Iceland

We’ve seen firsthand the many faces of Iceland. We’ve soaked in the Blue Lagoon and walked beside hot bubbling fumaroles in the Krysuvik geothermal field. We’ve hiked in her desolate volcanic terrain.

Wearing sturdy hiking boots, using walking sticks for leverage, we climbed to the top of Stora Eldborg, an extinct volcanic crater. At its peak, buffeted by winds, our travel van below was a mere dot. Craters in the distance looked like small molehills. On the descent, our sticks helped take the pressure off our knees.

An hour later, we donned hardhats with headlights; no sticks allowed. Our guide took us to explore a 2,000 year old lava tube. Once a conduit for flowing molten rock, the channel crusted over forming a tunnel which we gingerly entered. We inched over boulders, slid down slabs, and crawled our way through parts of this damp, dark hollowed out place. Our headlights revealed pockmarked, cracked, uneven walls and lavacicles that hung from the ceiling. We came upon misshapen lava pillars impeding forward progress, thus marking our turn-back point. By the time we clambered out of the tube, my body was chilled to the bone and I was exuberant to feel the sun.

earth weathers through all
summer’s torrid heat burns land
below ground, cold springs

Written for Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Frank is our host and asks us to write about a hike, or somehow use the word hike in our post. Photos are from our 2017 visit to Iceland.
HAIBUN: 2 or 3 paragraphs of prose, must be true; followed by a haiku.

Arachnophobic . . .

I should have known.
She silked the room,
entered with swishing skirts.
Eye-lashed me
in that coquettish way.
Wove words into delights.
Spinning wheeled me,
unlike any woman I’d ever known.
I could not escape her wiles.
I skeined under her spell.
First hands, then arms,
then eyes, then heart.
My senses spooled as one,
tautly captured in her clutches.
She left me,
forever specimened.
Pushpinned my veins
until I was but a dried shell.
Once a vibrant man,
now locked in despair.
I shall never love again.

Written for Meet the Bar at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets from around the globe. Today, Bjorn asks us to “verbify” in our poem. That is, to use a noun, or several, as verbs in our poem. Photo taken a number of years ago at Ricoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

The Norwegian Fjiords

Sit with me, bundled up, in cold crisp air.
This aft cabin deck, sailing through fjiords,
the widest aperture to wonder we will see.

The long gaze observes staggering beauty.
Craning to look up provides a granular view,
landscape etched and carved by glaciers.

Snow capped mountains glisten before us,
pearlescent as sunlight touches peaks
grey and darker grey where shadows impede.

Below wintry remnants yet to melt
earthen tones dotted by green patches
compliment the scene.

Not content with singular grandeur,
mirrored reflections ripple,
swaying colors float on ocean’s blue.

Off ship, we explore Geiranger.
Van slowly chugs up hairpin turns
until road stops where winter has not.

Our ship sits far far below us
like a monopoly or lego piece
set in a mural of wondrous beauty.

We simply stare in awe
in profound silence,
and we understand.

We are but a few breaths
in the life of this earth.
She is the grandeur eternal.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. I’m host for today’s Tuesday Poetics.

I have a second poem written today for Toads, with a wonderful video from our walk to day. You may want to check it out as well!

Given that so many people are sheltering at home during these challenging days, and almost everyone has cancelled recent travel plans, I thought it might be fun for dVerse folks to offer a travelogue of sorts….take you places while you’re sitting at home.

So the prompt is this: the title of the poem must be like a pin in a map: that is a place. The body of the poem must take us there with its words and imagery. I’ve also asked folks to post photos of the place, if that’s possible. Given that dVerse poets are from across the globe, literally, I think you’ll have a grand time reading our poetics today. Pub opens at 3 pm Boston time.

Photos from our 2017 trip to the Norwegian Fjiords. 

In Celebration of Matsuo Basho

When we travel, we most especially enjoy immersing ourselves in new cultures. Last April we toured the Asakusa area of Tokyo. Many people strolled these special grounds, photographing the iconic 5-tiered pagoda and praying before the Shinto and Buddhist shrines. We saw a good number of people in formal kimonos, rented from nearby shops to mark a celebratory visit, perhaps a birthday, engagement or anniversary. We stood quietly in front of a temple, in awe of its gold and rich reds. Walking a bit away from the crowds, we discovered a memorial to the poet Matsuo Basho. He lived from 1644 to 1694, during Japan’s Edo period. His haiku are considered the ultimate example of this poetic form. I touched his memorial stone in awe and appreciation.

