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Jack McKinnon

through rising steam
the bather sighs - - -
at the full moon
rings of water . . .
in full moon light,<
the oars reaching
the kelp bed
rising and falling
motion of the sea
loud blowers ...
entering the garden -
pierce junipers
   the fog -----
 after hot pollen days
so still
this watching . . .
 my breath
water ripples--
beside this garden path . . .
the Koi, gulp air

This is a Haibun which is a story with Haiku in it.

People had been using this road for a thousand years. It was the road for healing, the road for relaxation, the road to escape from work and family troubles, the road to the hot spring.

Up from the valley where winters were wet and cold, summers hot and humid and the rice grew rich in great flooded fields. Into the rolling hills they would travel, into the chaparral and scrub oak. Over bridges once made of logs, then of stone and now of concrete. The flora changes three times before reaching the canyon from which the spring flows. It changes from fields and orchards, to grasslands and chaparral to oaks and Pines.

Up and up, this road
turning, stumbling, resting . . .
Ah! ^ the first Pine

A feeling comes when the smell of the springs first reaches the nose. The feeling depends on the person. If they had been to the hot springs before, they smile. Taking a good whiff of the pungent musky odor, comforting memories come back, memories of long soaks under a full moon. Others think, Oh no, there is something awful about this place. They think the smell is the worst thing since diesel exhaust. Some call it the smell of rotten eggs, some call it worse things than that. Yet some call it ^ the deep warm smell of the Mother^ The mother smell no one wants to admit their mother had. The smell of her armpit when sucking her breast, the smell of her hard work and sweat. Whether she dug roots skinned deer and picked berries, or she worked all day in an office with a computer monitor flickering in front of her. There was a smell, that only her suckling child would smell. And it meant Mother. Slipping first a foot into the dark warm water, then a leg then another a bather almost always sighs. Away go the thoughts of the smell. No longer does one care about being nude in mixed company. The past and the future are once again in the past and the future.

rising and sinking
only his nose above water
he groans . . .

Then after a good soak, a rinse in the stream or a shower , the bather goes up for food and contemplation. Up out of the smell, the warmth, the gurgle of the spring. She goes to the food basket and he to the fire. In a little while they sit together again. Eating slowly, gazing into the flames, she looks at him, and he at her, with a nod.

chimney smoke
drifting into the forest . . .
mixing with fog

Jack McKinnon 2-26-98

Another Haibun

This is a true story. . .

It wasn't the first time I had taken my 12ft semi dory out on the bay, but it was the first time I had attempted to row and fish. There is such a diversity of fish, many of which were considered game fish, and to not have a line in the water, seemed a shame. I had a small fresh water rod and my tackle box of trout gear in my truck. It seemed ridiculous to fish with this ultra light gear, on waters known to have 1000 lb. sturgeon, but I was going to give it a shot any way.

I backed the truck down the ramp and slid the dory off the tailgate, bow first into the brown water of San Francisco Bay. The wind was just starting to show on the water and when I looked out at the deep water channel I could see skiffs tacking back and forth getting ready for a race. Feeling energized and knowing it would be sunset in an hour, I parked the truck, put on my life vest and walked down the dock to my new mahogany boat.

While still at the dock, I rigged up a small lure that looked like a trout. It turned out to be a good idea. As I pushed off and got my oars in the water I realized the wind was going to blow me into the mud if I didn't stay on top of this situation. Rowing away from the dock, I quickly got the hang of heading directly into the wind until it was time to change directions, then it was a matter of pulling to one side or the other and letting the wind swing me around. Using this technique I made my way out past the Charlie Browns restaurant, past the fishing pier, past the small marina and out into the channel.

this turning wind,
oars dipping and pulling . . .
the deep water swells

I guess I was thinking about trying to catch a stripped bass or the likes. This is where they would be, coming in looking for schools of anchovies or an occasional sculpin off the mud shelf. Tossing out the small lure it became clear that weight was needed, and I added some of my largest split shot sinkers. I held the boat against the wind so the weight could take the lure down 15 to 20 feet. I finally pulled on the oars enough to give what I thought was some action to the little trout like piece of wood. In about 20 strokes of the oars, I reeled it in to see what might be tangled in the small treble hooks and to my surprise there was an anchovy snagged on one of the tail hooks.

This brought about the real fishing itch that would lead to the true surprise and gist of this story. Looking through my fresh water tackle box I found a 4/0 hook and some 10lb test leader material. No matter the line I was using was only 6lb test, I knew these fish had teeth and could cut through a thin leader and I would have a better chance with thicker line close to the hook. Hooking up the anchovy through the nose I gently let it over the side and started rowing again. By this time the wind had picked up substantially and I was thinking, 'if the chop got much bigger out in the deep water I might get wet'. I turned the dory around and started heading back when all of a sudden the small spinning reel on my rod started screaming. It seemed directly related to my movement in the boat thus bringing me to the conclusion that I had snagged on the bottom.

suddenly , the reel sound . . .
that humble bait
could it have fooled a fish?

I brought the boat around with the intention of pulling upwind and either freeing my gear, or breaking off the rig as close as possible to the end as I could. Just when I was over it, the afore mentioned tackle started to move away from me in the water and once again the reel started singing.

Half an hour later, involving some fancy rowing I never knew I could do, I was once again above whatever had caused this soon to be night time adventure. I was only about a hundred yards off of the dock but I felt like the old man in the sea. By now I was determined to at least see this fish if not land it. I started pumping the rod, taking up slack each time I brought the rod down. I had seen this on TV, used on big fish and it was working. After another ten minutes I could see coming up out of that murky bay water, the three foot long shape of a sting ray.

this centuries old fish,
diamond shaped with a sting
rising from the deep ---
I was about to break it off when I thought I would be doing the ray a disservice by leaving the hook in its mouth and I wouldn't want someone to be that inconsiderate to me. Pulling in the last three feet was especially difficult though and in the end I decided I wanted to see the spine in its tail. As it came up along side I realized that I had not caught the ray at all. What I had caught was another line that had caught the ray, and this line disappeared into the water.

Taking a good look, I let the ray off of the other hook, disconnected my anchovy rig from the line and was just about to let the other line go back over the side when I decided to pull it out and take it ashore to a trash can. As I pulled, and pulled I kept thinking there was just a bit more resistance than a piece of broken off line might have and right about then the tip of a brand new boat rod with a very clean Penn reel came out of the water and over the gunwale into my hands.

For a first day fishing in my new dory, I had to admit I was pretty thrilled. And to this day, I have that boat rod on the wall in my basement with my most cherished fishing gear.

Jack McKinnon 4-98

© Jack McKinnon

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Jack McKinnon not only writes haiku, he often wears a kilt. More info on him soon, I hope!

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