September 3: A lament, and a lot of pictures

summer sky
what a picture
is worth

I’m back in the office and feeling a little downcast. I had high hopes for the haiku-writing potential of my vacation. After all, traditionally, haiku are nature poems, right? (Yeah, I know we could have a really long debate about that, and I would happily join in on either or both sides, but let’s just go with it for now.) And I was going on a canoeing and camping trip in the wilderness! It was going to be nothing but nature! Surely I would be so inspired that haiku would pour from me like … well, like haiku from an inspired person.

It didn’t quite work out that way. For one thing, canoeing? Portaging? All day? Really exhausting. After eight or ten hours of that you have about enough energy to set up your tent, make and eat food, sit around staring at a campfire for a couple of hours, and then crawl into your sleeping bag and curse the tree root underneath you for a minute or two before passing out. Wielding a pen? Not on the agenda.

Also, I think — for me, anyway — being surrounded by nature is not the state most conducive to writing poetry. Or maybe it’s being in novel surroundings that is not the state most conducive to writing poetry. At any rate, I found myself so absorbed in just trying to take in and process all the new things I was seeing on a basic level that processing them on a higher intellectual level, making the kind of interesting connections that good haiku requires, was nearly impossible. I could write one or two lines of straight observation — but making the cognitive leap to turning observations into poetry was beyond me.

I’m hoping that after a few weeks home those observations will have marinated, or composted, or whatever it is they have to do, long enough that I will be able to turn them into haiku. Because really, it was an amazing trip, and there were plenty of connections to be made.

But right now I’m still sleep-deprived and my lower back is killing me. And after two days of grad school I’m already behind on my homework. So you’ll have to pardon me if for a few more days I keep resorting to posting haiku that I wrote last month when I had a more functional brain.

And in the meantime … here are some pictures to make up for my lack of verbal adroitness.

12 thoughts on “September 3: A lament, and a lot of pictures

  1. Hi! 😉

    “After all, traditionally, haiku are nature poems, right? ”
    No debate, and yes and no to the question. 😉
    Haiku is often yes and no, darned sneaky I hear you say? Yes, and no. 😉

    “I could write one or two lines of straight observation”
    Great! Think of them as useful fieldnotes, raw source material. Get them into one and two sections of a haiku, and you could be half way there.

    Just keep writing as you are, take photos if you don’t know for sure the type of flower/plant/tree/animal/insect etc…

    Note any clouds, and what type (always useful to vary your haiku that say clouds, and help move away from generic “clouds”; and the same for trees and insects etc…

    Timestamp each entry i.e. time/day/date/weather conditions (even if similar, they won’t be EXACTLY identical. Note rivers, streams, lakes, moon phases (day and night moons).

    Just do lots of nature notes in plain language, along with any human or other animal tracks. 😉

    Sketch, if you are terrible at drawing, we can all do useful drawings.

    This will be a useful notebook of material. Allow coffee stains, grass, water marks etc… as this will make the notebook individualistic, and less precious, but also in its own way provide markers, and a possible mention as a one line segment in the haiku.

    Write what, when, how, why you got these stains, marks, onto the notebook cover or interior pages.

    Leave the notebook in a drawer for a week or so when you get back.

    Get really antsy about WANTING to get at that notebook, but force yourself to restrain from getting at the notebook until at least seven days or more.

    I bet you will be amazed after time and distance about the material, and pull out enough to do haiku, senryu, and haibun, and even a tanka or two.

    Most of all, enjoy the darned holiday and jotting stuff into the notebook however mundane it might be. It’s the mundane that counts and can be juxtaposed with something “less mundane”.

    Bon Vacance!

    Alan, With Words

    • Alan, I wish I’d had these suggestions before I went on my trip! They are so helpful and so freeing! Now I wish I’d written much more than I did. But I am already finding that I am able to start writing haiku about the experience now that it has fermented in my brain a bit …

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment at such length. I love your work and am grateful to have you visiting my site.

