There is a leaf- going on in the garden. The colors have peaked, and the red and the gold of last week has given way to bronze.
On this autumn day
Many bronze leaves spiral down
In bright waterfall.
Hmm. This haiku is all right as far as it goes, but it falls short. Something is nudging at the back of my mind, and I know I’m missing something. So to deepen awareness and wake up my writer’s senses, I’m going to try a timed exercise.
Step One is easy: write a simple description.
Bronze and brown leaves are falling. A few are yellow and red.
Nothing could be simpler. Now, I go along to Step Two.
Step Two: Add details. Include the five senses and feelings. I give myself two minutes to write the following:
Wind shakes the trees. Bronze, brown and some yellow and a few red leaves are falling. There are a lot of them. They are spiraling down. Leaves feel brittle. They rustle as they fall. Not sure what they taste like. Waterfall of color. Bits of gold look like coins. Red for sunset or even blood. Feel nostalgic for spring. A little sad that winter is coming.
Time’s up! There are a lot of details here, but they’re all jumbled up. I look through them and try to sort them out. I’ll need to do that because Step Three is coming.
In Step Three, I am going to smooth out all the messy details and write out a paragraph. I’ll give myself two minutes again.
A waterfall of leaves are falling. They are bronze and brown with a touch of gold that makes some leaves look like golden coins. (The red leaves remind me of—sunset? Rubies? Blood?) The brittle leaves rustle as they fall. I remember how they looked in spring, and I feel a nostalgia for those hopeful days.
Not too bad, but we still have a few more steps.This time, I am going to add lots of imagery.
Step Four: three minutes for this.
Fretfully, the wind shakes a branch, and down comes a waterfall of bronze, brown, and gold. Translucent in the sunlight, these golden leaves are weightless coins that carry with them all the wealth of summer. In the midst of the fall are a few leaves that are so crimson that they might well be the heart’s blood of the tree itself. Do soundless voices recount wonders that these leaves have seen, their youthful hopes in spring? I can almost hear brittle whispers… or is this nostalgia my own?
Hmm. I’m not sure I like this version. Simile and metaphor are fine in their place, but I want something simpler, more elemental. There are some parts I like, though, and I will take them with me into Step Five.
Step Five looks simple because it really is. Here I extract what really jumps out from Step Four. These important things are: the dominant color of leaves as they fall, and my own feeling of nostalgia which I project onto the leaves. The dimension of feeling is what I was missing in my original haiku!
Step Five: Expressing only the most important observations. Two minutes, tops (I can’t get hung up on this).
Bronze, gold waterfall…
Do leaves carry memories
Of hopeful spring days?
This haiku has more interest and depths than does the original, and the exercise has made me see details of the leaf-fall more clearly. I forced myself to see beyond what only my eye could see, allowed myself to go overboard with imagery, and then extrapolated what was really most important.
I’m satisfied—and I thank you for sharing the exercise with me!