Fuyugomori 冬籠りin November

November 12, 2019

Last night the wintery weather that has been making news in Chicago and much of the mid-West reached us here in Maine.  The National Weather Service reports it to be “an air mass that’s more typical of January than mid-November.”

Today, as what is left of the freezing rain and snow pass through and we brace for record-setting levels of cold to follow, we find ourselves plunged into a short-term, Central Maine version of what in haiku tradition is known as fuyugomori, winter seclusion. This seasonal word (kigo) refers to the retreat to a warm and sheltered place that both humans and animals in cold climates make during the winter months. In Maine, with schools and many public offices closed, most meetings and events canceled, and plenty of ice on the roads, a retreat to a short “winter seclusion” makes good sense.

While fuyugomori generally refers to the behavior of humans and animals, it can be used of the winter dormancy of plants as well. I feel a concern for the trees here in Maine–the tall oaks, maples, ashes, pines, etc.—that suddenly in mid-November need to cope with deep winter conditions.

Ice and cold; each tree
drops its life into its roots—
world turned monochrome.

 

Heavy Rain and the End of Lilac Season

June 11, 2019

Like a lot of people, I enjoy occasional rainy days towards the start of summer.  The green of the oaks, maples, ashes and birches is still new and in the diffused light of a rainy day it takes on a quiet radiance.

But we live in a time of climate change, brought about by us humans.  Extraordinary downpours–such as the one that came through last night and this morning–are increasingly common in Maine.  They are creating more problems for our already challenged lakes, occasioning heavy runoffs that contribute to algae blooms, and fish-threatening low oxygen levels.

In such a season, we feel the need for action and hope…and maybe  a little forgiveness.

Struck by too hard rain
last lilacs open, scatter
soft benedictions

Rain on Snow, Snow on Rain, Icing in Between

January 9, 2019

It’s unsettling having a patch of tumultuous winter weather such as we have been experiencing for the past two days, with temperatures vacillating between freezing and thaw, and precipitation switching wildly between periods of rain, snow and freezing rain.  It is an uncomfortable reminder that we are living in the Anthropocene.  The winters have gotten warmer, with more thaw…and so more ice.

The current patch of weather is also simply difficult for us humans and many of our fellow living beings to be out in.

There were no fresh deer, fox, raccoon, or coyote tracks this morning.  The usually unseen subnivean tunnel work of the meadow voles had been exposed by the melting effect of the rain on the thin layer of snow cover.  Not surprisingly, there were no actual voles to be seen.  Exposure of their trails clearly represents a challenge for these voracious, year-round plant foragers.

 

vole trails

Not only the voles, even the trees seemed hard-pressed by the conditions.

Patient balsam boughs—
Learning water’s weight from drenched
lattices of snow.

balsams in wet snow

True Semptember

Sept. 12, 2018

The first week of September didn’t feel like September at all.  The air was from the south, hot and muggy; it was summery in the uncomfortable sense of the word, a reminder that we are living in the Anthropocene.

It was with a sense of relief a few mornings ago that I woke up to find cool, fresh air pouring in through the open bedroom window.  Overnight, the season had shifted from high summer to early fall, Maine style.  While not letting me off the hook in terms of my responsibilities as a human being, the change felt good.

True September’s here!
Step through damp woods, coolness, mist
into one, still mind.