Though traditionally a cold and unfriendly month, our January here in North Carolina has been mild. This morning is an exception. A gust of chilly wind attacks me as I start my morning walk, and the scudding gray clouds above allow only brief glints of sunshine. Winter… well, it is January, isn’t it? Gritting teeth, head down against the wind, I begin to walk.
A howl of wind tugs at hat and scarf. I drop a mitten which lands in the mud. Is this worth it? I should go home where it is warm and watch the trees dance in the wind. I can write. I can arrange my fabric bins. I can… but that’s a coward’s way out, so I’m going to make this a haiku walk.
When I was growing up in Japan, keeping eyes and ears open for interesting objects or events along the way was a game. Today, with the wind sneaking cold fingers down my neck, I try to enter into the proper spirit but so far see only depressed-looking branches without leaves. Then, I spy the deserted bird’s nest:
Once cheerful, noisy,
Now only pitiless wind
Visits empty nest.
Haiku poems are ideally elegant and spare, and the poet has seventeen syllables in which to offer an observation that evokes image and thought. The great haiku masters were able to pen lines that resonate to this day, but trudging along in the cold I can only hope to finish this walk without turning into an icicle. I mutter words to myself as I walk on. So far, this isn’t working.
Wait—what’s that racket up ahead? There is a holly tree and—aha!—a flock of robins are gorging themselves on the berries. One of the robins turns its head and gives me a beady-eyed look that says: hey, lady, what do you want? we have to work with what we’ve got!
Those cheeky robins
Are divesting holly bush
Of its best berries!
Feeling more cheerful, I watch a lazy hawk riding the currents of the air. Nearly black against the gray sky, he glides with a powerful and deadly grace that far outstrips my plodding pace.
Riding frigid sky
Intent on warmth-giving food,
Sleek, fearsome raptor.
So busy am I watching the hawk that I don’t realize I’ve come over half way and can turn homeward, Now that I have the wind at my back, the going is not so hard. And over there – it surely can’t be daffodils? But there they stand in a pool of pale January sun, bright and erect with yellow trumpets raised. In this sere landscape the sight is so precious that I stop to admire and marvel.
Lift bright trumpets to gray sky,
One more hill, and I’m home free. Ahead lie warmth and comfort, a hot cup of tea, shelter from the cold. It’s the end of my haiku walk. Braver, stronger and still filled with the life force, the natural world continues to offer its inimitable poetry.