4 caledonia pines snowy

I’ve never visited Caledonia State Park on purpose.

Someday I’ll spend the day there – alone and with the “real” camera! – but so far my visits have consisted of stolen hours on my way to or from someplace else.  On a snowy day voices seem to call from the snow-coated trees:  “Come walk a little!  Stop the car!  Stop now!  C’mon!”

Not to stop feels like an insult to the forest.

It makes me squirm inside.

wet pavement
hissing under the tires –
restless . . . restless . . .    

Of course I stop.  I park at the furnace ruins where the stone has a coldness peculiar to old monuments.  And what an odd color – not really green, not really gray.   Even though the stone furnace was built with rock from the neighboring creek it feels foreign and imposing.

creek slabs
after cold hands and mortar –
never the same

The furnace is a gritty place, littered with twigs and pine tips.   But – the furnace is built into the hillside – and trees are reclaiming this little corner of the park.  Without the intense heat and traffic that comes from an iron furnace the trees now tower over the cold stone.  When the tiny branches of the smaller trees are covered in snow, it is as if the hillside is covered in lace. 

And when I look to these lacy hillsides I feel energy shoot from foot to scalp!

amid snow-plastered trunks –

I turn my back to the cold stone furnace and merge with the first portion of the Charcoal Hearth Trail – and suddenly I’m walking through a lace veil!   It’s a bit of a steep climb for someone with a prosthetic leg and I’m grateful for a bit of railing.

After fighting to the top of the hill I find a magnificent little waterfall.  Magnificent?  And little?  Yes.  It’s full of life and bounce and sound – full of little spray-throwing rocks – full of little corners that snag twigs and make the water sing.  And in winter it seems like the purest water on earth.

It has to be.

plunging from creeksicles –
Milky Way in Peeay

And this is when I remember that this is a stolen moment.  And it hurts.  The beauty of this little spot becomes unbearable. 

I vow to come back – tomorrow, the next day, the next appointment – but always – when I return it’s another unplanned and stolen hour on my way to somewhere else.

one sycamore leaf
caught at the foot of the falls –
neither here nor there

 Birds and scrolls printer's ornament.  Graphics Fairy

Linked to Carpe Diem Ghost Writer #40: A Winter Kikôbun.

Professor Peipei Qiu (author of Bashô and the Dao) says the following about kikôbun:

‛The Japanese literary travel journal (kikôbun) has been closely related to poetry. It characteristically weaves poems and the introductory narratives in a sequential order. The travel journals that existed before Bashô were often written in a first-person voice, with the traveler’s itinerary revolving around the classical poetic toponym (Utamakura or Meisho) and the narrative centering on poems composed about them.  This fusion with poetry simultaneously enriched and limited the literary representation of the landscape of the kikôbun; when centering on classical poetic diction, the geographical imagination of the travel journal was often defined by conceptions and conventions that had been molded by classical poetry rather than by the physical qualities of landscape.’

I researched “Utamakura” and “Meisho”.  Utamakura means “poem pillow” and refers to “famous places associated with sacred and historic sites”.  Meisho also means “famous places” but it refers to places with poetic or literary references.  Not only do Utamakura and Meisho appear in poetry and literature, they also appear in dance, theater, ukiyo-e, and other visual arts.  Utamakura and Meisho are loaded with symbolic meaning – they allow the writer to add extra layers of meaning.   

In the United States, “Wounded Knee” and “Gettysburg” might be examples of Utamakura and “Sleepy Hollow” might be an example of Meisho.  No matter what you write about a visit to Wounded Knee, Gettysburg, or Sleepy Hollow, your writing will be colored by historical and literary allusions – intended or not – just by mentioning these places. You cannot help it.  Even in my own haiku and haibun, if I write about beautiful flowers at Gettysburg, the writing automatically takes on a tinge of death just by my saying that the flowers are in Gettysburg.  This can be both helpful and a hindrance.

Birds and scrolls printer's ornament.  Graphics Fairy


* Kikôbun is structured somewhat like a haibun – it is a passage of prose with at least one short poem (haiku or tanka);

* Kikôbun features landscape and nature, as well as an interaction between the writer and the landscape;

* Kikôbun is a short travel diary, so it involves the journey and the observations of the writer as traveler;

* In kikôbun, the haiku (or tanka) should not repeat what is in the prose or create a conclusion to the prose;

* Kikôbun should probably avoid the limitations of Utamakura and Meisho – you want to explore and record your observations of place – not classical expectations, formulas, or literary allusions to place. 

