July’s white heat

blossoming wintergreen

Crouching to photograph a parasol mushroom, I spotted the white, bell-shaped blossom of Gaultheria procumbens next to it. My first reaction:

white bells in the summer woods wintergreen

which is kind of superficial and obvious, but definitely a haiku I would’ve been satisfied with just a few years ago. Then I gave it a thought and came up with

wintergreen in July’s bridal white

which seemed to point a way forward. I thought of Wallace Stevens’ great poem “The Snow Man” — very meaningful to me as someone born in winter

mind of wintergreen blossoming in July

But that struck me as too cerebral, both literally and figuratively. I’m not saying the haiku I chose for this haiga is my final say, but I do think it preserves multiple possibilities for the reader.

lady slipper

every way a bee
can bumble

The pink lady’s slipper depends on bumblebees bumbling through in search of nectar they don’t get, then slipping up and doing it again in another flower for cross-pollination to occur. Typical trickster orchid up to no good.

This is a new-to-me font called Mustardo.

Dutchman’s breeches

April clouds drift to a soundtrack of traffic. It could be anywhere, but it isn’t just anywhere, it’s the eastern part of western Pennsyltucky.

Dutchman’s breeches
trembling in the breeze
of passing trucks

The font used here, as for a number of these haiga lately, is called Gloss and Bloom, which seems appropriate.

Road cuts end up serving as wildflower refugia in many places for two simple reasons: they’re often moist with seeps, and white-tailed deer don’t hang out there.

all that effort

to pose as a corpse

It was tempting to use another common name of Trillium erectum, stinking Benjamin, in the last line, but that made things entirely too unambiguous, I thought. (Maybe it’s the photographer, lying on the ground, you know?) The flowers mimic the color and smell of rotting flesh to attract flies so they can have sex. (Yep, nothing like telling children about the birds and the bees to fuck them up for life!)

Savasana or corpse pose is the final asana in many yoga sessions because it is in some ways the most difficult, to fully relax with attention. Or so the internet informs me. No mention of flies, or an urgent need to get pollinated and set seed before dying back again.


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).


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.