Monday, January 31, 2011

straw stacks sunk in snow

straw stacks sunk in snow –-
rising above the small peaks
Fujisan, cloaked in white

I am not the only photographer charmed by this scene. The parking lot next to this little field bristles with as many tripods as straw stacks. I am the only foreigner taking photos and I have no tripod, but I feel right at home. The scene reminds me of Hokusai’s Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji, particularly Tea House at Koishikawa, the morning after a snowfall. I fell in love with ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai at an early age and my house is filled with his beautiful colored woodblock prints. During my stay in Oshino, at the foot of Fujisan, I understand how a person could spend every day admiring the beauty of this magical mountain from many different viewpoints and through all the changing seasons.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fujisan under snow

Fujisan under snow –
an ice sculpture kneels beside
the pilgrimage road
Sensei’s house sits on the side of a small mountain with a view of Fujisan. Often I walk down the steep, winding road to the river. Ice sculptures line the road, looking like pilgrims dressed in white, suspended in ice, waiting for spring to release them so they can continue their pilgrimage.

fan print in the snow

fan print in the snow –
a bird landing with tail spread
leaves its signature

Walking to the mailbox, I notice a clear set of turkey tracks at the T intersection and stop to have a look. It doesn't take a tracker to figure out that three turkeys walked side by side through the thin snow on the road. Then I notice what looks like a fan print made by the tail of some bird with tiny feet. The bird must have landed with spread tail then daintily stepped away. These beautiful imprints, framed by wide tire tracks and big boot tracks, remain untouched by passing traffic. At first I think I’ll take some photos tomorrow, but then, knowing how quickly the weather changes around here, I walk back and grab my camera. Sure enough, the next day the prints have faded away.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

floating on crystal

floating on crystal
cirrus – fragment of rainbow
mocking the sun

This patch of rainbow appeared to the right of the low sun in the west. I call these bright spots sun dogs, because they follow the sun like a dog heeling its master. Others call them mock suns, because the bright patches look like the sun behind thick clouds. These colorful spots are caused by light refracting through six-sided crystals in a thin layer of cirrostratus, producing partial halos called parhelia, from the Greek “with the sun.” Often there will be a matched pair horizontally lined up with the sun in the center of a 22 degree ring, the angle that light is bent by the the ice. Sometimes the halo itself is visible. To the observer, the ring appears to have a diameter of about two fists held at arm's length. These small, bright rainbows floating at a distance from the sun are sometimes difficult to detect, and may come and go quickly, so it's fun to catch sight of them before they fade. This one was gone in moments as the patch of cloud moved away.

Friday, January 28, 2011

winter thaw -- white fog

winter thaw – white fog
rises up, muffling black trees,
snow-covered white lake

Yesterday the sun came out and the temperature rose above freezing, melting the ice on the road in ribbons where shafts of sunlight slashed through naked trees. This morning all that cold moisture took to the air as dense white fog, limiting my vision to a quarter of a mile on hills and less than half that in the valleys. The snow-covered lake looks like a mirror reflection – white above, white below. I walk in a hush through soft snow, stepping on animal tracks blurred and spread until they are barely recognizable. Everything is muffled, both light and sound.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

black hole in the ice

black hole in the ice –
deer drawn by open water
tread thin ice to drink

I keep wondering which comes first, the ice melting into a hole or deer breaking a hole in the ice. Often on the trail I see places where deer have pawed the snow away to grab snatches of grass, so I suppose their sharp hooves could break through thin ice. But perhaps the hole was made when a deer, walking on the frozen creek, accidentally broke through, and then the hole somehow got enlarged. In any case, once the hole is there, tracks show deer coming down the banks, crossing the ice and standing around the hole to lap up the cold water.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

fragile frozen fog

fragile frozen fog
bristles sideways along each
evergreen needle

In the Western United States icy fog is called pogonip, from Shoshone pakenappeh.The fog on the white pine needles froze sideways, leaving fragile bristles like tiny toothbrushes or delicate downy feathers.

clotted clouds, ice spurs

clotted clouds, ice spurs
encase black fractal branches –
still the sun peeps through

The aftermath of an ice storm in Iowa, especially when the sun shines on the ice, creates a stunning, dazzling landscape, a glass blower's fantasy. It is also incredibly damaging. The ice builds up, layer upon layer, coating and encasing every surface, layer after layer, bending down everything that can bend and breaking whatever cannot bear the weight.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fujisan's peak