In looking at my kikôbun I may have failed a bit — first of all, I’m not interacting with the landscape enough, and second, my ending haiku feels like a conclusion.  But — hopefully it’s close to the prompt’s intent, anyway. 

Here are photos of the places in the kikôbun:

Restless... restless...

Restless… restless…

Furnace ruins: not really green, not really gray

Furnace ruins: not really green, not really gray

...littered with twigs and pine tips...

…littered with twigs and pine tips…

...trees tower over the cold stone...

…trees tower over the cold stone…

... a steep climb through a lace veil ...

… a steep climb through a lace veil …

...little spray-throwing rocks ...

…little spray-throwing rocks …and creeksicles


33 thoughts on “neither here nor there (kikôbun / haibun)

  1. What a beautiful post – the images, the prose and the poems; plus the way it focuses on the landscape but manages to be so personal, too 🙂

    I especially loved the little waterfall –
    “full of life and bounce and sound – full of little spray-throwing rocks – full of little corners that snag twigs and make the water sing.”
    Ah the value of all that repetition, which makes the waterfall appear filled to the brim with energy and exuberance!

    And, even though you haven’t (yet) managed to visit “on purpose”, what a marvellous place to be able to steal a few moments and feel refreshed, untethered, alive! 😀


    • Thank you so much 😀
      And this is before the CDHK lesson on repetition too. 😉 (Being a smart-alec. I’ve used repetition in prose and in longer poetry, but not in haiku.)

      It’s such a gorgeous, happy little waterfall — a real treasure. Will be driving past Caledonia in about a week — REALLY hoping to get another visit in. The type of place that fills you with joy.

      Glad you enjoyed it too — 😀


  2. The first time I read this I felt your longing to stay longer and yet too many times it is not meant to be…my second reading tells me a different story…these “stolen” moments are probably more precious than if you had stayed a whole day…you don`t take a glance, a split second, a sound for granted…I enjoyed my visit to your special place very much, Paloma:)


    • Thanks Cheryl-Lynn 😀

      You’re so right — If I had a whole day there I probably wouldn’t treasure the time as much. Still … still … still … I’ll keep trying to get that day. So many trails there — ! I’ll probably never have enough time there.


        • Usually I get “STUCK” at the waterfall at the top of this tiny piece of trail — if I can KEEP MOVING then I can explore more of the riverside part of the trail — and that will be a nice little exploration. 🙂 And surely it’ll have plenty of great ‘ku moments (and photos)!

          You are so kind 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Yay! I was really hoping to have interpreted the directions correctly — a sigh of relief here. 🙂 Had meant that ending haiku as a “step” *after* the prose — but you know how it is sometimes — you copy your writing into the browser and all of the sudden you start to have doubts!

    You gave us so much to think about. It was a wonderful exercise in honing our haibun — returning to the basics, really. Plus, you’d mentioned Utamakura and Meisho briefly (in the quote) and I had to include that background info – it turned out to be an important reminder. So THANK YOU for a great prompt!


    • Thanks Björn 🙂

      There’s probably a name for the icicles sliding into creek from the bank — but I have no idea what it might be — so made a word up. And hey, it’s a fun little word too. 😀

      Really missing Caledonia — need to get back ! So glad you enjoyed this voyage too. 🙂


  4. This is great Jen. I love your account of stolen moments in the forest and the way you feel so energised just being there. Your description of the snow looking like lace is just perfect. How magical to be able to visit such a place even if it is just for a few minutes here and there. Maybe because your time is limited your perceptions become all that more heightened.


    • Thanks so much Suzanne 🙂

      Perhaps you’re right — the moments are so brief, each time I visit it’s like it’s brand new.

      Happy New Year to you — and all the best in 2015!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I liked riding along with you. Stop the car !! Don’t you just love those unplanned visits to where you’d never go otherwise?
    Thanks for walking along with us along the River Thames.


    • You’re quite welcome 🙂

      Yes, those unplanned visits end up being the things you remember forever, don’t they? Back when we were in Arizona our trips to Walnut Canyon and Wupatki were unplanned — and they were more memorable in the long run than the Grand Canyon even.


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