Why do I write the way I do? Haibun for dVerse

As I write I explore a landscape that changes around me. Sometimes I follow narrow paths that lead me to strange and fantastical places. Sometimes I struggle to clamber over fallen rocks, looking for paths that have been shattered and hidden. I see a temple on a distant mountain, and start making my way there, but find myself distracted by a silent pool, or a particular tree. I start to walk about my garden and end up diving into an ocean wave. I want to explore what it would be like to be a tree. I want to visit a silent world of dark roots. I want to fly with rooks. I want to dance on a moonbeam. And I’d like you to be there with me.  I’ll try anything – give me a form and I’ll have a go. Give me a prompt and I’ll roll it round in my hands a few times, until it gives me a new path to venture down, a new scene to describe. I want to live a thousand lives, and take all the roads I couldn’t follow.

Evening grass is green
morning grass is pale with dew
soon there will be frost

Toni is hosting at dVerse, and wants to know why we write the way we do. I never think of myself as having a recognisable style – though I probably do. And I’ve just realised that my haiku probably says much more about me than I intended it to…but that’s poetry, isn’t it? 

 

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Between the seasons – haibun for dVerse.

We came home from Italy – all umbers and terracottas, blazing blue skies and sunshine – to a faded watercolour England. We wake with the scent of autumn in the air, but by lunchtime it’s summer again. We’re picking the first of the apples, but still cooking with courgettes, and beans – a green and purple abundance. There were swallows on the telegraph lines last night, starting to gather together, but today they were flying in a summer sky. This afternoon we saw the first starling murmuration of autumn. The crabapples are vermilion, but there are scarlet wild strawberries in the flower bed. Here and there, autumn is sprinkling reds and golds, but when I reach to pick an apple, the leaves on this tree are all green, dark, casting their individual shadows.

birds call the seasons –
apples fall for drunken wasps –
golden lantern moons

 

A haibun for Toni at dVerse. We are asked to write about this time between the seasons. I love autumn, but I’m not quite ready to leave summer yet – not that I have a choice about it.

 

My imperfect vegetable patch – haibun for dVerse

Come outside with me now. Through the gap, across the cobbles, round the corner, and there it is. Look at it with a gardener’s eye for a moment – note the weeds – those speedwells, blue as ripped up scraps of sky; dandelion leaves sharp as teeth; grass encroaching, insinuating its green way across the soil. Nothing is quite in a row. The Trail of Tears sends purple tendrils, coaxing the walking onion to join the wigwam. There’s a squash plant running riot, creeping through the patch, popping up between pea plants.Frankly, it’s a mess.

Now look at it again, with me. Stand here, beside me, in the early morning light, when the grass is heavy with dew. Look at that purple – the dark rippling leaves of the cavolo nero, the midnight pods of the Trail of Tears dangling like heavy tears themselves – and the orange – joyous nasturtiums tumbling over the path, courgette and squash flowers flaunting themselves, flirting with the bumble-bees – and all those greens -the green lettuce leaves, lit from within, fat pods of broad beans, lined with velvet, chard, and peas, and turnip tops, a riot of green.

Trail of tears entwine
green heart of the garden,
bright gold early morning

This is for Victoria at dVerse, who asks us to glory in imperfections this week. There aren’t many things as imperfect as my vegetable patch, but I love being out there…

Haibun – journey home – for dVerse.

We dropped her off for her first shift in her first job. Waitressing – a good place to start: learning to deal with the public, to cope with pressure, to stay polite. She was excited, and a little bit nervous. Not sure what to expect.

I went to pick her up at the end of her shift, four hours later. I was a little bit early, and she was a little bit late, so I watched her for a few moments, through the window. She was laying tables so they’d be ready for breakfast in the morning. She was in uniform – black trousers, black shirt, black apron – hair pulled back in a plait. She didn’t look like a little girl. She looked like a young woman, working in a restaurant.

We drove home, down the dark country lanes, narrow and twisting between high hedges, and she told me about the shift, the welcome speech she has to make to customers, the specials menu she has to learn. She’d had a great time, she’s looking forward to her first pay packet. When we got home, we both paused for a moment and looked up at the sky, dripping with stars, so tightly packed you couldn’t get a finger between them. Light spilled from our own kitchen window. We went inside.

Sky laden with stars
Light falls from an open window
Journey is ending.