As we ended our time at Asakusa, I talked with Kaz, our guide. I learned his mother wrote and published poetry in her youth and he told me more about the continued honor that Basho is paid in his country. He gifted me with the special pen he’d been using to jot down notes, in Japanese characters. He also gave me a beautiful writing pad with cherry blossoms etched on it. I was so very touched.

Later, back at our hotel, I did a bit of research and discovered Basho’s haiku about this place:

A cloud of cherry blossoms
the chime of a temple bell
is it Asakusa, is it Ueno?

花の雲    鐘は上野か   浅草か

see with your eyes wide ~
bees visit many gardens
all have sweet nectar

Day 27 of National Poetry Writing Month. Today’s post is written for both Toads and dVerse’sHaibun Monday. ¯¯

Toads asks us to consider the ancient tea ceremony and The Way of Tea which includes a good number of suggestions on how to share tea meaningfully. One, that I used to motivate this prompt is: “See with your eyes! Listen with your ears! And if you wish to smell the fragrance, press for an explanation of every unresolved matter until your understanding is complete.”
My haiku at the end moves beyond humans appreciating other cultures and explains that even the bee appreciates nectar from many gardens. 

Frank hosts dVerse and asks us to consider how similar Basho and Shakespeare were to their cultures, in their own time and for many generations to come. He asks us to write a haibun related to one of these famous literary geniuses.

Industrialization at a price . . .

On a hot summer day, we ventured back in history, on a day-trip to Lowell, Massachusetts.

A small boat took us through part of the 1796 Pawtucket Transportation Canal, with locks so old, their levers are maneuvered above us by National Park volunteers. Green trees reflect in the water marking a beautiful scene. But we’re told that once these waters were polluted thick with textile dyes as industrial capitalists captured hydro-energy from the Merrimack River falls to turn belts and wheels on thousands of textile machines.

In the Boott Cotton Mill Museum, we stand in a long factory room, filled machines, just as they were in the 1830s. Only three of the hundreds are turned on and the noise is deafening. We drip with sweat and imagine women as young as fifteen, standing in long dresses, no electricity for fans, tied to machines fourteen hours a day, six days a week.

sweltering summer
dogs pant laboriously
tethered to leashes

Frank hosts Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Since today is Labor Day in the U.S., a day to celebrate workers, he asks us to write a haibun (2 or 3 paragraphs of prose — cannot be fiction; followed by a traditional haiku with reference to a season) that is somehow about labor. Canada celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September and more than 80 countries celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1.

Photos and video from our recent day trip to Lowell, MA. An amazing step back in time. The Mill Girls, as they came to be known, were some of the first individuals to stage a strike against unfair wages and conditions. They were recruited to this factory city from rural farms in the nearby countryside. Companies required them to stay in the company boarding houses, attend church on Sunday, and live by “the bells” which woke them befroe dawn each morning, signalled meal times, and times to report to the floor. When Mill Girls left their jobs, waves of immigrants came to Lowell, working side-by-side with locals. Lowell did not stay with the times, keeping the hydrology-run factories until they all left for other parts of the country and Lowell fell on hard times. Warehouses were vacant and fell to disrepair. Senator Tsongas, from Lowell, together with Congress, established Lowell as a National Park and the city was “reborn” so to speak, rehabbing and restoring itself as a place to preserve history. An amazing place to visit!

Walk with me . . .

Warning: Pack lightly when traveling abroad. Leave ethnocentrism at home.
Cultural biased cataracts blur the view of many.

Come walk with me in Busan,
savoring South Korea’s largest fish market.

My eyes espy wriggling, clinging, squid and octopi.
Cartiliaginous skates with long dead eyes,
phallic shaped Gaebuls beside sea worms,
long slithering swarm-swimming eels.

I jerk back reflexively
as red knobby sea pineapple
squeezed slightly by seller,
shoots its swallowed water at me.

So many live fish, tank after tank,
humongous to small.
Dried. Pickled.
Crustaceons. Amphibians too.

