Capturing Their Feelings

I recently purchased and have been reading a book titled Write Like Issa: A Haiku How To, by David Lanoue.

The writer talks about the compassion Issa often showed for the creatures he saw. He seemed to  look through their eyes for a moment and express, in an understanding way, how they were reacting to heat, cold, pain, etc. Be it the fly in a hot stuffy room, the toad on a chilly morning, the chicken dragging a damaged wing, he could display through his verse, without actually stating, their physical feelings.

The sparrows we see in winter puff up when it’s cold and they must feel an icy wind ruffling their feathers. Or we may see a baby bird hopping after its harried mother, crying for more food. Issa wrote a famous verse identifying himself with the hungry chick, by throwing in the words “step-child bird.” Knowing that the poet was a step-child neglected and harshly treated by his father’s second wife, we get the picture of his own hunger and longing for affection.

One of the exercises Mr Lanoue gives readers is to recall a experience shared with a some creature and then capture that in a haiku. I think we can all recall instances when a creature, especially a pet, shows some “feeling” we can identify with. One day as I was walking to the mall, I saw a salamander alongside the curb, twisting his head this way and that in obvious distress as cars swished past not far away. The traffic wasn’t steady; but every so often another car would pass and frighten him, yet the poor creature couldn’t go up the curb to escape that way. Just observing him a moment, I caught his fear and bewilderment. I could easily imagine the desperate cry of, “Which way shall I go?”

I’m not sure I could condense that scene enough for a haiku — if you want to give it a try, go for it, and leave your verse as a comment. But here’s a quick and easy scene for a verse. I don’t know if it’s a great haiku or not, but have you ever noticed how a fly is attracted to a dish or jar that once held something sweet?

fruit fly explores
the just-washed jam jar
something tells him

Morning Musings

Good morning, everyone!winter-rural road-ahead

It’s a frosty one here on the Canadian prairie this morning; my phone registers our temperature as -36 C. Definitely CRISP, but warmer than the city of Saskatoon, which is -39 C or -37 F, according to Environment Canada. The predicted high today is -27 C.

Needless to say, our furnace is running pretty steady. I’m so thankful we don’t have to haul in firewood and keep the place warm with the old wood stove! We’ve had a couple more snowfalls this month — not heaps, but enough to keep the snow removal people on the go.

Our cats have serious cabin fever. During most of this winter our weather has fluctuated and they’ve had a few days every week when they could go out. But this cold spell (below -20 C) has settled on us all week and they don’t venture out for more than a few minutes until they’ve had enough.

And I have a cold. Mostly sinus drip, for which I’m taking decongestant and drinking hot stuff. A great day to stay inside and let my imagination wander to green grass and budding trees. The high for next week Wed is to be -16 C, so we will slowly come out of this.

I just came across this little verse in the 1974 Friendship Book of Francis Gay. I don’t know if I should find this a comfort or not?
When snow is deep and toes are numb,
when aches and pains make faces glum,
it’s odd to think you’ve only got
four months to wait to feel too hot!

Anyway, I wish you all a good day, wherever in the world you are. My thanks to all of you who are reading and following this blog. I’m delighted that I can “visit” with so many people this morning without having to leave my warm house. 🙂

 

Possibilities

I haven’t written a short story for awhile, so I’ll go with the prompt from Word of the Day: POSSIBILITIES

Dark Door

My spirits are as bright as the sky above as I hurry down the street of the small Italian village. I’m so thrilled to think of what Gabriel is doing for me. It’s beyond wonderful! A few more blocks — maybe fifteen minutes — and I may be meeting my great Aunt Vittoria. Oh, I hope I’ve really found her!

Just before the Second World War my grandparents, Arturo and Bianca Santini, emigrated to Toronto from this little town in the north of Italy. Still teenagers, and just married, they left most of their family behind, promising to send for the others once they’d made their fortune in the land where money grew on trees.

Talk about delusion! Life as an immigrant in Toronto turned out to be decades of hard scrabble. Yes, they’re comfortable in their old age, but never have had the cash to support other family members. Still, it’s been their intention to someday come back, revisit their childhood home and renew family ties. Grandfather’s heart problems have prevented them from making the trip now, but I determined that I would visit this village and do what I could to restore the lost family connections on their behalf.

I started working as a physiotherapist and saving my money; now, with a little help from folks and grandpas, I had enough cash to make this two-week trip. April 8, 1996 was the big day! My parents and grandparents drove me to the airport in Toronto and I was off and the adventure of a lifetime. Before I boarded Mom waved a finger at me: “Don’t let any handsome young Italian turn your head. We don’t want you staying there!”

I landed in Firenze, I rented a car and headed for Pisa — the Leaning Tower being one of the first tourist stops on my list. I visited several more spots, then headed north toward the Alps where I finally found the little village I’ve heard so much about from Grandpa and Grandma.

For the first couple of days I just wandered around, getting a feel of the place and practicing my poor Italian on the natives. If they shake their heads, I pull out my Italian phrases book and show them what I’m trying to say. They laugh, shake their heads again, and pronounce it properly, delighted when, after half a dozen tries at copying, I finally get it right.