Toni at dVerse has asked us to write a haibun on a topic of our own choice. The last few days have been all about my daughter. She’s had a lot going on, a little run of successes. I’m being a proud mum at the moment. Hey – it’s allowed! Be glad we’re not on Facebook, where you’d have to see proud mum pictures. 

 

Summer – haibun for dVerse

We come here all through the winter. We’ve swum here on days when the sea has been a great, grey cat, tossing us like tiny toys. We’ve emerged shivering, glowing with cold and triumph. We’ve been the only swimmers, sometimes sharing the water with gleaming black clad surfers, sometimes sharing the beach with dog-walkers wrapped in coats and scarves.

Today, however, it’s summer. I’ve picked my son up from a hot coach, after a long drive back from a science fair. There’s a pair of shorts and a t-shirt in a bag on the back seat,and his swimming trunks are in the boot. We’ve collected his best friend, and an older brother who is wilting in the heat, and I’ve brought them to the beach. We’ve picked our way over the pebble ridge, clambering over the smoothly rounded stones, and slipped and slithered our way down the other side, carrying rugs, towels and ice cold drinks.

Up by the causeway there’s a gathering of people, brightly coloured, making their way in and out of the sea. Here, where we are, it’s quieter. We dump our stuff, and plunge into the water, relishing the coolness of it, looking due west, to where the hot sun will sizzle into the ocean in a few hours time. The solstice has brought us the longest, hottest day we can remember, and we are loving it.

Sun hovers, holds back –
cannot bear to leave the day –
gold path in the sea

Dverse is open, and the very graceful Grace is asking for summery haibuns. We had a mini heatwave last week, but we’re back to English summer weather now. Still, a girl can dream.

Sport – haibun for dVerse

My daughter has grown through sport. I have watched her grow leaner, fitter, and much more confident through finding a sport she loves and working hard at it. She rows, which means watching the tides, fitting time on the river into early mornings and after school sessions, giving up time at the weekend when she could be shopping or Snapchatting, and getting up at crazy o’clock to get to regattas.

We live in the middle of nowhere, so I’ve resigned myself to driving the kids all over the place. I stand at the side of rugby pitches in the rain, and I sit in dojos on sunny days for my son, but secretly I prefer the rowing. I like sitting by the river, watching the movement of the water. I like watching the quad working together, perfecting their timing, their awareness of each other. I like their laughter as they clean down the boat and pack away their oars. Most of all, I like the determination on my daughter’s face as she pushes herself, concentrating on every stroke.

water flows swiftly

river dancing with the sea

white wings skim the waves

Bjorn is hosting at dVerse tonight. He wants us to write about sport. I wouldn’t say we are a sporty family, but we seem to do a lot of it. I run, and over the last year I’ve discovered cardio-tennis, but sport has most of its impact on me through my children. 

Cracks – kintsugi for dVerse

On Friday night the weather was glorious. We threw some towels into the car and drove to the beach. Just as we pulled up by the pebble ridge, my friend Tracey pulled up next to us, with her two daughters, Jojo and Julia. We climbed the ridge, laughing and stumbling, negotiating the warm, round stones – dull grey, sometimes splintered through with bright, white quartz. The wide bay faces west, so the afternoon sun sits out to sea, setting eventually behind the island, but still high in the sky when we arrived. The sea was clear blue, sparkling in the sunlight. The tide was on the way in, and we hurried to get into the water before it reached the pebbles. Jojo helped her sister into the water, and then helped her again when it was time to get out. Then we sat on the warm rocks, soaking in the sunlight, warming our bones, talking, laughing, enjoying being together. Just being together is a miracle.

Just over a year ago, Julia had a massive brain bleed. She was nine. Amazingly, there was an ambulance driving through the village when her mum dialled 999, and even more amazingly the air ambulance happened to be at our local hospital when she arrived there. She was flown 150 miles to a specialist centre, where the surgeon had just finished operating and was able to wait for her to arrive, and take her straight to theatre. Even so, she spent three weeks in intensive care, and three months in hospital.

I watched the family crack, but hold together. I saw how much work Tracey put into keeping things going, and how much love and care surrounded them, but at times it wasn’t enough. The stress was overwhelming, the strains became almost too much, but somehow each of them was able to reach out and hold on, and pull things back together again. Sometimes Tracey was the strong one, sometimes her mum stepped in, sometimes her husband shouldered things. Sometimes Jojo took on more than a 14 year old really should. There were cracks, yes, but they were filled up with love and family, and kindness. There will always be cracks, I think, but that love that fills them has made them part of the family story and the family strength.