Offered sannakji to eat,
small “baby” octopus barely chopped,
some not.
Dipped in sesame oil,  swallowed like that.

I would feel them
squirm down my throat.

I remind myself silently –
Things are not better. Things are not worse.
They’re just different.

Then politely I simply say,
no thank you
and smile . . .
and stroll away.

Sarah hosts Poetics today at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. She tells us about her love for visiting markets – especially when on holiday. It’s something we always do when visiting another country…..visit markets and grocery stores. It’s always so very interesting to experience culinary culture. And yes, Sarah wants us to go to market today!

Photos from our April trip where we did indeed visit the amazing fish market in Bousan. Over 500 booths — so many kinds of sea creatures!!!

Woods Divine

Woods beckon,
come walk among the pine.
Steps slow, lighten, whisper quiet.

Meandering deep into the balm,
worries lessen, shedding stress
through leaf-canopied sieve

Shoulders relax. Breath softens.
Warm leaf-filtered sun
soothes like salve to wound.

Some call it forest bathing,
immersion in the ever green.
I call it serenity divine.

Photo: 100 years ago this large forest was planted in Tokyo with the idea of simply letting it grow naturally within the city. It was planted with the express purpose of later constructing a shrine within the woods, dedicated to the first emperor who, by action of the then shogun, transferred power from shogun to emperor, thus establishing a new type of government for Japan. It is truly a serene and beautiful place. Although much much newer than any of the other shrine and sacred places we’ve seen, I found this to be the most beautiful setting.

Ode to the Sea

My moon-blown dreams flutter flit.
‘Tis but water-spoken words
afloat in tide-looped waves,
gently wending their way
wave-seeping through my synapses.
Meanderments that mesmerize,
a ringed-sea within my mind.

Eyes sea-scape.
Islands seemingly afloat
shimmer on reflection,
my ‘scape
from dews of storm-clad life.
I seem to levitate
hover somewhere, not here.

No sound but water-softness,
lapping as if heaven-circling.
Eyes stair cross waters,
climb surreal to starry scrim.
Leaning against ship’s rail,
all railings retreat to insignificance.
Serenity lives upon the seas.

For April 16 Poetics….hosted by guest Laura Bloomsbury. Motivated by her prompt and our current journey, cruising through Japan, China and South Korea.

Beijing

II stand
amidst cherry blossoms,
reborn magnolia trees.

I tread
where dynasties ruled,
savored opulence as others served.

I climb
where men toiled, backs bent
bearing heavy stone.

I walk through history
incredulous to see
to understand,

to know.
We are
but a speck in time.

(photo taken April 5, 2019…me with my husband!)

Come Inside My Haibun

He was an immigrant. A painter. A Swede who arrived at Ellis Island many years ago. I was privileged, as were many, to experience his journey in a most unlikely place. A basement room, in Chicago, Illinois.

Entering that underground space, we stepped onto a ship sailing across the mighty Atlantic. Sky cerulean blue overhead, dipped to meet the horizon, forever brightened by an invisible sun. Gulls hovered above waves rolling with white caps, dabs of paint that never splashed. We sat in the midst of many family celebrations, our chairs backed up against basement walls, as if leaning on Grampa Hallberg’s painted ship rails. A lifeless life preserver hung never-used, drawn not quite round.  It was a room like no other. It was the USS Sweden, frozen in time.

young beaver crosses pond
gathers sticks and stones and spring time mud –
journey revealed in lodge

IMG_1484

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets and I’m hosting today – asking everyone to delve into the traditional … and at the same time, take us on a trip into an interior they remember from their past. A room they can recall.

The Haibun must include 2 or 3 tight paragraphs of prose describing the interior (cannot be fiction); followed by a traditional haiku: 5-7-5 or short-long-short in syllabic form; must be about nature; must include a kigo (reference to a season) and a kireji (a cut achieved by a hyphen, ellipsis, or punctuation mark, that shifts to an added insight within the haiku.

Photo: Grampa Hajalmer Hallberg on the left in 1972, two years before his death. He immigrated from Sweden in 1906 at the age of 22. He’s sitting in the basement he painted to remind him of his journey to America on the USS Sweden.