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Slow Writing: Julia Alvarez on the craft of writing
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# 5. March Renga

1 March 2010

Often people ask me how a Caribbean woman can stand living in Vermont. They don't mean Vermont in the summer, when the rolling green hills and emerald mountains are actually reminiscent of the lush, mountainous interior of the island where we have our farm project, Alta Gracia. They don't mean the autumn when the maples are blazing, and the woods turn King-Midas gold, and who can complain. They mean winter in Vermont, which begins right after Thanksgiving and can linger into mid April.

Actually, those long winters are a wonderful time to write. The snowy fields outside remind me of the blank page I've got to fill with life.

But come March, after three months of cold weather, my spirits start to flag.

So last March, I decided that rather than speed through the month, counting off days before mid April, I would actually slow down by writing a haiku a day. Some days, I actually wrote two, as one tiny haiku was not enough to cover the wonders I'd seen. By the end of the month, I had a renga, a series of linked haiku. And, an added plus, my spirits were brighter for having stopped to pay attention to each and every day in March.

So, here are the thirty-one (plus two) haiku I wrote, a renga for anyone who needs a boost right about now, either because winter has gone on far too long in your neck of the woods or in the deep snowfields of your soul. If you desperately need digging out from under, read the whole renga all the way through. Or try the slow approach, and read one a day, savoring it, and maybe writing one of your own?

March

1
a haiku a day
might keep March doldrums away--
no harm in trying
2
Italian proverb
says that on the first of March
madmen go barefoot--
Sane Vermonters say:
keep your hat, coat, and boots on
till the first of May
3
watercolor light--
I glance at the calendar:
it's already March!
4
waking to birdsong--
robins, bluebirds, chickadees:
the song of their names.
5
on the snowy deck
where we dumped the christmas tree--
sparrows caroling
6
old March wind blows hard--
must be trying to put out
a zillion candles
7
on the windowsill
paperwhites: indoor cousins
of snowflakes outside
8
snow for days on end--
brown fields are white again
snow on the snowdrops
9
another snowstorm--
old nests filling with new snow,
bluebirds feeling blue
10
during a cold snap
the pink amaryllis opens--
consolation prize
11
snow melting rivers
flooding sap running -- the earth
giving at the seams
12
frozen lake thawing
dreaming again of living
a bigger-size life
13
baby gazing out
from father's back carrier:
her first spring ever
14
the old woman says
she can't get enough of spring--
her eyes, young, sky blue
stripe
stripe
stripe
15
the child asks why
are the eyes of March bad luck--
don't they see spring's back?
16
early crocuses
more incredibly purple
than I remember
17
in case I forgot--
after the long, hard winter:
crocuses, snowdrops
18
listen! what was that?
--whippoorwill or chickadee,
the song still pretty
19
birds feeling the urge,
feeling it, too, leading him
by the hand upstairs
20
calendar tells us:
March 20th: first day of spring--
snow clouds weren't told
21
perennial beds--
I sure like the sound of that
now that I'm older.
so that's where it went!
--after the garden snowmelt
my long lost trowel
22
high in the night sky
the big dipper pouring out
big servings of spring
23
geese are back, noisy
and full of themselves, having
been to Florida.
24
driving home from work--
sky still light enough to see
my neighbor waving
25
out in their front yards
first warm day of the season:
spring apparitions
26
first wash hung outside--
a pair of long underwear
kicking up its heels
27
neighborhood trash day:
big piles by each curbside--
spring cleaning booty
28
beside the new house,
a bird nest in the maple--
everyone cozy.
stripe
stripe
stripe
29
we're in for it now. . .
crocuses, wild violets
tulips, daffodils
30
suddenly wanting
to bow my head -- not to pray
no, not exactly
31
a haiku a day
kept my March doldrums away--
onwards to April!

Julia Alvarez
March 1-31, 2009
3 blades of grass
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una babosa -- a slug at Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic
una babosa
a slug at Alta Gracia in the Dominican Republic

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