I visited the cemetery and found the great-grandparent’s graves. I visited the town records office, where I learned that my grandfathers’ siblings all scattered after the war. There are no Santinis left here, sorry. Maybe in the next village? Grandma’s sisters likely remarried and changed their names. I should check the church records.

Those first few mornings I’ve been enjoying real Italian espressos at a little bistro that caters to tourists like me. I was there yesterday when a very handsome young man approached me. Thankfully he does okay in English and I didn’t need my little book of phrases. He introduced himself as Gabriel Venturi and excused himself for being so bold, but said I look so much like his Auntie Ginevra did when she was young. He asked where I’m from and if I have family here in the village?

Grasping at the possibility of a connection, I spilled out the story of my grandparents who left before the war. He studied me closely until I turned very pink, then he apologized for being rude and asked, “Was your Grandma a Ricci before she married?”

Hope flared like fireworks. “Yes! And her two sisters stayed here, Maria and Vittoria. Grandpa’s parents had died in an accident but three of his brothers and a sister were here when he left. All communication stopped after the war, though.”

He looked rather grave for a moment. “A lot of young men died in the war, out in the battlefields. Or in the ocean. And others emigrated, hoping for a more peaceful life elsewhere. Your grandparents did well to leave when they did. But I think I maybe can help you. Vittoria Lorenzo, my Auntie Ginevra’s mother is still alive, though she’s very old and not able to get out much. She was a Ricci before she married and I think she did have a sister who went to Canada. Of course these are very common names and perhaps no relation. Still, I’ll talk to my auntie. Meet me here tomorrow morning and I’ll see if I can arrange for you to meet them.”

My heart skipped a beat. Could this old lady really be Grandma’s sister?

Gabriel smiled. “If you would like to walk around the town with me, I’ll show you where the Ricci family lived when those girls were growing up.”

I’ll confess, my heart did flutter a bit as we walked along. This man could be a tour guide. I wondered for a moment just what he did for a living, but the chance never came up. He seems like a great person to talk to about any subject under the sun.

Not only did he show me around the town, but also bought us a delicious dinner at the hotel. I did wonder for a moment when the young waiter gave him a sly wink. They must be friends. Or maybe he thought I was Gabriel’s new girlfriend. I didn’t see any wedding ring, but I still made a point of asking him if he had a wife or sweetheart. He shook his head, looking — or trying hard to look— very dejected, then asked about my work in Toronto. Again I wanted to ask what he did for a living, but somehow we never got to that topic.

This morning he met me at the café as promised and told me he’d arranged for me to meet my possible Great-Aunt Vittoria. He said he’d go a few minutes early and explain things to her again — she’s old and very forgetful. I should wait five minutes and then walk straight uphill from the bistro, cross five streets, and turn right at Giordano. Half a block up I’d see #16. Vittoria’s daughter lives downstairs and keep a box of pink flowers in the window and there’s a birdhouse hanging by the door. He’d be sure to leave the door ajar for me; I should go up the stairs to the first floor and knock at the second door. He’ll be waiting in the apartment with Vittoria and Aunt Ginevra.

So I’m following instructions, hurrying along with high hopes my search will be rewarded. Won’t Grandma Bianca be thrilled to know her sister still lives here in the village! If it’s her…

Suddenly some other possibilities sweep through my mind. Suspicions. I’ve always had a suspicious nature and now it’s rearing its ugly head, growling like the Troll of Terror. “Is Gabriel really the helpful fellow he’s pretending to be? What if, instead of meeting a sweet old lady, I’ll be meeting a couple of thugs? How can I know?” My feet start to drag.

I turn the corner at Giordano Street and see an old man sitting on a bench. I greet him politely and ask about Vittoria… Oh, what was her married name? I ask about Ginevra. He nods and points to the house down the street. Number 16. He holds up fingers to show me, just in case I don’t get it. I wince, knowing how poor my Italian really is. He says something else and I catch it that Vittoria is very old, very old.

Somewhat reassured, I approach the door, standing ajar just as Gabriel said it would be, and see the dark stairway inside.

“I’ll gladly hand over my cash, if that’s what they want. Wait! I’m being foolish.” I take the first few steps up the shadowy staircase and heave a sigh. “At least my passport and ID are hidden at the Inn. If this is a robbery, they won’t get that.” I scold myself for being such a fraidy cat and walk up the rest of the stairs. Gabriel is too kind and friendly to be a crook. “He surely wouldn’t let anyone murder me.”

Now I’m facing the door. I give it a couple quick knocks and hold my breath. Such possibilities!

Gabriel opens the door and waves his hand, inviting me in with a flourish. I take a step forward and my eyes pop open. The little old lady sitting in a soft chair and smiling up at me is a perfect copy of Grandma Santini.

Paper Airplanes & Haiku

Good morning everyone!

