Spring fields

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In classical Japanese tanka and haikai poetry, “spring fields” (haru no or haru no no) was a stock image and seasonal marker (kigo). Every poem had to have some word or phrase indicating the time of year; “spring fields” actually connoted earliest spring, not late spring, as in these photos. At any rate, my favorite poem using the phrase is this hokku by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828):

kami-jirami hineru toguchi mo haru no kana
*
I stand in the doorway
digging the lice from my scalp–
spring fields.

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The mountains stand apart from us; that is their appeal. But the fields invite a more intimate kind of care. The Japanese Emperor Kí´kí´ (830-887) brushed this tanka for a lover:

kimi ga tame haru no no ni idete wakana tsumu
waga koromode ni yuki wa furi tsutsu

*
For you, I hurry
out into the fields
in search of spring greens.
My wide sleeves fill
with falling snow.

I’m not much of a fan of stock phrases or received opinions, especially in poems. But farmers are such rank traditionalists–one can hardly look at their handiwork without the familiar pastoral images crowding in. And here in Central Pennsylvania, at least, where the geology resembles a layer cake on end, you’re never far from a sudden insurgency of trees.

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Yes, those are cows. But they could almost be lice, couldn’t they?

4 Comments


  1. “A sudden insurgency of trees…” that’s the last line of a poem that somebody has to write.

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  2. The insurgency of trees–both the words and the images–captivated me as well. That’s one kind of insurgency we need more of. In my neighborhood, the chainsaw was buzzing all weekend: the counter-insurgency on the move.

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  3. patry – Oh geez, i’m sorry to hear that. What a way to ruin the weekend!

    Believe it or not, I wasn’t thinking about analogies with Iraq when I chose the word “insurgency”–I don’t have too many positive thoughts about the assholes blowing up their neighbors over there, whereas obviously I do love trees. (I had “uprising” at first, but that seemed a little too cute.) But the world-conquering mindset is equally at work in a clearcut and in a military occupation, I believe.

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