Author Archives: Greg

About Greg

I grew up in Stillwater, Minnesota along the banks of the first river in the country to be designated a National Wild and Scenic River, the St. Croix River. I started writing when my father bought the family a word processor in 1987 and I wrote a story about four dogs rafting down the St. Croix. I studied English Literature at the University of Minnesota, where I learned about signs and signifiers, symbolism and imagery and their respective uses in literature. It was only later that I learned that life has a meaning all its own, and that it is itself symbolic of something. I currently live in Saint Paul with my wife, Katie (Rosie).

June Haibun: Dénouement

The weekend spent canoeing on the St. Croix River at the middle of the month was the most like my dreams of June.

Sunlight on water
Afternoon waves on rock shores
Move slowly upstream

A surprisingly wild little park that I lived 15 minutes from as a kid, and live 15 minutes from on the other side today, has been a frequent respite in all seasons.

Brushy summer woods
Damp soil under tall trees
Sunshine and moonlight

From quiet natural environs, I was thrust back into the cities that have been my home for more than 10 years now.

Remember this place
Bridges over the river
Always see new sights

Then the heat and humidity arrived. This year I particularly noticed how the water in the atmosphere seemed to refract and amplify the intense sun of the solstice season.

Hot car at 5:10
Windows down all the way home
Get there, rush inside

Father’s Day weekend was the solstice and the Twins played and there was a big classic car show so the city at night was filled with them cruising up and down the avenues and then we went to the river for a warm rainy afternoon.

People line the streets
Car radios blast music
Gentle waves all day

Mid and late June is the season for the giant Hexagenia mayfly, which trout feed on nocturnally; the brave angler pursues the fish in the damp dark hours of dusk.

Drive through farm country
We go down to the river
I like the journey

The long sunlight of the solstice is one of my favorite parts of summer. The fireflies in Gabe’s backyard are a much less predictable blessing.

A show for no one
No explanation needed
No sound but the sun

I’m exhausted by this writing, but it’s the good kind of tired like that felt after making the most of a beautiful month with moments of joy and moments of calm. These have been the moments of clarity.

Radio plays soft
Type at the kitchen counter
Each word comes slowly

June Haibun: Surplus

It truly is an exhausting season. I’ll never deny that. I don’t know how people in more moderate climates keep going year-round. Despite the sunshine filtering through the leaves on the trees, despite a cool afternoon breeze, despite wandering to and fro on a Sunday afternoon with no obligation except the next destination, I can’t help my mind wandering to calmer days of autumn.

It’s probably just my introvert nature, though. After periods of sociability I need solitude, and the summer tends to throw that balance completely off. Maybe that’s why I fit in here so well, though I don’t know how that explains my craving for days just like this in the depths of winter. I suppose there are other more obvious explanations, and it really is all about appreciating and understanding the cycles and patterns of life.

It seems like water restores that balance. Rather than washing away the stress, being in a river or a lake merges me with the universe, connects my core to the larger forces at work.

Long days of sunshine
Pull me along like a current
Sleep in sweet moonlight

June Haibun: Downtown

The big dipper hung over the bluffs of downtown Stillwater tonight. The river flowed by slowly, a black and silent body of water where the activities of us humans on its edges failed to even penetrate the surface. The thumping bass lines and the flashing lights of the riverside bar seemed all the louder and brighter for the silent and dark river in front of us.

We walked up and down Main Street, talking and laughing, other parties doing the same, but the sky and the river were unimpressed.

Grass and gravel underfoot
Bright skinny moon overhead
I look up and down

June Haibun: Fallen starlight

On my drive out to Gabe’s house about an hour before sunset tonight the sun laid on the landscape like a warm yellow blanket. The long shadows in sharp relief to the bright golden light only added to the effect, and it seemed to me like the sun was coaxing the thick green foliage out of the earth.

Dusk fell as we got the coals started. We sat in lawn chairs and sipped beers and watched the unused pasture behind the house, hoping to spot the first pinhead flash of light in the grasses. The time came and went when they had first shown the night before, and there was no sign. Perhaps it had not been hot enough today, perhaps it was too dry.

Then, with the steaks on the grill, I was talking to his mom when I saw a flash over her shoulder. Then another one showed up a few yards away. Then another and another and then the whole pasture was pulsating with the fireflies’ light.

We had a long talk about the worries and conflicts of life, standing at the edge of the yard, watching the show. It took a long time for the last glow to leave the western sky, but eventually it did and then it was just the silhouette of the trees along the creek and the hundreds of blinking bugs just above the tall grasses.

After we ate, they were still there. We made a big fire and sat facing the field, the phenomenon still in full swing, talking and sitting in silence, periodically. Then we walked a ways into the pasture so they were all around us. There were a few glowworms on the ground too and we walked along peering into the grasses, trying to spot them. This was a new sight for me, it was like little leaks of light escaping the earth underneath our feet.

There was nothing but the lights around and below and above us. Cars went by occasionally on the highway; the fireflies made no sound despite their need for attention. I thought about how I’d have to leave soon. It was late and I planned to get up early. But I stayed a while longer, because it won’t be firefly season forever.

Dew settles at dusk
A field full of fireflies
Dark barely holds on

June Haibun: Hold On

I walked Lola by the lake one morning at the beginning of the month.

Cool sweatshirt morning
    The water still waking up
Gray clouds and quiet

I thought back on memories of recent seasons, drives up north and paddles downstream.

Sunny green summers
    Puffy clouds and warm water
No sweat and no bugs

June still concealed in cold, wet weather, memory continued to hold my imagination. I recalled more days of water.

Leave early for trout
    Childhood days in hidden creeks
Sun on a lost beach

Katie and I cooked dinners of seasonable produce and meat on the grill.

Sirloin on special
    Asparagus and flowers
Food from farmers

Work took me to northern forests for a couple days.

Drive forgotten roads
    Always one more curve or hill
Stop to study rocks

At the middle of the month, we joined friends for a weekend of canoeing and camping on the St. Croix.

Long summer daylight
    Swim in clean river water
White morning fog

June Haibun: In transit

I sailed into work today. No traffic. That’s my reward for oversleeping. Then I left Minneapolis after lunch for a meeting at a café in St. Paul. The meeting went pretty well and then I drove down Summit Ave. to stop at the market for some groceries. Unidentified flowering trees were shedding fragrant blossoms on the sidewalks. After a few hours at home, we left to go back to Minneapolis. Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” came on the radio and as I drove along the relatively quiet I-94, I felt myself slowly unwind. A bit later, we drove from the Longfellow neighborhood up West River Road in the gray green blue of summer dusk. Finally, we drove home along University Ave. and then up Highway 280, through summer construction. The drive culminated with the short dark winding stretch of Frost Ave. that I love driving at night in the summer with my hand out the window.

    One hand on the wheel
Mark Wheat on the radio
Narrate my own life