at day's end -
even the pebbles
cast long shadows


—Ray Rasmussen
        

This haiku is excerpted from a longer haibun, which is reproduced below with permission from Ray Rasmussen.

The Whole Works
Ray Rasmussen
Canyonlands, Utah, April 28, 2001

At 5 p.m. I don my knapsack, grab my favorite hiking stick and head out on the main Squaw Flats trail in Canyonlands National Park. I am leaving late in the day to enjoy the last three hours of light – the period when the slant of the sun makes canyon country in Utah glow with color.

I am only a short way out when a backpacker suddenly pops around a corner heading for the trailhead. He’s young, has brush cut hair, wears hiking shorts and shades, and, the stuff of envy, he has a shirtless turtle belly.

Pausing long enough to brief me on his day’s adventures, he opens with: “Neat place!”

“Yeah, sure is,” I reply. “How long have you been out?”

“Three days, long enough to see everything.”

“Everything?” The word jumps out of my mouth – not so much as a challenge, as in surprise.

“Yeah,” he replies, “Lost Canyon, Elephant Canyon, Druid Arch, Chesler Park, the Joint Trail, a bunch of ruins and petroglyphs … the whole works.”

Social ritual demands a reply like: “Wow, that’s quite a hike in only three days,” and, that’s what I say. After all, in terms of distance covered and sights seen his is a feat not easily matched. But inwardly, I’m thinking that in my 25 years of hiking in this labyrinth of sandstone canyons, large and small, I haven’t yet seen ‘the whole works.’ Of course, he was seeing the works of nature laid out by the park guide – a pamphlet that highlights the key features of the park and the trails to reach them, and, thus, one that suggests that the experience of being in the park is one of reaching goals like Druid Arch. Visitors become collectors of arches, ruins, rock art, and even miles hiked.

I see myself as in a mirror, as him--a young man full of enthusiasm to hike all the trails, to see all the places, to collect ‘the whole works.’

“So, where are you headed?” he asks, more, I think in returning the social convention, than in genuine interest.

“I’m headed into that small wash,” I say, gesturing towards a non-descript branch of the main canyon we’re in.

“Oh,” he says, obviously surprised, “What’s in there?”

I think that he is hoping that I’ll say that the wash contains an Anasazi ruin or an arch. Anything will do, so long as it has a name. He looks like he’s ready to run in to have a look if it has the right kind of name.

How to tell him? There’s no great feature in the wash I’ve selected for this evening’s journey, no monument, no ruin, nothing even to boast of to the folks back home in terms of distance traveled. It’s simply one of many small places in canyon country where an occasional rush of water produces a sandy bottom, where pastel sandstone walls are shaped by the slow chiseling of wind and ice into delicate curves, where desert plants offer unexpected splashes of color, where water has carved small stone basins containing brine shrimp and tadpoles, where stunted junipers twist and twirl in the dance of life, where there will likely be no footprints besides my own.

“Nothing much,” I finally say. “I’m just wandering around.”

“Oh,” he says. Probably not knowing what to else to say and having lost interest in my destination, he adds, “Well, have a good one!”

I barely hear him, for I have stepped to the other side of the mirror, seeing myself through his eyes--the sparse hair, the graying beard, the long sleeved shirt, the trousers with the bottoms rolled, the scuffed boots that have taken me into so many places--places where the spirit can marvel at a small, wind-twisted bush with only a few leaves left on its branches.

As he leaves, I imagine him saying to himself: “Poor old bugger probably can’t go very far.”

“You too,” I reply, and think to myself, ‘You have a good, full life. There’s plenty of time for you to learn to walk in the beauty of the small places.”

at day’s end –
even the pebbles
cast long shadows

About the author: Ray Rasmussen lives in Edmonton, Canada. He was attracted to haiku when he visited the Kurimoto Japanese Garden near his home and went in search of Asian poetry to supplement his website. He is currently managing editor of contemporary haibun online and is a past editor of Simply Haiku. His haiku/haibun have appeared in Heron's Nest, Simply Haiku, Contemporary Haibun Online, tinywords, Haiku Harvest and LifeSherpa.

 

Responses to the haiku for 25 April 2003 by Ray Rasmussen

  1.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-04-25 10:08:39
     

    seemingly, almost, as verbose as i am...

    as for the haiku, allow me to contemplate on the long of it.

    pebble, hmmm, long shadow???
    as some might say, "this is so cute"



    i would love to think this to be a metaphor, while thinking we had a boulder here.
    well, more on this later.
    possibly, my allowing it to seep in, will enhance me.

