First published in Thornewood Poems (Foster City, California: Press Here, 1994). To read all the haiku, please visit Thornewood Poems. +
On Sunday, 27 March 1994, the Haiku Poets of Northern California held a special outdoor haiku walk at the Thornewood Open Space Preserve, led by Donna [later known as Claire] and Pat Gallagher. I had written almost no haiku in the five or six weeks previously (a rare dry spell for me), but I was glad to be spending this time with other haiku poets outdoors in a beautiful wooded area on the San Francisco peninsula near the town of Woodside. Since I hadn’t written much haiku in the weeks before, I didn’t expect to write much on our walk, but I took my notebook anyway.
But barely ten feet along the dry, brown trail I noticed a bright red toyon berry. I bent down to pick it up and then suddenly wondered where it had come from. All at once I looked up to the thinning toyon branches overhead, heard a chickadee’s lovely song, and was drawn into the moment with a joyous whump! The berry, the branch from which it had fallen, the bird’s bright song—all of this instantly unified.
Poems spilled out of me as our small group ambled as slowly as we could down a mile-long trail to a small artificial pond nestled in the redwoods. Along the way I noticed more rich details of nature than I had seen in a hundred miles of other walks, drinking in the glories of California wildflowers, turret spiders and other insects, a wealth of bushes and trees, and many bird songs, all drenched in warm spring sunshine. Magic! In a few short hours the poems that follow came out almost exactly as I present them, with minimal revision, and, with one exception, are presented in the order I wrote them.
At the end of the trail the dozen or so of us gathered to share water, cookies and crackers, and several rounds of poems in the shade of some redwoods by the pond. On the way back up the trail we stopped to read our poems at the places where they were inspired. Several of us had written about similar subjects, sometimes with similar emotion. In all, it was a very unifying experience, both with each other and with the wonder of nature. I truly feel grateful that I live in an area with many other talented and dedicated haiku poets who appreciate such a sojourn in nature. If you haven’t shared a time like this with a group of like-minded haiku poets in a beautiful natural setting, I hope the following poems give an ample taste of this rewarding experience.