| Recently Published Haibun by Ray Rasmussen |
Hell isn’t merely paved with good intentions:
it’s walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.
~ Aldous Huxley
We’re dining on ginger beef and cod in black bean sauce, flavored with catch-up chat. My friend Kathy, leans toward me and says, “I think you’re just about to have an important birthday. Yes?”
I tell her my age and, excited now, she says: “I thought so. Why don’t I organize a party to celebrate your milestone?”
Milestone? The word was coined for the stone obelisks placed by those great builders, the Romans, to mark distances along the many roads branching out from Rome.
age-worn stone the emperor’s name unreadable
“If you set up a milestone gathering, have a good time and say hello to everyone for me,” I reply.
“What – you wouldn’t want to celebrate with your friends?” she asks.
“It’s the idea that I’ve done something extraordinary to reach my present age, like conquering a new territory, and thus deserve a tribute where I parade my army, plunder, and slaves through streets lined with cheering citizens. A milestone party would invite congratulatory comments like ‘You’ve made it to a magic age,” lead to questions like ‘What’s on your bucket list – going sky diving?”
“Do you mean you think they’d not be sincere?” she asks.
“When I look at someone my age, even when they’re still mentally and physically active, I feel a sadness about their diminishment. On my last hiking trip, a middle-aged companion said, ‘Ray, I sure hope I can be as active as you when I’m your age.’ Tongue in cheek, and secretly irritated, I replied, “I’m confused. I’m only 35.” I knew it was intended as a compliment, but I was thinking, There are downsides to reaching my age, the small infirmities that, like weathered milestones, ruthlessly mark diminishment’s path.
“Okay,” she replies, “no milestone-theme party, but I’d like to do something.”
“Agreed. I’d enjoy a gathering celebrating everyone, each person who wants sharing what’s going on in their own lives”
my winter is just this – a pair of goldfinches still visiting the feeder*
“You’d not want any comments on your birthday?” she asks.
“If people feel they must say something, I’d prefer honesty, preferably with humor, like Hal’s greeting the other day when I met him for coffee: ‘Damn, but you look grizzled, shaggy white beard, wild hair. Looks like you’ve been in a wind storm.’”
She laughs. “I’ll bet it was you looking in the mirror talking to yourself.”
You’re right, I looked and said: “I’m happy to be here and yet I feel guilty about having my cosmic dice roll so many 7s.”
awaiting cremation – birthday cards line the fireplace mantel
Published in Presence, 2020.
* The second haiku is after after Issa’s: my spring is just this – / a single bamboo shoot / a willow branch
8 thoughts on “Best Intentions”
This covers a lot of ground, and a lot of my feelings about getting older. I celebrated 60 a few years ago and went out for a curry with friends, at their suggestion. I like curry but I don’t see why it’s only for birthdays with a zero on the end.
As for the final haiku – superb. It really did change my perspective on the piece in an instant. I know that’s what it’s supposed to do, but it doesn’t often happen to such great effect.
Thanks for the comment on Best Intentions. I visited your quercuscommunity site and much enjoyed the diary writing. Didn’t see a place where I could comment so here’s a comment. Re Day 178 “It is 9.30 and still light, although thy sky is starting to turn pink. There is a chill in the air and a feeling that another year is already over when, for me, it doesn’t seem to have begun.”
You write my experience very precisely. Just recently had that feeling when our house wrens came back this spring and it seemed they had only just come back last spring.
You’re writing very much in the haibun style, albeit sans haiku. But your pieces are easily publishable in the haibun journals if you want them to be read by other communities than your own followers.
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Thank you Ray. I’m not so sure about the “easily publishable” – I seem to be less successful now than I was a couple of years ago. Despite practice I’m still having trouble with haiku, and, more particularly, with the link and shift element, which seems to be becoming more of a stumbling block for me. Fortunately, I see rejection as a challenge these days, I’m not giving up. I’ve also started with tanka prose, though I feel like this sidesteps the haiku problem rather than solving it. 🙂
I know what you mean about the difficulty of adding the little poem at the end and having it accepted as a haiku, and thus, your prose accepted as a haibun. I’ve always thought of the haiku as my Achilles’ Heel. Many pieces rejected along the way … albeit the editor’s rejection usually consists of something like “The prose part is solid but the haiku isn’t working.” Sometimes, but not usually, the editors are implying that you should resubmit with a new haiku. Early on I sometime submitted 2 -3 haiku prospects, indicating I’d like the editor’s advice as to whether any of them work for him/her. One of the best things to do is get some coaching. The haiku editors at The Heron’s Nest will sometimes take on a coaching role if asked.
Thx for the comment Simon. I thought your piece on Drifting Sands Haibun https://drifting-sands-haibun.org/09/2020/deadheading/ was quite good. It’s a new journal and nice to see the word is getting around and writers like you are being profiled as haibunists as well as personal diarists. I enjoyed your piece in Drifting Sands Haibun, particularly the last sentence “Soon it must seek a sheltered spot for hibernation.” I read it as both the butterfly and you, likely a man the third quarter of his life. ~ Ray
Yes, definitely “third quarter”. 🙂