Hibernation Recuperation

I last posted twenty days ago. That was probably the last time I put my fingers to the laptop keyboard. In the interval I have made do with the the finger stabbing at the tablet’s keyboard. I briefly flirted with the dictation facility, but that was just annoying. For this past twenty days I have been in both hiberation and recuperation. I am only just emerging from my bear’s cave.

On 5th January I made the very bad decision of trying to preempt a fight between the two warring tom cats in our household. For my trouble I had over twenty pounds of angry cat hurl himself at me. My forearm was badly bruised, the wrist sprained and there were a number of scratches. Over the night of 6th/7th January as I watched the storming of Capital Hill my right hand swelled to double of the left. By dawn my husband was driving me to Sligo General A&E.

No one wants to go to a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, especially when your country has suddenly ranked first in the world for the number of infections per capita. Also, no one wants to be Cat Scratch Woman on a snowy day when A&E is suddenly flooded with falls, fractures and heart attacks who all are definitely higher in the triage pecking order. By the time Cat Scratch Woman got seen I needed IV antibiotics. There were mutterings about sending me to Galway, three hours away, to see the plastic surgery team there. There were dire mutterings of losing some of the hand’s use. In the end, eight hours after I registered at reception, it was decided I needed to be admitted to hospital for regular antibiotic infusions. They thought I would be there for three days. In the end it was overnight and then home with antiobiotics the size of horse pills.

I am now home fifteen days and do not seem to have have any symptoms of hospital acquired plague. My Covid test at the hospital was negative (Of course! I have been no where and only seen my husband and grocery store staff and had shouted conversations with neighbours from sixty paces away for the past three months!)

A&E Departments are their own little universes at the best of times. In a pandemic they take on a certain surreality. No one spoke to each other. We were all hunched into ourselves, masked behind our masks. The hospital porters seem congenitally, relentlessly cheerful and postive. The hospital cleaning staff toss their banter about like it is street theatre. But those of us waiting were as silent as a church before a funeral Mass.

Once I finally was seen and could find a sandwich to buy I did not want to eat it in A&E. I paused on a bench outside it in the foyer that was the pre-Covid19 entrance to the hospital. A&E is to the right. To the left was once upon a time the Oncology Ward and is now the Covid19 ward. As I chomped on my egg and mayo sandwich a small woman in full protective gear, looking like a back to front elephant, trundled past on her way into that ward. Or was she more like the Caterpillar in the Tenniel drawings of Alice in Wonderland and the hose not an elephant’s trunk, but the Caterpillar’s hookah. Her locomotion was more caterpillar than elephant. Or, as my brother said to me a couple days later, perhaps I was a tad feverish at that point.

They made me Bed 7 in a six bed ward and they kept pumping me full of antiobiotics. My husband had sent out a Facebook request for prayers on my behalf. Between them, and the IV antibiotics, the Orthopoedic bods were happy to send me home by 2pm the next day. Besides, there is pressure for beds. I was released home on the tenth anniversary of my mother’s death.

Compounding that sense of not quite reality were some synchronicities. First, the Malaysian A&E doctor shared my father’s forename. On the ward, one of the nurses was Julian; I say the Julian of Norwich mantra daily. Then came the challenge to get blood from my deep veins. They called in their own Sure Shot, a Polish man originally from the hometown of the Black Madonna, who had a ‘shaman trick’ to finding the vein for the required sample. I wasn’t aware of my small army of well-wishers since I keep social media off my mobile phone, but I felt very ‘held’ all the while nonetheless.

Home has been a slow process of medication and gradual rehabilitation of the hand and wrist. I have managed to keep up the haiku/senryu/tanka a day journal. Though I did have to compose 7th January’s in my head while I was sitting in A&E. My handwriting was very shaky those first days back, but you try writing with your hand in splint!