Fujisan’s peak
engulfed by cloud –- or mountain
engulfing cloud –- both
For one month in early 2005 I stayed at the home of my friend Hiroko Goto, who lives at the foot of Fujisan, the sacred mountain. My room was on the second floor, a beautiful traditional Japanese room with tatami, futon and no heat. Every morning I slipped out from under layers of quilts to slide open the shoji and greet Fujisan. And every morning she showed me a different face.

cat walking in snow

cat walking in snow –
hind paws stepping precisely
in the front paw prints
Walking behind Ginger, I notice for the first time that his hind paws are stepping exactly in the prints left by his front paws. Even moving faster, he still leaves a trail of almost perfectly matched prints. There must be some evolutionary advantage to this method of walking, perhaps more silent when stalking. It is certainly efficient and also extremely elegant.

Monday, January 24, 2011

bald eagle watching

bald eagle watching
movement in the snow, the road,
takes flight when I stop

The wild turkeys are in the corn field again, though just one small group close to the road. Further on, across from the little county park with its tall pine trees, I spot a large bird in a bare tree right by the road. I slow down, thinking it must be a red-tailed hawk, but as I get closer I see the white head and tail, a bald eagle! In years past, we had to drive clear over to the Mississippi River to see them. Now they’re just down the road from home. I pull over and watch as the eagle watches trucks passing by, one van pulling out of the driveway next to the tree. But when I turn around and come back for a closer look, the eagle takes flight, swooping with outspread wings over the grove of pines.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

out from the dark woods

out from the dark woods
onto white fields the turkeys
venture to forage

The next day, around midday, there they are again, closer to the road. I stop and take more photos. I love the contrast of the dark woods and the dark turkeys against the white snow. The toms have this funny fringe at the base of their necks, and they are larger and darker than the hens. I think they are quite handsome birds, really, with their iridescent feathers. I have a stash of their feathers in a gourd vase, gathered on walks along Pilgrim Creek and some from our yard where the turkeys also venture out of the woods to feed in the grasses.

snow-covered corn field

snow-covered corn field –
a flock of wild turkeys scratch
the stubble for seeds
There must be two dozen wild turkeys in this fallow cornfield right next to the road, vigorously scratching the ground, tossing up snow, and plunging their beaks into the stubble to peck at seeds. The males look up more often and sometimes wander off alone to forage. I have never seen so many at once. The continual extreme cold and snow cover must have driven them out into the open. I watch them for a quarter of an hour and they appear undisturbed by passing trucks or one person in a parked car taking many photos.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

gray clouds blur the sun

gray clouds blur the sun,
deer tracks on the white creek bed,
a string of geese flying east

A gray overcast blurs the sun, fuzzy white with a faint pink aura crowning the orb. On Pilgrim Creek a lone deer, walking along the middle of the snow-covered ice, left neat heart-shaped prints in the snow, like calligraphy on a white scroll. A long string of geese, with only a small vee at the head and a few outriders, is flying east over the snowy fields. Seems way too early and too cold for migration, but there they go.

Friday, January 21, 2011

winter's coldest night

winter’s coldest night
dispelled by a rose gold dawn –
more snow on the way

Three below zero last night with a wind chill of minus 15 F. This morning the sky in the southeast displayed a band of rosy golden light, sign of more snow. By noon a light snow was falling from the south, covering the ice from the melt and freeze a few days ago, disguising but not eliminating the treacherous layer of black ice on the gravel hills. Still, the woods are lovely with this new dusting of snow.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

at the last moment

at the last moment
the sun shoots up a gold flame –
gone in a heart beat

Such a brief moment of beauty, but Nature is ever generous with these moments, whether we are there to appreciate them or not.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

breaking through snow crust

breaking through snow crust,
three does with fawns in a row –
trailing after, not
too close, not too far, a young
buck with pronged antlers

We count three pairs of does and fawns as they walk through our yard between the house and the woods. Each fawn keeps close behind her mother and then there is a little space and another pair appear. One doe stops and looks south, away from the house, for a long moment. Finally, after all the females have gone into the woods and are out of sight, a yearling buck appears, hurrying a little, as if to catch up. But then he, too, stops and looks to the south, then turns his head over his shoulder for a scratch before moving on through the woods in the same direction. He must have been the fawn of one of the does the year before, as they stay with the mother for two years, but now that he has antlers, he keeps his singular distance.

