Tag Archives: seasons

June Haibun: Here and Now

I’m thinking about snapping the bottoms off stalks of asparagus, a regular ritual the past couple months. Standing over the sink, the radio on, other cooking activity behind me, the quick task of two servings of asparagus in my hands. The season is probably tapering off now, but new harvests are just beginning.

And I’m thinking of walking to my car at lunchtime to check the tires for chalk. I can be a cheap son-of-a-gun and have manipulated the nearby free four-hour parking since I started the job more than a year ago. So around noon I walk out and see if the meter cop has been by. If they have, it’s a quick drive around the block and a different parking spot. Before the recent snap of autumnal weather, when the temperatures at mid-day were in the low 70s and the skies were blue, the walk was a moment to notice and remark on the wondrousness of summer (and how we really needed some rain).

And I’m thinking of the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. Of rising on a Saturday and heading straight down there because the coffee and bagels at the coffee and bagel place are so good. So we beeline right there and sit at a picnic table in the sun, sandwiched between our neighbors, and then wander the aisles. Some days it’s about cheese and meats, others about fruit and vegetables, toward the end of the season bushels of basil for pesto. This time of year it’s the flower sellers with their plastic flats of fragile flora, delicate petals that look up toward the shopper, asking to be taken home like a puppy from the pound.

Tip-toe down aisles
    of candy-colored flowers
Crouch to see just one

June Haibun: Trout Dreams

I left the house as the world awoke, the sun coming up about as early as it ever comes up, birds singing the day awake, dew drenched grass, the very soil breathing deep sustaining breaths.

Three-quarters of an hour’s drive later, I was on roads that wound through gullied country, past small farm plots, rolling pastures, wooded hillsides. After going around a corner and past a house with a big dog laying in front of the garage, the road dropped suddenly down into the valley.

There were no other cars at the bridge and I got ready slowly, methodically. Vest on, rod together, line strung up– and then turned from the car and walked in measured steps toward the water.

Drive through the morning
   Arrive at lonely midday
Fill the void with peace

It didn’t take long to figure out that the fishing would be difficult. The water was low and the sun was bright and I had been here before. My stubbornness took over, though, and I walked a good long way downstream, stopping at riffles, their tail-outs, the flats, the head of the next quick part, watching the water, trying to read trout’s mind. But always I figured there would be a better spot around the next bend and I moved on.

When I finally stopped to fish I wasn’t successful until once when I was about to pull my fly up off the water and cast again a fish suddenly grabbed it and without any sound I played it in to my hand. I looked around after letting it go, somehow expecting there to have been an equally silent audience, but there was no one.

The sun burns my neck
   Spring-fed river chills my legs
My soul sleeps alone

June Haibun: Sun

You leave the apartment, the air still and hot and humid. Sweat runs in your eyes while your arms are full carrying everything down to the car. But it’s sunny outside and there are birds singing and you breathe in deep.

You could use the air conditioning in the car but you don’t. You drive down I-94 east with the windows down and the wind blasting you, tousling your hair. The sun is above and will stay there for a while and the river is 10 miles ahead.

It’s a relief when the exit finally comes, a few miles shy of the bluffs. Now it will be hilly two-lane country highways, driveways leading to farms set back in some trees. You go south 10 miles and then turn east to make the final jog to the river.

At the park parking lot you decide who’s going to carry what and who will take the dog and then set off, burdened with a cooler and chairs and a bag with towels and snacks and what all in it. The trail is short and steep down to the river, you meet just a few other people on the walk down.

Warm winds are blowing
    a risen moon, full, milk-white
what hours remain?
~ haiku by katie

Where the trail guides you toward the public beach with ropes and buoys and a dock and a lifeguard, you turn the other way and walk 100 yards. There, a wooden staircase leads down to another beach. The staircase is a little rougher every year, and picking careful footing down is hardest for whoever has the dog pulling toward the water which she now sees.

Finally, you step off uneven rocks into the sand. It is an unassuming beach, just the sand deposited where a cold creek enters the river. There is nobody else down there and you and her and the dog walk down and cross the creek where it bisects the beach, the water is achingly cold on your ankles, the dog doesn’t notice.