It has also meant that I have had to let go of certain January projects. There are limits and I have had to humbly accept them. Though I did have a real bargaining phase where I thought I might adapt things. So no 30 day e-course is available for the Season of Imbolc. It was a worthy project, but it will have to be for another year. I especially wanted to do it as this is the tenth anniversary of my leading a Brigid Pilgrimage in Ireland for Celtic Women International. The blandishments of many loving friends, as well as the dearly beloved husband, talked me down from those overzealous ambitions…eventually. I am truly indebted to one of my students for helping me see clearly and to let go of any lingering guilt about not trying to do it all. Once I stopped trying to push the river, the healing began to flow.

I have also had to delay plans to get back to my Zoom classes. This is because I do have a very large project, Mapping the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark Poem by Poem, in the works. That is going to need a lot of energy, which I do not have an infinite supply of at the moment. More about that in another post.

My fingers may be dancing over the keyboard, but the wrist tires out far sooner than I would like. Domestic chores are my physio therapy and each day I do a little bit more. I am having to treat my body like a temple.

Here are a couple haiku/senryu/micropoems from my journal while I have been in hibernation/recuperation mode.

7th January 2021, Sligo General A&E

Stolid faces gaze
Waiting for their name to be called
Quiet stoicism
21st January 2021

Remorseless toil
Perpetual do over
Sisyphus' housework
23 January 2021

Outside my window
Icing sugar coated world
Birds' chirruping spring

It is good to be back at the keyboard again.

2021 Haiku A Day Anyone?

Happy 2021! I took a two week break from blogging. The laptop, which represents work, was firmly left closed and put away in the drawer. I hope you have had a time of rest during these Twelve Days of Christmas that are time our of time. Literally! The twelve days were leftovers when they switched from the Julian to Gregorian calendar. My rest has been spent reading, calling/Zooming friends and family, making nice food, eating same, making sure I get some exercise everyday (step counter appended) and writing a haiku, senryu or tanka for the Omen Days.

The Omen Days come from a tradition of observing nature during the Twelve Days of Christmas, from 26th December/St. Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day until Epiphany/Nollaig na Ban on 6th January. From each day’s observation one should have some augury for the month of the year ahead. So Stephen’s Day would be Day 1 of the Omen Days. And January 6th is Day 12 of the Omen Days.

Some use tarot cards. I used some Emily Dickinson Divination cards last year. I cannot say if they accurately foretold the theme for each month in the year ahead, but I can say that over 2018/2019, writing a poem a day sustained me while my husband’s sister was dying, the funeral and aftermath.

This year nature and it’s resurgence (and THERE is a lovely word of the year for 2021, isn’t it?!) has sustained us in our isolation. So it seemed right to write a haiku, senryu or tanka each day through the omen days. We shall see if they have been any kind of augury.

Then,as I was totting up some steps on my pedometer the other day, I wondered if I could keep a haiku/senryu/tanka journal for the 365 days of 2021. I have said in previous posts that I feel that Doorways is a real theme for 2021. What doors will open? Maybe by keenly observing nature I will record this threshold time.

I have been given a lovely notebook with bees on it by our goddaughter. It is quite small. A perfect size for keeping a haiku journal. I have a couple projects that are going to keep my nose to the grind stone over the next few months, so keeping my poetry writing hand active with small, obtainable daily objectives seems sensible.

It’s been frosty and cold most of these Omen Days with Day 8 being the exception. Far sunnier than we normally experience in winter, too. My ten year old grandniece in Pennsylvania is a keen amateur meterologist. I wonder what she would predict from our weather? Although she is having far more fun following tornados in Galveston.

Here is a sampling of my Omen Days haiku, senryu and tanka. Haiku traditionally has a season word and, ideally, a bit of an ‘Ah ha! wrapped up in its seventeen syllables. Senryu also has the same seventeen syllable pattern, but observes human nature rather than the environment. A tanka is basically a haiku/senryu capped with two lines of seven syllables each.