  2. aloha Melissa – yeah wow, great ways to go about travel Alan.

    i think all the things we bring back from travel – bits of shell, photos, leaves, even travel literature… (literature?) – all of that stuff is fodder for work. so in some ways just soaking it in while you are there works too. and then like you, Melissa, once it’s fermented enough (as Alan says, may be a week or so… to years) – using everything that came from the travel as resource… just makes the haiku there. cool.

    awesome photos btw.

    shushing river
    a portage memory
    this water slosh

  3. What you said, Rick. (And didja see the photo of the petroglyphs we saw?! They were SO cool … there were a bunch besides the moose, including a ton of handprints which I am theorizing are graffiti left by a bunch of kids several hundred years ago …)

    • aloha Melissa – yeah. i saw that petroglyph photo – it’s one of the photos that remained in my skull after i logged out and i thought… “oh sheesh. why didnt i say something about it because it was a great shot and you had mentioned hoping to see them before you left… okay, i’ll say something when i log back on…” ha. you caught me skull-thunking.

      yeah – i really like those hand prints. i hadnt thought of them as cave-being graffiti tho – i saw them more as artist signatures, before writing – who i am sort of thing – altho of course graffiti is like that too. and not having actually been there at that time – i dont know. i do remember reading about how they were done – or at least ones i’ve seen photos of from different places. which was to place their hand on the wall and then with powdered ochres, ash etc. in thier other hand they’d blow the dust onto their hand and stone – removing their hand made the image.

      i like that idea so much i’ve used it in my work (even on clay work), as well as the over all idea of the hand-negative-space image created in other ways. the spiral in hand on this page is a variation on that idea:
      and on this page:
      the one that says Mystery (The Risk Altered Book) is another. and… my goats are often patterned after rock drawing images – such as Beyond Knowing – and – Coat on this page:
      exactly – yeah – i like petroglyphs. i think i create out of a spirit akin to what was at work in the creating of petroglyphs – altho again of course… i dont know…

      and – who am i? is still a question we ask thousands of years later…. and of course sometimes i’m quite sure we are still just cave dwellers in a technological age. . . fun, yeah?

      …and then of course there are my shadow hand photos – something i really like to do off and on in a variety of ways… like Following Dreams on this page:
      another variation on that hand of mine that spans time and relates to the cave dweller (and they of course are not all necessarily cave dwellers) work we see on stone… and sometimes animal skins…

      cool on your travels. great fodder for the future. ku-on!

      who placed their hand
      on this stone

      • Love those paintings, Wrick, and yeah I can see the inspiration of the petroglyphs in them. It was so amazing to see those things and wonder what they meant, or if they meant anything — were they just art for art’s sake? Were they doodles? They weren’t in a cave by the way, they were on cliffs by the lake — you had to paddle your canoe up to them, in pretty choppy waters on a big lake. And the hand prints were several feet above the water level, so either it was a lot higher back then or they were having a flood year. The reason the handprints seemed more like graffiti than artists’ signatures to me was that there were dozens of them all clustered together, and none near any of the other pictures. I think in some of the European caves you see the same phenomenon, which blows me away — it’s obviously just universal human behavior, to want to stick your hand in your paint and leave your mark, whether for fun or as part of some more existential musing.

        I should put up some of the other pictures …

    • Thanks, Ash. (I can’t claim credit for the photos, my husband is the photographer in the family — he hauled his big expensive camera around that chain of lakes for a week like a trooper and it was worth it.)

      SO glad not to have encountered a bear — you should have seen the men in our party getting all geeky figuring out how to hang our food in a bear-proof location (12 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the nearest tree branch) every night. Quite the challenge …

      • He definitely took some wonderful shots, made me miss the outdoors. Been quite house-bound of late.

        Wow, 12 feet & 4 feet, that’s impressive. But prudent by the sounds of things. So what was the trick?!

        • It involves a lot of ropes thrown over tree branches. Sometimes pulleys. Occasionally some tree climbing (you send the teenagers up for that). It’s quite the production, I think our first night it took a couple of hours. Ideally, you get it done before dark. 🙂

  4. Pingback: September 17: Boundary Waters « Red Dragonfly

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s