across snow-covered

across snow-covered
pond, wild turkey flying low
then prancing away 

Yes, they do fly, often roosting high up in trees. This one flew all the way across our neighbor's pond, within a wingspan of the snow, looking as graceful as an eagle with wide outspread wings. I wish I had a video of that!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

fallen flakes clinging

fallen flakes clinging
together hang from a limb –
 delicate balance
The heavy snowfall is beginning to melt, hanging from limbs in graceful swags. Somehow the tiny crystal flakes hold onto each other against gravity, at least for a day. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

winter companions

winter companions –
snow embraces curving limbs
soft and hard entwined

Snow lines the curvaceous limbs of an Osage Orange tree, lovely contrast of light and dark, smooth and rough, soft and hard.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

white woodland path -- soft

white woodland path – soft
prints of rabbit, turkey, deer –
remnants of passing

The snow makes it easy to see the tracks of wild animals, each with their distinctive prints leaving graceful calligraphy on the crystal white sheet.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

foot bridge under snow

foot bridge under snow –
no animal has left tracks –
not even a mouse

Snow on the footbridge over Hazel Creek lies untouched by wild animals. The whitetail deer, of course, will not venture onto this man made structure, preferring to descend and ascend the steep banks. Even the small scampering creatures have left it alone. So I get the pleasure of leaving my human footprints in the pristine snow. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

once one, two trees grow

once one, two trees grow
apart – crossing paths they touch –
then part once again

The coming together and separating of these two trees is more apparent when highlighted by the blizzard's plastering of snow on the north side of these entwined trunks.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

caught between bare ice

caught between bare ice
and the dark rushing water
two bubbles dancing

Being a dancer, I immediately read into the Rorshach shapes of dark ice bubbles. I see a pair of dancers, the woman on the right with a flouncy skirt, the man on the left with a potbelly, taking her hand. They dance in a little oval cleared in the snow, to the music of water flowing under the ice.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

marked by a question

marked by a question –
what sound does snow make before
it turns into light?

And how is that question mark made of soft snow hanging on a bit of shagbark hickory bark, apparently defying gravity?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

frozen fog -- tiny

frozen fog – tiny
crystal fern leaves sprouting
along each dead stem

The stems of goldenrod look like pipe cleaners flocked with frozen fog, each miniscule protuberance shaped like a tiny crystal fern leaf.

Monday, January 10, 2011

guardian of trees

guardian of trees
crystal helmet, soft as wool –
paradox of snow

Deep in the woods, a bole growing on the side of a tree looks like a wizened warrior wearing a white helmet with a nose piece.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

illusion of face

illusion of face
or illusion of tree bole
do you see them both?

I always look for this face on one of the many a buckeye trees that grow in a flat area between hill and creek. Many trees have tree boles, some formed when bark grows over a broken branch, others caused by some kind of insect infestation. This one is very large and so old that it is so disintegrated that it looks like a skeleton's skull. After a snowstorm, it looks almost jaunty, topped by a white cap.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

winter solstice – clouds

winter solstice – clouds
veil the Moon before the Earth
shadow hides the light

A magical moment, the full solstice moon floating in layers of clouds, casting a halo on the opalescent veils, and the black filigree of bare shagbark hickory branches reaching toward the bright orb.

message from water

message from water,
risen, frozen and fallen –
smile and hug a tree

It really looks like someone traced a smiley face in the snow, creating an impish snow sprite perched on a tree bole.

what was once a stump

what was once a stump
shows its essential nature
serene snow Buddha

Wrapped in a white robe, the snow Buddha sits in serene meditation, transforming a dead stump into a living presence.

two stones and a stick

two stones and a stick
or a snow gremlin grinning –
entertain them both

It seems to be human nature to see faces everywhere. This one looks like a grinning gremlin with a stick mouth and two stone eyes, but it is the snow that creates the illusion of face.

covered with white down

covered with white down
the snowbird peeps one eye
open to the sky

Snow sculpts a snowbird on top of some stones in the rock garden, one eye peeping open.  

curving back on my

curving back on my
self I create a curving
dance of dark and light

Snow lines the top of an elliptical vine looped around a tree, beautiful display of light and dark.

as days grow longer

as days grow longer,
husks split open, unfolding
seeds waiting to sprout

Snow resting as on top of the milkweed pods is as white and fluffy as the silken parachutes of the seeds, still waiting for wind to waft them away.

the lightness of snow

the lightness of snow
and the gravity of snow
balanced between

Snow piles flake by flake on top of dead flower heads, forming little ice cream cones. The delicate flower stems lean under the accumulated weight, yet there they remain, balanced between heavy and light.