Omen Day 1 - St. Stephen's Day, 26th December 2020

When's the sky true white?
A blank page that's fluttering
Wind an ocean roar

Omen Day 4 - 29th December 2020

Birds glide on thermals
They trust in their skill - or fate
Would that I could
Omen Day 5 - 30th December 2020

The forecast: snowfall
Frosty, bone cold daybreak
Prediction: mug's game!

Omen Day 8 - 2nd January 2021

Look up! Starry night
Dots of light sprawl the sky
The infinite small

The haiku shoguns would probably come after some of these efforts. But sometimes you just have to allow yourself to do the best you can and not let others judge it as not good enough.

Be gentle with yourself. Take care. We are not out of this viral storm yet. In the meantime, continue to create. Keep the hearth fire burning in your soul. St. Brigid’s Day is coming soon, and with it a 30 Day e-course to keep you inspired and resilient.

Snowdrops, a harbinger of Spring and Renewal, sacred to the saint and goddess Brigid

Featured image Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Summer Solstice Sunset Senryu

The long light evenings give way to leisurely after dinner walks with houseguests. We found ourselves up on the Cavan Burren yesterday evening just as the angle of light was its brightest before it gradually began to fade into the long twilight. Some summer solstice senryu seems to be in order for poetry practice this morning. We were up in the park a half hour before the gates close at 10PM. After a day of on and off rain the light show showed up a luminous green from the moss and lichen.

Cuilcagh Mountain cavan Burren park
Cloud shadow and fairy trees process
The way to the holy mountain
Cavan Burren Park
When humans were giants
We walked as tall
Casting long shadows

Cavan Burren cow and calf
Bathe in the long light
The calf and her mother
Bronzed forever



Which segues neatly into a photo of Cavan Burren Park’s iconic Calf Hut Dolmen. Basically, the captstone slipped at some stage to create a saltbox effect. At some point in the late 18th or early 19th century a farmer decided to mortar up one end and make it a cattle shelter for the new born calves.

Calf Hut Dolmen Cavan Burren Park
Calf Hut Dolmen Cavan Burren Park

By twilight we were home for dessert and tea. The guests had an early morning start. It wasn’t dark at bedtime.

I am revelling in the summer solstice light and the full moon’s light. I hope you are bathing in its fey joy, too. We are still three days of the exact solstice and the moon will be waning by then. In the meantime, let the yin and the yang sky dance and bring you delight.

Words and images Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Zoomorphism

It is probably down to David Attenborough and the BBC wildlife documentaries he produced. I was chatting on the Local Link bus on Saturday to an elderly lady. (Who am I kidding; I am eligible for the free bus pass in three years!) Any road, she’s a fan and she shared little titbits of animal behaviour that had caught her fancy. The examples surely made animals relatable and more like us humans (or the reverse). Which pretty much defines zoomorphism. 

I am having a slow morning. The weather has changed. I woke with a “logey” head, a low grade headache that makes me feel very draggy. It has taken two cups of Earl Grey to get the poetry engine to start. And on days like today, I find senryu comforting. So – a series of zoomorphic senryu for poetry practice this morning. Senryu is like haiku, in that is only seventeen syllables. It explores behaviour- usually human foibles – whereas haiku concentrates on the cosmic quality of nature.

Unbroken chain

Signals danger’s alert

Badgers asleep 

Holding paws

Barren Aunt Meercat

Gets to be nursery maid

Nature’s stop gap.

Penguins are not shy

They let themselves

Love and mate as they like

Poor Peg!

The mourning grace

The loss of lifetime mate

Solitary swan

Sleep, eat, watch, wait

The patience of an old dog

Stalwart company

Feral feline

So decisive of desire

Unflinching focus

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith

Featured photo is of the wild cat who eventually came in from the cold and onto my lap.

When a Haiku is NOT Haiku ?

Call just any old three line 5-7-5 or seventeen syllable a haiku and you could find yourself on the samurai sword point of the Haiku Shoguns. Because, gentle reader, who may now be quivering in anxiety, a haiku must have a seasonal word or kigo. It is a zen-like contemplation on the eternal wisdom of nature. With a little “Ah-ha!” of enlightenment thrown in.

