Archive for December, 2012

Snow Poem


More snow fell yesterday.  We have about two feet of it on the ground, although officially they say it’s less.  Maybe the weather department staff did not try to brush snow off arbor vitae, which are bent in half.  When I ventured into the back yard, the snow came up to my knees!  Nothing to be done now but to write some poems and wait for spring.

Write your poems in snow –

the sad poems, winter weary.

Watch them melt in spring.


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First Snow


This is the scene from my deck door this morning.  It will change soon because the winds are expected to pick up to forty miles per hour this afternoon.   This is the first big snow we have had since February 2011 and the first significant snow this year (19.5 inches of snow!).

Yesterday, before it snowed, I walked outside, possibly the last time for awhile.  It was lovely:  about 34 degrees and the air was full of moisture.  Geese were still on the pond making a great deal of noise.  I told them to get going but when I opened the door this morning I could hear they are still there.  They will stay until the pond freezes over.

The Japanese call the first snow “hatsuyuki.”   According to Liza Dalby, in her book East Wind Melts the Ice:  a memoir through the seasons, during the Heian period, at first snow the Japanese gentry went to the palace to pay their respect to the emperor then they drank sake and composed poems.  Snow viewing, Yuki-mi, was popular as well.  The trio “snow, moon, flowers: – setsu getsu ka – is a set phrase that symbolizes all things beautiful.

Wet grass flattens.

A footprint

fills with snow.

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Tuba Christmas


Tuba Christmas at the Wisconsin State Capital

On Saturday I attended Tuba Christmas at the State Capital.  Tuba Christmas is a hoot…or perhaps I should say a Toot.  It’s a nationwide event that you can read about at

One hundred and fifty tubists participated in the event in Madison.  It can take awhile for the melody of a carol to emerge from all that deep rumbling…Away in a Manger was a complete mystery for quite awhile.  There were several types of tubas at the concert.  Basically, they all play deep notes, but within a range of deep to deeper.  There were also a few French Horns.

The photo shows the group setting up.  Eventually, there were additional letters to spell out TUBA XMAS, but sadly my camera died before I could capture more than TU.  The zoom lens stopped working and I got an error message.  That was new, but what did I expect?  I did drop the little guy in San Padre sand last month and though I dusted and blew out what I could, those tiny grains have a way of getting around inside.

Snow today, the first in a long, long time.  It is lovely to see white instead of the dried brown leavings of our draught, which is likely not over.  Here is a haiku to celebrate the season.

Sharpened by frost,

wood smoke seeps

in open windows.

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Haiku Re-visited

Japanese Garden, San Antonio

Japanese Garden, San Antonio Botanical Garden

I always understood that Haiku have seventeen syllables, five in the first and last line and seven in the second line.  I have written many, many haiku in this form.  However, I read recently that this notion is not true.

One of the most important elements of haiku is not the number of syllables but the implied insight into nature using concrete observation, words about about the senses – taste, smell, hearing, sight and touch – that give rise to the feeling.

Another element is the contrast of two parts of the poem that give rise to a flash of understanding.  An example might be:

Absence of sound.

Silence grows

as sunlight shrinks.

Haiku should indicate the season as well.  Not directly, of course, but as a suggestion, as snow suggests winter.  In my example above, the shrinking sunlight suggests autumn.

After keeping a haiku journal for over five years, the idea of no longer counting syllables is quite liberating.  It was possibly a good discipline to learn and follow a strict form but letting go of the syllables allows me to write more succinct haiku.

Full Strawberry Moon

pulls tides –

fruit swells.

The Farmers Almanac lists the names Native Americans used for full moons.  Strawberry moon is the June full moon, the month when strawberries are harvested.

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