Clouds above pine bluffs
    Cast shadows on the water
You drink in the sun


June Haibun: Downriver

In my memories of spring paddles, the river and the skies are gray. The trees that line the shore are leafless, but birds sing out loudly.

This spring, when we put the canoe in the water it was raining. The first mile of paddling was cold and we wondered what had compelled us. Later, when the rain had stopped, I wondered how we would have fared if it had not. Then, we navigated the many parallel channels of the river in its wide valley and knew the day would merge into the many memories we share of this river.

Slip past sunken point
   Cormorant looks north from perch
Current takes us south

When October comes we know we must go to the river once more to sustain us for many months. The day is somehow always clear and sunny and cool. We only share the river with a few fishermen or duck hunters. The white pines stand in sharp relief to a pastel palette of hardwoods on the bluffs.

While trying to consume the experience, to commit not just the experience but the feeling to somewhere deep in memory for the frozen season ahead, I also give in to autumnal urges for reflection. This is when I thank the river, when I see how another year of getting to know it has changed me.

Osprey fishes above
   He competes with fewer now
A telling test for all

It is dreams of summer days on the river that are in our heads when we decide to try paddling in cold springtime rains and it is to revisit such memories that takes us there on quiet fall days.

On a day in mid-summer we leave the landing where revelers are beaching rented canoes and picnickers are strolling the banks and we don’t go far before we ease the canoe through a narrow channel and into a familiar backwater.

When the unrelenting sun becomes unbearable, it is a simple matter to land the canoe and swim. Preferably, this is done where a spring-fed creek enters the river and one can find in the mingling waters a temperature that is just right.

A bass jumps by shore
   Bright rings by a leaning tree
Green banks hide meaning

June Haibun: The Road North

Solstice sunset

I wonder what that ancient Japanese poet would say if he tried walking from my home to the deep north today.

There may be no child crying on rainy river banks, but there is a field of rotting tires and a steel post driven needlessly into ancient bedrock like a harpoon in the back of a petrified whale frozen in a moment of vulnerability.

You no longer step out your front door and walk to the wilds of the north. Today this trip is by car. The hum of the tires and the roar of the wind at 70 miles per hour obliterates unknowable sounds, of frogs in shallow ponds and the Earth exhaling through pines.

A hawk sits watching
   Nervous mice in grassy ditch
Nest in winter’s sand

I went north last June–the weekend before the summer solstice–with three friends for a fishing trip. We traveled in a pickup truck as big as they come. Like many such trips, the three-hour drive passed by quickly in conversation, though I periodically escaped the talk inside the cab to notice a familiar landmark go by: an airy woods of planted red pine, a tidy pond with a granite outcrop and a beaver lodge, a particular small dark river that passed under the freeway.

Our destination was a lake outside the city of Duluth. The lake was undeveloped and relatively quiet and the fishing was challenging but the camping was good. When we left after a few days and drove away, my eyes were glued to the window. The forest we drove through reached right out and grabbed my imagination and made my spirit ache. This had happened before but this time it had a particularly searing effect on me.

The woods that the road went through was typical boreal forest of scrubby black spruce, jack pine, tamarack. It always appears to me endlessly wild, inhospitable to man, lonely for all creatures, and both ancient and eternal. This was the same type of forest I had stared at from the boat all weekend and now, on a sunny, cool summer afternoon, I did not want to leave it, though I relished the depth of the feeling in my heart.

Bird flits from tree top
   Silhouetted against sky
I’ll come back again

June Haibun

Forty-six degrees felt cold this morning. I walked Lola down by the lake in shorts and a hooded sweatshirt and alternated hands on the leash to warm the other in my pocket. There was only a little breeze and the sun clear in the sky. It has since traveled across the sky and as I try to think back I am not able to remember more detail.

Our morning ramble, a ritual two-and-a-half years old now, has become muscle memory, a time of waking and thinking ahead to what the day will hold, but rarely introspective or reflective in any way that sticks with me.

As I drove home this evening, there were blue-gray clouds high overhead, vaguely promising rain except that they were identical to the sky yesterday at the same time, which likewise did not produce the precipitation we so badly need.

The traffic opened up and stayed open earlier than it usually does and I leaned against the door, letting the wind through the open window batter me.

Roughened lake surface
   Shimmers in bright morning sun
Drive home past gray skies