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. 

 

Ekphrastic haibun for dVerse – murmuration.

I’m driving home, and the sky is darkening – there’s still light at the edges, over in the distance, if you lift your eyes from the road, look over the winter hedge, all twigs and scratches, and out – beyond – to the horizon. The kids are telling me about their day – the injustices, the laughter, the lack of sandwiches at lunch time. There are bags piled up on the back seat, with PE kit to wash and homework to moan over. Suddenly, a cloud, a crowd, a great moving, swirling flock of starlings sweeps over us. We stop talking, and watch them as they wheel above our heads, and then away, into the dying light. If we could hear them, we’d hear the movement of their wings, the murmuration made up of a thousand tiny fluttering sounds. They are our midwinter visitors, bringing cold and darkness on their wings. We won’t see their ballet many more times this winter.

Winter visitors
Bring frosty nights, crimson skies,
Trees hung with dark birds.

This woodcut is by Merlyn Chesterman. She’s a local artist, and we’ve got four of her works on our walls at home.  I love her prints so much, and I hope you do, too. Because she’s so local, she sees what I see, and shows you what I can only tell you. The haibun is for dVerse. Bjorn is asking for ekphrasis tonight. If you don’t know what that is, you should head over and have a look. If you want to see more of Merlyn’s work go to: http://www.twohartonmanor.co.uk/merlyn.htm

Waiting – haibun for dVerse

We are driving across Richmond Park, in a sad procession of cars. None of us want to be here, but we’ve all made our journeys, and here we are. The traffic’s stopped for a moment, and we are waiting here, right here, appreciating the pause – a space to breathe and be silent, before what will come next. It’s beautiful here. We can see why you loved it, why you came here when you wanted to breathe. It’s bleak, though. The January sky is bone white, and everywhere is grey – the trees, the ground, even the deer that gather and rest, so close to us, so tame. We are waiting to move off again, when suddenly there’s a flash of green movement – a parakeet – sudden, incongruous, wildly glamorous. It’s like a message from you, reminding us that life is fun – your favourite word – and that we should remember you with cocktails, and silk scarves, and laughter. One day we’ll manage that. I promise.

Sudden green arrow
Piercing the grey winter light
Promise of laughter.

This is for Raj, who walked away from us two weeks ago, and left the world a little duller, a little greyer, a little less glamorous. She carried her life like a bouquet of roses, and shared the scent and colour with us all. DVerse is asking for waiting haibuns. It seemed to fit.DVerse

Childhood memory – haibun for dVerse

The school sick bay is cool and quiet, and I’m so sleepy. The wallpaper is a complex repeating patterns of swirls and curves in blue and green. I’m half awake and making patterns out of it – an owl, a woman, an owl, a woman. I wish I could look at plain white walls. I wish I could close my eyes.

Swirling blue and green
Of clouds and sky and wild sea
Waiting for nightfall

 

Another one for dVerse