Everything else is mostly senryu, which takes a gently humourous slant on human foibles. Or it might be a katauta, which is senyu for lovers. Which may segue into sedoka, a kind of three line back and forth between the two parties.

Everything else three line and seventeen syllables is zappai. Are you keeping up?

Here’s how…

Haiku 1

Gorse covered hillside
Wind drifts scent of coconut
An April's chill day

No earth shattering “Ah-ha!”, I know. I didn’t say it was a good example! I am barely awake, much less enlightened at this time of morning! The next one I wrote does have a seasonal hint (hawthorn = May), but does have the little humourous rib.

Haiku 2

Hawthorn's lace and frill
Edging pasture's boundaries
Farmer frippery

Next up is a katauta:

Over many seasons
I have watched your loving hands
I see signs - aging

which then becomes a sedoka when you add the following three lines.

Even your child-size hands
Finally have all grown up
In your magic gloves

Finally, the everything else zappai.

The house is so still
Outside barely a breeze stirs
Making me restless

So now you know when a haiku is really not a haiku. You shall be spared the haiku shogun’s samurai sword point. Just remember. 1) Don’t rhyme. 2) No more than seventeen syllables all in. 3) And use that seasonal hint. And 4) If you have reached an enlightening moment you have haiku gold!

Love and Work in Poetry

Another day and another poetry form in the Poetry Daily. Some mornings I am stuck. Then I refer to a wonder article that lists 100 Poetry Forms on http://writersdigest.com. At random I pick one I have never heard of before. I was feeling a bit jaded this morning so I plucked the Dodoitsu from the list. I have long played with haiku and senryu, so another Japanese form seemed perfect for a morning when I wanted to write in brief. With the dodoitsu you have the broad expanse of a further nine syllables to play around with! Yes, a rash ration of a whole twenty six syllables arranged in four lines. Like haiku and senryu, there is no rhyme. The first three lines have seven syllables each. The capping line has five syllables. The poetry form tends to take ‘love and work with a comical twist’ as its subject according to the website article.

So I flexed my fingers and finally got out my notebook and pen for poetry practice. I do find Japanese poetry forms kind of zen. Face the blank page, instead of a blank wall. But often poignant. Also often very funny.

Another Kind of Zen

First, the poet awakens
Pause for tea ceremony
Then takes up her fountain pen
Bows to the blank page

Creative Process

The creative process is
a building skip full of flops,
retakes, almost but not quites
But still. Keep trying!


Long Love

Well! we can still huff and puff
Argue the toss all bluster
Lower lip bound to quiver
Then kiss "Goodnight, Love!"


Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured image Photo by Simson Petrol on Unsplash

Senryu Saturday

Over the next two weeks I will be teaching three workshops each week. So I am relieved that NaPoWriMo will be providing daily poetry prompts from tomorrow. Because  this little engine that could is running our of steam. And I do seriously think that April will be the end of my Poem A Day writing. At some point I need to address editting…

However, the brief sweetness of senryu suggested itself for today as I prepare to deliver a workshop on creative non-fiction.

Today would have been my sister-in-law’s 65th birthday. She died just after last Christmas and her funeral was the day after New Year’s. My husband will be memorialising her today planting sunflower seeds, a flower they both favour and have adopted as a family symbol. Gardening, as his late mother knew, heals all.

The scent of hyacinth consoles

He knew to plant many last autumn

Copyright 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Friday Senryu

After the bonus poem for World Poetry Day yesterday, I figured I could cut myself a little slack on poetry practice this morning. Especially, as I have a cat who has somehow managed to injure his left hind leg. So I am more concerned about keeping him warm and quiet; we shall have to see if that will mend matters. He is a wily, often bad-tempered, utterly loveable former feral whom I have socialised into a household. He is full of contradictions. He yearns to belong. He auditioned long and hard to come indoors, but then had the arrogance to misbehave and bully the girls. We could not have that! Manners maketh the man I would quote to him over his windowsill supper many times. It can be a bit of work in progress some days. But he is a bit of a spirit animal for me, or familiar, or a Pullmanesque daemon.

