“Between snow and sun”

Early spring fishingSpring morning fishing
Orange for lunch on the bank
Between snow and sun

Those seventeen syllables won me a new t-shirt! Yes, I’m the proud winner of the FruitShare haiku contest. The Marine on St. Croix-based organic fruit delivery business recently sponsored the contest, requiring only that participants choose a currently-available fruit from their inventory and write a haiku about it.

At the risk of completely undermining the brevity of the piece, I will say that it is based in some of my favorite moments. I have always liked bringing an orange with me fishing, because it’s often hard to bring enough water along in an already-heavy fishing vest. A juicy orange can really quench the thirst you get when standing in a cold, flowing river all day. I’m also still pleased with how the last line refers back to the first, as spring is “between snow and sun.”

There were several good submissions. You can see them all here. One of my favorites was from Pam McClanahan, a friend from the Minnesota Historical Society Press:

Kumquat, small and bright,
I’ll be full of luck tonight
with you, full of light.


All quiet in Afton

All quiet in Afton.Katie, Lola and I spent yesterday afternoon and the night at her parents’ house in rural Afton. They were out-of-town and we felt like some time in “the country.” It was a quiet retreat with books and movies and food. Snow fell for much of the day but as evening came the skies cleared, an almost summery meteorological moment.

Around dusk, I took Lola for a stroll down the driveway and a short ways up the road. It was still and cold and silent, everything muffled by the couple of inches of fresh snow. The road was even covered, with a discernible number of tire tracks on it.

The St. Croix valley
my home all these years
all these seasons

On my way out of Afton this morning, I took a wandering route and drove slowly along lightly-trafficked roads. I stopped my car on the side of the road at the intersection of Valley Creek Road and Stagecoach Trail and walked around the corner to the little bridge over the creek.

Valley CreekIt’s the tendency of trout anglers to look over bridge railings into cold, clear streams. Valley Creek is known for its trout but none were visible from the bridge. The stream is pretty shallow and sandy in that stretch and in winter, the fish would probably be hunkered down in deep pools.

spring-fed creek
between snow-covered banks
seen from a bridge
where I look out and listen
to the song of running water

Historical Note:

Valley Creek’s original name was actually “Bolles Creek.” The website of the Belwin Conservancy–a 1,300-acre nature preserve near where I was standing–says the name goes back to the first of many commercial flour mills in Minnesota, located just downstream from the bridge:

Lemuel Bolles, 1845
Lemuel Bolles, 1845 (Minnesota Historical Society)

It was here in about 1845 that Lemule Bolles constructed the first commercial flour mill in Minnesota. The Bolles Mill was constructed of timber collected from the shore of the St. Croix River and hauled to a site on Valley Creek just downstream of the Belwin Conservancy’s preserve. The mill had a ninefoot water wheel powered from a millrace – parts of which still exist today. The mill could produce about 50 barrels of flour in a day.

The creek was at the time called ‘Bolles Creek’ and not long after Lemule constructed his mill, his uncle Erastus Bolles built a blacksmith shop nearby. The small settlement that developed nearby was in turn known as Valley Creek.

Speaking of geographical naming, my research this evening turned up the name of Afton itself. The Washington County Historical Society says Afton’s name is believed to have been inspired by a poem:

According to many historical accounts, Mrs. C. S. Getchel gave Afton its name. The landscape reminded her of Robert Burns’ poem, “Afton Water,” with its “neighboring hills, and the winding rills.”

Here’s how the poem starts:

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes,
Flow gently, I’ll sing thee a song in thy praise;
My Mary’s asleep by thy murmuring stream,
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.

Read the rest »



Snowy day haiku series

I have spent today working from home in front of a window looking out over our backyard and our neighbor’s. It has been snowing steadily all morning and I ought to go shovel but am reluctant to do so while it is still coming down.

All is silent outside, in here I have my usual mix of rock and roll playing. The dog is sleeping right behind me and groans contentedly every so often. I have slowly finished off a pot of coffee and will move on to tea after I eat lunch.

On a day like this, when the roads are messy, one could feel trapped inside the house, a prison made of fluffy snow. A trip out for lunch or to go skiing is discouraged by the trouble it would involve. But days like this are made for staying in, and the best journeys are often made without taking a single step.

The squirrels don’t mind
They dash from tree to tree—
Falling snow is no threat

Through the window I see
Little birds in the bushes
—Heartbeats like drum rolls

Consider silence—
Known now and oft remembered
Break it with music