Haiku Walk


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.

Golden daffodils

Lift bright trumpets to gray sky,

Celebrating life.

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.


About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

17 responses »

  1. I have big fat coats from my time in WA so I just bundle up good on the cold mornings. Lots of ideas come to the surface during my walks, but never a haiku. Maybe I’ll give it a try next time.

  2. As I sit here and read your blog, see the sunshine, look at the temp. I think you must be crazy to walk so early in the cold. I’ll do my later when it warms up. Glad you have your poetry to keep you warm. Dorothy

  3. Your haiku walk, Maureen, produced a prolific series of wonderful haiku poems. I will share them with the children of the River Valley Charter School in Newburyport MA where I volunteer and our grand kids attend. So beautiful and inspiring as always.

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