Cowan’s Castle

First published in Drifting Sands Haibun #1, April 2020. Originally written in January of 2008.

For Christmas, my wife and I and our two children flew to Winnipeg, where I grew up, to visit my sister and her family. My parents and brother’s family went, too, and we all stayed at Cowan’s Castle, a friend’s large, hundred-year-old mansion around the corner from my sister’s home, which was too small to house us all. During the week, the temperature stayed at about 5 to 10 degrees below zero—a lot warmer than the last time we visited for the holidays, seven years before. Plenty of new snow pillowed the streets and gardens, hiding bushes and flowerbeds, squeaky underfoot. Every morning and evening, we bundled up for the three-minute walk to my sister’s house, enjoying the crisp air, the muted winter light in the daytime or the outline of bare branches against the night-blue sky, the sparkle of snow everywhere. We managed to stay completely clear of the shopping malls, instead taking a drive to see my parents’ old house in Fort Garry, the evergreen trees we planted in the front yard now more than fifty feet tall. We also drove my dad, now retired as a professor, to the architecture department at the University of Manitoba where for years he had an office. One evening my sister hosted a party so we could catch up with old friends. Christmas day was a whirlwind of presents for the kids, too much food, and an afternoon of tobogganing—just like years ago.

                rosy cheeks—
                my two-year-old asks
                if she can bring in some snow

The night before we left, we put the kids to bed very early, to catch a 7:00 a.m. flight the next day. After they had drifted to sleep, I sat in the castle’s drawing room with a friend’s novel. I soon came to the end, and sat there, idle, enjoying the view of yet more fresh snow, falling lightly outside the stained-glass windows. All the sensations of the week seemed to flood out of me, and I began writing haiku. In two or three hours, I had written seventy-five poems, pleased to have this unexpected gift to remember the holiday.

                Christmas snowfall—
                a neighbour’s whispered wish
                lost to the wind