both because of the fairy-tale quality of a wet snowfall and because the trees are in a kind of deathless coma.

I’m hoping that the self-reflexivity of type that’s white than the snow rescues the text-image combo from humdrum literalism.

purple

two trees, one with a purple stripe on it, talking to each other: purple stripes on trees, nothing's private

stripes on trees
nothing’s private


Purple stripes on property-line trees in Pennsylvania mean “private property – keep out.” An earlier version of this haiga shared on Instagram had the line “stripes on the trees,” but I thought it really doesn’t need the definitive article.

In making haiga, as in videopoetry, there’s a struggle to avoid merely illustrative images and create a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Here’s one attempt to do that with a photo and haiku that arrived nearly simultaneously. Too clever? Possibly, but haiku is supposed to be light. Obviously there’s a great deal of disagreement on what lightness means, but all the masters wrote funny haiku at one time or another. And of course science has shown that neighboring trees do in fact communicate, so while cartoonish it’s not completely outlandish.