Putting a Garden In

This entry is part 4 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year


Be sure to watch with the sound on. Vimeo link.

Putting a garden in so often entails putting wildlife out. You develop an adversarial relationship with nature, fencing, trapping, shooting, poisoning, getting a guard dog… It’s this sad reality that many years ago turned me against what had been the reigning passion of my youth.

onion bed
pulling out
wild onions

But my wife suggested from her bunker in London that as long as I am stuck in Pennsylvania for at least half the summer due to the pandemic, I might as well grow some vegetables. Great idea, I said, already relishing the thought of getting my fingers in the dirt again. But just planting fence posts, I displaced three adorable baby bunnies from the long grass, and when our neighbor plowed the site up, a meadow vole rushed out, all fur and panic.

wire fence
the wind’s
new whistle


Process notes

In contrast to my usual one-shot approach, I had plenty of footage to work with this time. Serendipity, as usual, played the strongest role; my planned shots were the least interesting. I realized during editing that I could even use a few seconds of accidental video recorded by the iPhone when a strong gust of wind blew it off the well cover where I’d had it propped up, and make it look as if it’s my reaction to the feint of a milk snake. To me, haibun is all about balance between different registers: prose and poetry (obviously), but also in this case humor and seriousness, attraction (the bunny) and repulsion (the snake). I tried turning it black-and-white to see how that would work, but it pushed it too far in the direction of serious, high-brow art.

As with my previous haibun, the haiku took the longest to get into their final (I hope!) form. It helped me to remember to go back to the original moment of inspiration for each one, and not get too abstract or clever (such as “now the wind has somewhere to whistle”). I displayed them as one-liners in the video and three lines above, and this inconsistency doesn’t bother me in the least, though many modern haiku people seem to obsess about such things. (One has to wonder whether their energies might be better spent learning to make videopoems!)

I am worried about the video seeming a bit rushed, and wonder whether it makes sense to continue to restrict myself to a one-minute duration. Regardless, this video haibun thing appears to be turning into a proper series. Yay!

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