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Die-Hard Haiku

It’s cold in Cleveland Heights during the month of January after one of the first significant snowfalls of the season. Businesses are shutting down again due to a surging COVID variant and your pillow seems to stare at you with puppy dog eyes, begging you to stay in bed. You’re restless though, unable to lay around any longer. As you make coffee on autopilot, wandering through your kitchen along the familiar footprints of your daily routine, you realize something. You’re bored. At this point, you’d rather be frozen than bored. Fortunately, you signed up for a haiku hike and you own wool socks.

When you arrive at the nature center, a group has started congregating indoors. Your guide, Ray is there entertaining everyone as they assemble and make sure they’re prepared. There are some tips he has to offer and background information that should prove useful during the program. Everyone has pens and pads to write with. They’re taking quick notes as Ray mentions how haiku is simple, succinct and subjective. Avoid like or as, leaving the reader to make their own associations. Write in the present tense, marking where you are in nature onto the page. Before long, you’re out in nature immersed in the present, gathering your bearings and doing your best to write them down.

Interestingly enough, even after a preliminary discussion about what to look for and how to get the most out of this program, you and your group rush forward talking amongst yourselves until asked to stop. Ray’s laughing at you all for walking right past so many great writing prompts. Twittering flicks of bright colors, like candy from a pinata fly back and forth from the trees to a hub of feeders. You wonder how they usually seem so frantic to you and yet now they can be your inspiration to slow down. As a matter of fact, you can let yourself stop. Easier said than done, but the hike is just beginning. You get the urge to move ahead and explore more, but Ray points out some snowberries. At that moment you realize you could probably write in this spot for hours if you would let yourself.

Hiking is part of the experience though, so the group proceeds in due time. Stopping every here in there when inspired, you point out the sights and sounds to one another like the dry creaking of a split tree as it sways in the wind. Bubbles froth under the ice of a stream where wet sparkles carve a serpent along the forest floor. You struggle to figure out how you’d write about that or the seedpods you’re staring at without using metaphors.

Even if you have a hard time with writing, this turns out to be an adventure and a great way to get out of the house. When the group warms back up inside the nature center, there are poems about every stop you took along your way, adding interest to all of those shared moments.

If this program sounds as fun to you as it was to experience an blog about, you still have one more chance to join us in April for the spring session!


Register Here


Some haikus from the hike

Richard Ferris

white froth
silences the woods
except my squeaking boots
on bare stems
snowberries nod in unison
to cloudless sky
snow tufts
held aloft
in wetlands bramble
a thousand buds
waiting on the maple
snow covered branches

Ray McNiece

stumps in a circle
no one sitting except
four inches of snow

snowy stack of logs —
as Thoreau says, chopping
warms you twice.

paper birch sapling
silver chained from falling,
its last stand

bent, scarred butternut
our old spines crane to see
blue winter sky

shadow cast over
icy winter creek
does not wash away

bubbles frozen
in stream ice sheet,
my nose running

lit by winter sun
so many love poems carved
in beech trunk

cold snap oak leaves
shivering sunlit,
plume of breath

sparrows perched
on steaming chimney —
wish I was there

new snow on oak bark
somewhere in crevices
a moth cocoon

deer fence around
sapling can’t stop dead
branch from entering

pale snowberry
over glittering new snow
cracked open

cold snap clear clean air
blown through lungs,
bare old branches

golden rod seeds,
brown stars wagging
over glittering snow

new snow bows
field of bent red prickers —
not a cloud in the sky

meditation terrace
no one sitting, four inches
of glittering snow

cold snap blue sky,
a plane landing from
somewhere warm

creaking, cracking oak
branches in winter wind —
frozen toes

sycamore trunk
never so white against
cold snap blue

oak leaf tugged
and tugged by winter wind
I must let go

I stop him from
identifying a weed
poking through thin ice

Tom Masaveg

fallen crystal spines
hiding fizzured wood


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