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A November with Basho, Day 17

After all the breathtaking views of rivers and mountains, lands and seas, after everything we’d seen, thoughts of seeing Kisakata’s famous bay still made my heart begin to race. Twenty miles north of Sakata Harbor, as we walked the sandy shore beneath mountains where sea winds wander, a storm came up at dusk and covered Mount Chokai in mist and rain reminiscent of Su Tung-p’o’s famous poem. We made our way in the dark, hoping for a break in the weather, groping on until we found a fisherman’s shack. By dawn the sky had cleared, sun dancing on the harbor. We took a boat for Kisakata, stopping by the priest Noin’s island retreat, honoring his three-year seclusion. On the opposite shore we saw the ancient cherry tree Saigyo saw reflected and immortalized, “Fishermen row over blossoms.”…

Kisakata rain:

the legendary beauty Seishi

wrapped in sleeping leaves

Basho, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” translated by Sam Hamill, the Essential Basho, p. 26-27

Cry Wolf

Sometimes our journeys lead us across the country or the world. Our sojourns to the Southwest and California come to mind, and our retreat to Portugal the year before.

Others lead us closer to home.

I had wanted to visit the Wolf Conservatory in South Salem, NY, forever. After years of asking, and waiting, we arrive with our niece and her family–along with my sister-in-law. The long climb in the cold up the potholed, private drive of the conservatory leads us to a warming hut. There, our guide introduces us to the Conservatory, the wolves, and what we can expect.

We visit the ambassador wolves first: Alawa, Zephyr and Nikai. The siblings looked on in comfort from behind the fence that marked the boundary of their 2-and-a-half acre enclosure, enough territory for wolves in captivity. Zephyr and Alawa pace the fence, while Nikai hangs back. Zephyr even nibbles on nearby mums–something he’s never done before, according to our guide. He looses chunks of meat over the fence, and they snap them out of the air or off the ground. When the feeding ends, the wolves then do another novel thing: they leave. Exit, stage right.

We then ascend a ramp and take our first right to the waiting stands of the Red Wolf enclosure. These are among the 47 wild wolves for whom the Conservatory cares. Wolves fear people, and the red wolves are no exception. We see one appear and disappear as he wanders the perimeter. We catch glimpses of Mexican gray wolves in the enclosure behind. Two glimpes, to be precise.

Then our visit ends. But it is enough! I have seen wolves in New York. What else could I ask for?

raven’s cry

the ambassador wolves

lounging on cold ground

for Poets United’s Pantry for Poetry and Prose #4 (posted by Rommy)

11 replies »

  1. YOU MET THE FAMOUS NIKAI!!!!!!!!!!! I love that wolf, whose life I have followed on facebook. Wow. I LOVE the excerpt above from Basho, felt like I was right there. And am crazy about your journey. I would love to visit a wolf sanctuary. I meet the occasional wolf-dog, who of course reminds me of mine and makes my heart ache. It is no wonder wolves fear people, given we have been decimating their populations for hundreds of years. I am glad the effort is being made to save the red wolf population, on the verge of extinction. I loved this entire post, Frank. Especially your gorgeous haiku about the ambassador wolves. What a treat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did, indeed, Sherry! Our guide told us that certain facebook groups have followed the Ambassador wolves. I take it you belong to one? Or do you just visit the Wolf Conservation Center page? 😉

      Thank you for your enthusiastic feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the journeys!


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