April 15, 2015
In his travel dairy, Oi no kobumi, Matsuo Bashô has a beautiful haiku about a heat shimmer (kaegrô in Japanese). Growing up in the US, I had associated these mirages with summer road trips. I was intrigued by the mysterious pools of water that seemed to lie up ahead on the road, but that always disappeared when our car got closer. Bashô’s heat shimmer poem however is set in early spring, at the start of the new lunar year before the grasses had started to green.
kageshiba ya/ yaya kagerô no/ ichi ni sun
Field of withered grass–/ a faint heat shimmer just one/ or two inches high
Bashô’s haiku woke me up to the fact that these mirages can appear at this time of year. In fact, in Maine, that’s just when I am most likely to see them. In April, as the temperatures rise at last and the sun, so much higher in the sky now than in January works its magic, the still frozen surface of the lakes begin to shimmer with heat waves. They can look like pools of open water and trick us into thinking we are further into the season than we really are, but the feeling is a good one of being able to glimpse the energy that is at the start of life.
Flowing like water
over the lake’s frozen face
April heat shimmer.