The love for our companion animals (and they for us) is often complex. We since we do not share a common language. Apparently domestic cats only meow to communicate with humans. They enrich our lives immeasurably even as I complain about the amount of cat litter I have to change (there are four cats in this household.)

At any rate, I need to attend to my pet. So senryu it is for today. Haiku is concerned with nature. Senryu has the same number of syllables, but its concern his with human nature.

Limping cat snarls and snaps
I offer soft words and strokes
Now you purr

The formerly feral feline

And simply for species equality I include one for the dogs. We have two dogs in the household as well. Then I need to become matron of Pet Hospital.

The auld dog's day: breathe, sleep,
sniff air, sun bask
the odd sprint for old time's sake

Have a good weekend. Happy Friday. Hug your fur babies. Pat a friend’s companion animal, but ask nicely first. Animals require that they give consent, too.

Spring Haiku

Sorry, but out where I live nature and the seasons are really in your face. Some days, the poetry practice just defaults to haiku and senryu. It comes with the territory when you live in a geopark I suppose. Haiku, senryu and micropoems certainly work as a poetry etude for me this morning.

Earth incubates
Her womb warm
Even when its cold
outside-
Still growth
Every spring
Nature's in your face
Surprise!
Tweet, caw, coo-woo, chuckle
Neighbour's conversation
Early morning
Catkins
Caterpillar fuzzy
Sun bright
This misty morning

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

January Micro(scopic) Poems

It is one of those bright winter mornings where there is real fire in the sun’s rays. You can understand why Brigid’s feast day is this time of year. You can also understand why some translate her name as ‘bright arrow.’ She is also described as a ‘sun gold’ or ‘red gold’ woman. On this Irish morning I get it. It is very real and imminent.

For my poetry practice this morning I felt drawn to writing haiku, senryu and micropoems. Micropoems are little things. Haiku celebrate a (hopefully) epiphanous moment in nature; senryu look (often wryly, frequently fondly and humourously) at human nature. They do it in seventeen syllables or less. Micropoems cover the rest of the tiny poems that fulfill neither technical description. They have a wider thematic brief and also tend to have titles, whereas haiku and senyru go out into the world nameless.

This was actually how I started the day.

 A thump as beak meets glass
Hey! Open up the Birdy's Café!

This time of year in Celtic lore is considered a wrestling match between Mother Winter, the Cailleach, and the Maiden, Brighid.

The Last of the Cailleach

Safe in her cave
Sucking marrow from bone
Bright rays piece her fastness

Actually, it is often the coldest weather right at this time of year in Ireland. Often this is the the last push for snow and ice at Imbolc, so we acknowledge this by making hearty stews and mashed potato or ham and colcannon. Neeps are not just for Burn’s night either. Turnip and bacon is pure January comfort food. Making a stew from shin of beef probably inspired this.J

To fire our bellies
We want to sup marrow from bone
Hungry days

But then the Maiden Brigid is right on the threshold of the season and year. Spring is coming. We see it in the bulbs popping up. The gorse has bloomed again in this upland country. (And it’s scent is almost tropical! True!) This little poem is a riff on the old custom of welcoming St. Brigid into you house, opening your front door and saying the welcome aloud.

These fiery rays
Melting morning's frost
Brigid is welcome! She is!
A welcome to Brigid, acknowledging both her saintly and goddess status

This is a week where I will be giving public readings of some of my Brigid inspired poems, weaving St. Brigid’s crosses, telling Her folklore to groups and generally having a lot of fun. It is time to bake my special seed cake because we are on the threshold of new growth. It’s time! We can feel it in our belly.