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…

The best meal ever – haibun for dVerse II

If you ask me about the best meal I ever had, I’ll smile, and think of Sydney. I’ll tell you how we sat on the waterfront, by the place where the seaplanes dock, in a restaurant called the Catalina. We went for lunch, six of us, and ate and drank and laughed and talked. We were so young, life was an adventure, the sun was shining and the food was so good.

Don’t ask me what we ate. I only know it was delicious. And there was lobster. Lots of lobster. And a different wine with every course. I only know we stayed there all afternoon, and the waiters were lovely, and the sun was shining, and the food was so good. We stayed on, while everyone else left, after pudding, after coffee, watching the sea birds and the sea planes, and the sun on the water. I’m sure we drank champagne. We definitely drank champagne.

If you ask me about the best meal I ever had, I’ll smile, and think of Raj, who always knew the best restaurants, the best wines, the best cocktails. I’ll smile, even though there are tears in my eyes, because now there are only five of us, and the bravest of us is gone. The one who ordered the champagne. The one who made every meal a celebration.

Catalina calls
Sun on the water, shining,
Bubbles rise in fun

 

This is my second haibun for this prompt. It’s fortuitous – I’ve written about Raj before, our fun-loving, brave friend. It’s her birthday today, and she was there when I had the best meal ever. 

Yum yum -haibun!

Sunday slipped through my fingers, lost in a whirl of rugby and rowing, mud and river water, friends talking, kids being delivered here and there, growing washing piles – all the detritus of family life.

On Monday, then, in the gaps between school runs and riding and skittles, I cooked our Sunday roast, served it up in pans and roasting dishes, and we sat and ate together. Suddenly, my husband spoke: “I think this is the best roast dinner you’ve ever cooked” and my daughter chimed in “It’s the best roast dinner I’ve ever eaten.” My son agreed with them, nodding with his mouth full and helping himself to another roast potato. I laughed. And then I smiled, in sheer pleasure.

I don’t know if it was the best roast dinner ever. I suspect there have been better ones…I do know that this is what makes a family – sharing the rituals, and the times when we do something a little unexpected. Sharing a meal together, enjoying the food and the company. Taking the extra potato.

Winter mud, spring rain
Outside our golden circle,
Inside is our home.

 

Toni at dVerse is asking for a haibun on the best meal we ever had. This is a bit of a cheat, but I’m trying to use this year’s haibuns as a journal, keeping it in the here and now. Like I say, I don’t know if it was the best meal ever, but we enjoyed it. I suspect this week’s haibuns will be about company more than menus…get over to dVerse and see if I’m right. 

Forest bathing haibun for dVerse

I know this trail so well. It leads from the road into the woods. I’ve been here in every season, and every kind of weather. I’ve walked here in the moonlight, in the sunlight, and in the rain. I’ve paced here, cycled here, strolled here, and today I’m running – for my body and my soul. If you follow me, you’ll pass the bank where the old man’s beard runs wild. It won’t last much longer, now spring is on its way. A little further on a brook runs by the side of the path, clear water, where cresses will grow in a few weeks’ time. We cross the river, and pause to look for the heron, who stands one-legged in the water that crashes over the weir. Beyond the bridge the banks are high around us, it’s darker, and rhododendrons grow leggy in the shade, but then we cross the meandering river again and find ourselves high among the branches of the woodland. We look down, down, down to the forest floor, where soon there will be bluebells, and ransoms, and wild garlic, yellow celandine and dog violets. There will be sweet flower scents, and the green scent of trees, and the savoury smell of the ransoms. The river is quiet here, but there are birds singing, and the sudden rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker calls us to stop for a moment. There is the whisper of green in the tips of twigs, and the blackthorn is blossoming already. Spring is coming, drawing green spikes up from the dull earth, setting green finches dancing through the air, and filling my lungs with clear light.

Drum roll in the woods
Fanfare of green, white and gold
Spring songs in the woods

Toni at dVerse invites us to bathe in a forest, sink into nature, and let ourselves go. Check out the poets’ pub – it’s friendly, and there’s some great poetry there.

The best things in life are free – haibun for dVerse

We’re climbing in the dark, in the snow. There are lights strung along beside us, strings of lights dipping between poles and branches, showing us the way – and of course the snow reflects back the light, so that it seems to be shining all around us. The texture of the snow is like loose sand, and it’s slippery, and hard going. It’s uphill all the way. If we look up we can see the stars, and the shape of a great mountain, craggy, pointing towards the sky. There’s a moon, too, not quite full, tinged with gold. A couple of people have gone past, heading downhill, sliding down on toboggans. Here and then gone a moment later. Our voices hang in the air, in that peculiar silence you get in deep snow. I think it must muffle any echoes, any resonance, leaving only the clear true note of one person calling to another. It’s beautiful here. I want to be here, I love this moment. I have always wanted to be here, to do this, and never known it.

Stars glisten on snow
Moonlight shimmers on mountain
Silence enfolds us

 

Toni at dVerse has given us this lovely prompt. I’m just back from Germany, and a taste of winter – sliding on frozen canals, sledging in the Alps. Back home it’s muddy, and damp, but the daffodils are out and there are snowdrops in all the hedges.