Summer sun on sea
moments of love and healing
warmth of air and stone

Grace at dVerse is tonight’s bartender. She asks us to think about the wonderful art of kintsugi, mending things so that the repair becomes part of the beauty of the piece. ” In Japanese, the word kintsugi means “golden rejoining,” and refers to the Zen philosophy of acknowledging flaws, embracing change, and restoring an object with a newfound beauty” she explains. The story I thought of is all there, it needs no explanation. 

From my poetic kitchen – haibun for dVerse (and for Steve)

It’s May, and I’m making mince pies. Tomorrow we are holding Steve’s leaving do. We love Steve, and Steve loves Christmas dinner, so that’s what he’s getting. He deserves all the love, all the turkey, all the stuffing, every single pig in blanket. He’s a great friend, a great colleague, a great therapist. He has made a difference, to my life and to many others: all through my chemo, years ago now, he drove miles out of his way to bring my son home to me from nursery. He brings all that love and care into the therapy room, where he has literally saved lives. He really has no idea how wonderful he is.

So, I’m making mince pies.

The mincemeat is left over from Christmas. I made it myself – it’s a Nigella recipe, that uses a little quince. I’ve just loosened it with home-made quince brandy, so it smells really fruity. The pastry is made my mother-in-law’s way, with lots of butter, and a little icing sugar. I’ve bound it with an egg yolk, the way she does. I’ve cut out pale discs of pastry, and loaded them with juicy mincemeat, and made the scraps into a tiny pasty for my son, who announced that he loves mince pies. Maybe something rubbed off on him on all those car journeys.

Nobody’s quite sure how the logistics will work tomorrow. Everybody’s bringing a plate of something. I think it will probably be a little chaotic. We will reminisce. There will be some laughter, and possibly tears, and lots and lots of food and love.

White hawthorn blossom
Snowdrifts in the spring hedgerow,
Scents the warm spring air.

Bjorn at dVerse asks us to write a haibun, starting from a recipe. Coincidentally, I made mince pies (!) tonight for a dear friend’s leaving do, so this is for Steve as well – though he’d better not read it until tomorrow.

Haibun Monday – the song we sing along to.

For a while, it was everywhere, and it became our sing-along song. I wonder why? It’s catchy, yes, but so are lots of songs – that’s why they become big hits. I think it’s the fact that Ed Sheeran is singing about growing up in the countryside, and suddenly it’s a world you recognise. You are country children. You understand rolling down hills, finding your fun where you can, hanging out with a motley group of friends – not much choice for you about who you are close to. You’ve stopped to watch the sun setting. It’s a song about nostalgia, and I imagine you both in 10, 15 years’ time, hearing it unexpectedly on the radio, and being swung back to this car, these roads, this bit of your live. Nostalgia squared. It’s not played so often now, but we still belt the chorus out together, driving down these country lanes.

Gull flies on white wings
White blossom in the hedgerows
Memories of spring

For Hayesspencer at dVerse . This is one about the songs we sing along to in the car. At the moment, there’s only really one…though I hadn’t seen the video before, and it just made me cry. 

Haibun for dVerse – feel the fear

It’s hard to say what I was so afraid of. It’s hard to imagine what I was so afraid of. I was five hours’ drive from home, with one of my oldest friends, in a smallish room, with pictures lining the walls, and friendly people sitting at tables. We were sharing a bottle of wine, white wine, that we had brought with us. My friend smiled confidently at the master of ceremonies. She knew him well. “Ah, no” she smiled, in answer to his question. “I’m not reading tonight…

But my friend is“.

So perhaps I was afraid that nobody would listen. That they wouldn’t like my stuff. That they would realise I’m not a poet at all, I’m an imposter. The wine tasted sour in my mouth and I struggled to concentrate on what anyone else was reading. When I was asked to stand, I winced, but I went for it. I opened my mouth, and listened to the words spilling out:

“I used to think that poetry had to be about something big and important, but now I find I mostly write about rooks…”

And off I went.

the wild bird flies free
sunlight breaks through rolling clouds
a flower opens

Toni at dVerse has asked us to write a haibun about overcoming a fear. I did my first poetry reading last week, while staying with a friend who is a confident and seasoned poet and performer. It was terrifying, and then it stopped being terrifying and was great! I had committed myself to doing a reading this year. I might even do more…