I’m up before the sun today, but it’s slowly getting out of bed. Our weather’s been up and down for most of the winter, but the forecasters are telling us now that we’re in for a spell of -20 to -30 C, such as you’d expect in February here on the prairies.

A great time to stay home, but our comfy conveyances are so handy nowadays. Not like in Grandma’s day when the rare trip to town meant piling into the old sled (sleigh?) with warm stones at their feet and bouncing across frozen fields. These cold snaps were when moms and grandmas circa 1900 darned the socks, patched clothes, wrote letters, and got their quilting done.

But here I am this morning, hopping around the globe via the internet to pop in on poets in Australia, Mexico, Britain and the US. I’ve read Frank Prem’s new book of poetry and his request for pre-pub readers and reviewers, then shared a fishy limerick with Kristian.

Now I’ve finished an interesting article on Objective Hokku written by David from I-assume-the-US. He explains that Objective Hokku is simply a reflection, via the poet, of what it there, making no comparisons, offering no personal opinion or interpretation. I’ll take a stab at it:

Winter morning.
The cat curled up
In the office chair.

You get the immediate picture and some sense of coziness. This verse doesn’t tell you that the office chair is mine and I should be in it, that because I’m too soft to dump the cat out, I’m sitting beside it on a hard-seated folding chair typing this. 🙂

The poem below is haiku, because it definitely leads you to a conclusion about my reading habits. 😉 Actually it’s more of a senryu, a haiku which makes a wry comment on human nature.

all the books
I hope to someday read
paper airplanes

And this even more so:

high pressure system
distant cousins arrive
family picnic drenched

Even though I’m not into the deeper significance of haiku and hokku, I do enjoy these “snapshot” verses. I hope you do, too.

A Light, Enjoyable Series

Over the Christmas holidays I discovered a new series and have been reading through them one after the other. This is the Markham Sisters series by Diana Xarissa, who also does the Aunt Bessie (An Isle of Man Cozy Mystery) series.

The Markham sisters are two retired teachers who spend their little inheritance windfall on a bed & breakfast in what they think will be a calm little English village. Which it is, for the most part; the locals do their best to make the sisters welcome. The constable drops in often just to check on them—and is easily persuaded to stay for a bite to eat, seeing what a great cook Joan is.

Owning a bed & breakfast has been Joan’s dream since she was young, and since she’s the older, she’s persuaded younger sister Janet to go along with the plan. But running a business and dealing with customers sometimes proves intriguing. Joan has a stronger sense of propriety — which means “no snooping.” It’s Janet who gets quite curious about people who are acting suspiciously or whose stories don’t add up. Joan tells her to mind her own business, but Janet can’t resist doing some investigating.

This series is quite tame, more along the lines of Nancy Drew mysteries. Just what I like: no dead bodies discovered, but smaller crimes like art fraud, an odd shortage of narcotics at the drug store, counterfeit money being passed, and people who aren’t who they claim to be. The novel “cases” are named alphabetically and each book is a short, easy read.

There are ordinary day-to-day details some might find rather boring, but I enjoy the setting and characters. I’d take away one star, though, for the way the sisters interact sometimes. They are in their 60s but Joan is still bossing Janet like a teen older sister — at times this seems overplayed. And Janet, when she’s miffed, still sticks her tongue out behind Joan’s back. I’d think if they’ve lived together all their lives they’d have developed more of a respect for each other, show more of an accepting, “live-and-let-live” attitude. (Mind you, I’ve never lived with a sister for years, so I can’t say what roles they might fall into.)

There is a certain “ghost” angle written into these tales that, for my part, could have been left out. In the stories I’ve read so far it’s only been references to sounds Janet hears and occasionally a strange wind slamming a door.

Anyway, I’d give this series four stars. I read each book separately, but I see the author has published collections now, available free to those of you who have Kindle Unlimited. Here are first four cases:

A Markham Sisters Collection - ABCD by [Xarissa, Diana]

 

Differing Opinions

Fandango’s challenge word this morning is CONTRAST

I offer this poem as my response:

THE DOCTOR
by Edgar Guest

I don’t see why Pa likes him so,
and seems so glad to have him come;
he jabs my ribs and wants to know
if here and there it’s hurting some.

He holds my wrist, ‘cause there are things
in there which always jump and jerk;
then, with a telephone he brings,
he listens to my breather work.

He taps my back and pinches me,
then hangs a mirror on his head
and looks into my throat to see
what makes it hurt and if it’s red.

Then on his knee he starts to write
and says to Mother, with a smile:
“This ought to fix him up all right.
We’ll cure him in a little while.”

I don’t see why Pa likes him so.
Whenever I don’t want to play
he says, “The boy is sick, I know!
Let’s get the doctor right away.”

And when he comes, Pa shakes his hand,
and hustles him upstairs to me,
and seems contented just to stand
inside the room where he can see.

Then Pa says every time he goes,
“That’s money I am glad to pay;
it’s worth it, when a fellow knows
his pal will soon be up to play.”

But maybe if my Pa were me,
and had to take his pills and all,
he wouldn’t be so glad to see
the doctor come to make a call.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co