  2.  
    Kathy Mann
    2003-04-25 16:52:10
     

    I really like this - both the long and the short of it. What a lovely concept..."to walk in the beauty of small places." The haiku is profound. P.S. Only almost Bob, only almost.

  3.  
    2003-04-25 17:00:10
     

    The haiku is good. Last week I wrote something similar about cows' shadows, but pebbles are surely better.

    The haibun I'm not so sure about. There seems to be an extraordinary volume of introspection, as well as a weight of adverbs, for any kind of haikai.

    "Probably not knowing what to else to say and having lost interest in my destination, he adds..."
    A serious case of telling not showing. Haibun?

  4.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-04-25 19:00:29
     

    kathy, by now, are we on a first name basis, i comprehended what ray was sharing.
    though, seemingly, a better choice of words would have allow the piece to not be self contradicting.
    some things exist, only, within the frameworks of one's mind.
    kathy, i wonder, was that a short walk, or did ray say, "walk in the beauty of"...
    i must admit, i enjoyed the piece, however, you can only imagine how my mind plays tricks on me.
    kathy, if you ask me, i'll tell you what i mean.

    i'll give you a hint, with my infamous "case in point", with a slight remake.


    even the pebbles
    cast long shadows
    at day's end –

  5.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-04-25 19:19:35
     

    kathy, by now, are we on a first name basis, i comprehended what ray was sharing.
    though, seemingly, a better choice of words would have allow the piece to not be self contradicting.
    some things exist, only, within the frameworks of one's mind.
    kathy, i wonder, was that a short walk, or did ray say, "walk in the beauty of"...
    i must admit, i enjoyed the piece, however, you can only imagine how my mind plays tricks on me.
    kathy, if you ask me, i'll tell you what i mean.

    i'll give you a hint, with my infamous "case in point", with a slight remake.


    even the pebbles
    cast long shadows
    at day's end –

  6.  
    Craig Mclanachan (cramar at acrix dot co dot nz)
    2003-04-25 19:59:28
     

    Pity about the ? in the emailed version(1st line).
    Love the haibun, how perceptive. I have been going to a similar area for 15 years and I find delights in the small things constantly ( and I must look much the same as you). Tourists see so little really but that's time I guess. I like to find them and open their eyes, even briefly.

  7.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-04-25 20:02:19
     

    i "think" i am in agreement with you, norman.


    "haibun"

    and i'll try to be brief, thoughts on the "rules" on the haibun... leaves one's head swimming... kaleidoscope.

    in analyzing ray's work, though, he seemingly is established, the thought continually drawing my attention, things seemingly so innocent, find their way into being complex. funny, not the "haha" variety, but the "hmmm" variety, psychoanalyze, becomes vocal.

    on ray's work, i, too, felt in his words, rather being than detached and objective, he forgot to let go.

    haiku at the end, was it really a haiku? prose and haiku, jury still out.

    "interesting story", indeed.
    brevity, where; abbreviated, where. beginning, middle, and ending, feasible. juxtapose, while being light hearted, conceivable.

    yes, the list does get long.

  8.  
    ray rasmusssen (ray at raysweb dot net)
    2003-04-26 13:12:29
     

    Good critical comments ... thanks all. I hadn't meant to set myself up as 'expert' on either the haiku or haibun form. But I do enjoy the writing and the exchange.
    Cheers,
    Ray Rasmussen

  9.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2003-04-26 17:46:24
     

    ray, a very good comment, as socrates "insinuated", "self-knowledge, is a proper beginning", but the wordage i apply to myself, "know thyself" is realize the extent of thine own ignorance"; however, this is haiku, perhaps more on the worthiness of man, his destiny and nature at a later time.

    ah yes, "the things we hadn't meant..."

  10.  
    kirsty karkow
    2003-04-27 08:30:57
     

    Ah! Ray. I was delighted to find your haiku here. It subtly shows how small things, at the end of the day, when we reflect, are more important than we originally thought. Wonderful haibun. Thanks for the pleasure. kirsty

  11.  
    john tiong chunghoo (bagiruang at yahoo dot com)
    2004-01-05 09:08:54
     

    touring forbidden palace
    the corridors that hide
    secret murders and tales

  12.  
    bob richardson (orgbob at webtv dot net)
    2004-06-09 23:05:13
     

    day's end --
    even my mind
    is set upon, by long shadows

    -

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