Haibun: Summer in Arizona

I’m driving home (Well, back east, where I grew up) shortly after school ends. My mom is getting her Ph.D., after over ten years of working on it, off and on. Which is a shame (the going back east, not my mom graduating) because I’ve never been in the desert in the summer. I’ve worked trails in the fall and winter; this semester I was here for the spring. Never the summer. “But why would you want to be in the desert in the summer?” you might ask. “The heat is miserable.” And that’s probably true. All the more reason to be here, to bear it. You can’t know a place until you know it fully, in all seasons. The same with people. Would you marry someone you’ve only known for a week-long Hawaiian vacation? The midnight sun of the far north is best appreciated when you’ve known its noon darkness. The temperate January of the southern Sonoran is all the more refreshing when you’ve known its brutal July. Though I spent the fall with my cousins in Alaska, I haven’t faced the total darkness of the arctic winter. And I still haven’t suffered the ruthless heat of the desert summer. Maybe to know myself fully I’ll have to experience both.

Born an easterner
Northern fall, southwestern spring
Looking for a home

Haibun: Spring in Arizona

I’m hiking with Matt Seats, one of my orientation leaders. We pass the wilderness boundary and head down into Wet Beaver Creek canyon. We are transported from the heat of the semi-high desert (4000 feet) in late-April, surrounded by mesquite, juniper, prickly pear, Mormon tea, into the cool creek, filled with cottonwoods and willows on both banks. We wade in the water when it’s knee-deep and pack-swim when it’s deeper, calmed and comforted by the sound of water flowing, brought back to the Virginia woods we both grew up by.

Desert oasis
Wrens sing and trout swim downstream
Our home keeps moving

Haibun: Winter in Arizona

Driving from Flagstaff to Phoenix with my friend Clayton. On the road. From the snow-capped mountains to the burning valley. In Flag, it’s snowing. In Phoenix, the sun is out, the Suns are out of contention, and nobody’s content but the cats and crazies. It’s a normal Phoenix day in December. We drive around. We go uptown; we turn around and go back downtown. Then we turn around again. We don’t know where we’re going. We park the car at a park to play basketball. After a few minutes, a man who had been watching comes up to Clayton, who is 6 foot 7. “You are tall, man!” the guy informs him. “I mean, when you started playing, I was just sitting there watching, thinking ‘that guy is fucking tall!’ You probably get this a lot, but do have some sort of a disease, like a growth disorder? Or are you healthy?” “I don’t have a disease,” Clayton answers.

Strange day in Phoenix
Spring or summer or winter?
A state of extremes

Haibun: Fall in Arizona

The haibun is a Japanese literary form combining a prose section and a haiku. I plan on doing one for each season in Arizona.


It is the day before Halloween, the last day of a week-long hitch for a conservation crew in Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona. We have been axing down tall, broad ponderosa pines to clear the way for a cattle fence that will be put up. Physically exhausting but rewarding work, though without any clear conservational value. At noon, we tool up and hike five miles back to camp, then 8 miles to the van. We camp by a creek. The 2012 election is in a week, so the far left-leaning crew talks politics. The election seems somehow distant, less real than the fire warming us in the autumn chill of high desert Arizona, less real than the woods we had lived in and worked with during the week, less real than the trees, than the moon rising above the trees. Their words and ideas, though well thought out and intelligently spoken, continue to slip through my hands, going up and away with the smoke of the fire. I stay silent and listen, to their voices, to the wind in the trees. I look to the moon.

October full moon
Trail crew talking politics
The creek flows by us


A link to a description about haibuns: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/more-birds-bees-and-trees-closer-look-writing-haibun