Category Archives: Haiku

Tanka Today 2015.09.30 —

040/365v2 The Incoming Tide
(Image credit: Mark Seton)

washed out
but never washed away —
the tide
returns things mislaid



What do you do when impossible notions intrude upon your peace of mind? 

Like how recently I caught myself thinking, ‘maybe I should admit that I’ve given up on writing and blogging and whatnot, and learn to deal with the fact that I’m not the kind of person that does those things anymore.’ I think this more and more as time slips away while I make no meaningful contribution to the blogosphere, and yet I can’t pull the plug on it because I can’t stop thinking about it — about writing. It’s a silly, presumptuous thing for me to pretend like I have nothing to contribute — in effect hoarding all the little thought-gems that get mined from my mind. It’s selfish and at some point it needs to stop. 

I defy the notion that I’m a non-writer who obsesses about writing and lets the fact that he’s not writing eat away at him and his fingernails.

I’m always so preoccupied, so heavyset with goals and plans and to-dos that it’s ridiculous to think that I keep forgetting to bring a notepad with me to write down the little seeds that become ideas, leaving me wondering, “what’s the big idea?”

I think the Summer came and ran away with me!

Some of the things I have planned involve finishing the playhouse I built for my daughter before it decides to snow, slinging the kayaks to the garage wall for the winter so we can use the garage loft for storing rummage sale boxes, fixing the little hole in the roof of my Jeep so water doesn’t leak in when it rains (for now I have duct tape on it,) and building a ramp for my barbecue grill so it’s not such a pain to get from the garage to the patio about a dozen feet away — because of two stairs, it must either be lifted/lowered or wheeled around the entire house!

Another thing I’d like to do is build a rack for the kayaks that would attach to a small trailer, but first I would have to learn how to weld. So at work I’ve tried using my charm and chutzpah — not to mention putting my reputation for good work out there — in an effort to get transferred into the weld department; so far, though, I’ve gotten nowhere with that. It’s not as though I want to learn to weld for just the one project, but I’ve been interested in welding for a long time. I’m a fabricator, after all, and welding is a fabrication skill — one of the few that I don’t have under my belt. 

So for now, it’s just a plan. Between now and then if I find myself washed back out to sea and washed up on some foreign shore, or even swirling around in the Pacific Garbage Patch, there’s sure to be some adventure to find, some trouble to get into; I may be at the mercy of the tides, but I’ll be damned if I won’t find a story to tell now and again. 

Lazy Learners | The Daily Post

Haiku Today 2015.06.15 —

(Copyright © 2015, Robert W. Ross CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

a boiling page,
we etch our spells onto
the dreaming sky


Suddenly we are in a frenzy to find a good deal on a pair of kayaks. How did we get to this? Mme. Ross and I said last autumn that it would be cool to try kayaking together this year, to take on the swift Missouri River in a pair of plastic boats with a single paddle apiece, and only a life jacket to ensure our safety. 

This past weekend we went to Harmon Lake, a man-made body about eight miles north of our town. There we were able to rent a couple of stand-up paddleboards (a.k.a. SUP) for an hour and we spent some good time paddling around the lake with Little Miss sitting on one or the other, trying to help paddle with her hands. I found I was able to stand on this calm water with relative ease, and I decided that I was hooked on this. I’m not a big “let’s go swimming!” kind of guy because I really think it’s boring, but I really like the exploratory feel of getting out on a craft and physically guiding it. Mastering the mechanics of paddling, steering, and turning. Standing up and knowing that I can be seen standing on a board after failing to do so when surfing last summer (which is not at all uncommon.)

Mme. Ross was also hooked. After we pulled back in at the beach she asked to try out a kayak, and we paddled back out, I on a board and her in a green kayak. 

Now we’re looking to make water sports our “thing” this Summer, and in years to come. The equipment will likely pay for itself versus the rental fees, and it just so happens that we have a spare car we will gladly sell to help finance this adventure. It’s almost like the Universe wants us to do it. 

Are you having your Summer adventures yet? I’d love to hear about them in the comments . . . 

now get out there and explore.  


Double-edged, from swords to razors — Tanka Today 2015.05.20

(Image credit: Bowfinger26)

an open mouth
exposes secrets
widely prized —

a tremendous risk
for good luck or ill

Beard, beard, beard. What do you do when you have just one word with which to spark a discussion?


I cut off my beard a couple of weeks ago. 

It was glorious. 

Safety Razor Set - A safety razor, shaving bru...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have been trying to get myself into the swing of wet shaving for the past several years, with mixed results. Wet shaving is where you use a safety razor, a brush, and shaving soap to shave; and in case you didn’t know, a safety razor is one old-school tool that holds those double-edged razor blades infamous for being used incorrectly on the wrists. That’s not meant to be funny or anything, though. I totally disapprove of self-destructive acts in general. 

I have been having more success of late, mostly due to the decision that not washing my face prior to shaving was proving detrimental to the experience. I’d end up looking like a crime scene, trying to stanch the blood for what seemed like forever. 

English: Drawing from US patent 775,134 (safet...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I really want to get the hang of this, because in my opinion it’s beneficial on several levels. For one thing, it’s dead cheap. The razor, the brush, and the shaving mug are a relatively small investment over the long term, because they’re more or less permanent. And my razors? They’re antiques. Oldies but goodies from as far back as the 1930’s. I can get new blades for pennies apiece, and each one is good for several shaves. Shaving soap is cheap, too.

And wet shaving is not the same slapdash affair that a plastic razor or some fancy deal with five blades and a vibrating lubricant strip were designed to facilitate; wet shaving is a meditation.

This meditative act — the washing, the lubricating, the lathering, the application of the blade with almost zero pressure in carefully measured short strokes — it all demands a focus, a mindfulness that transcends all the trite little acts that comprise the modern definition of grooming;

wet shaving is its own thing.

And see, I hit upon this realization when I was shaving once prior to shaving off my beard. Attempting to round out my ideas, I texted my friend Zach and asked him for his thoughts on wet shaving. “It’s for a blog post,” I said. “The more abstract the better.” I was dipping into his fountain of experience because I knew he had cracked the code, and he was the only person other than myself that I could draw upon for some reflections regarding the art of wet shaving.

He must have misunderstood me, however, because he came back at me with a sort of how-to — his process of shaving. This is what I mean about meditation, after all: it’s a process and I knew Zach had it down to the letter, but up to then I hadn’t realized how much I didn’t know about the process of wet shaving. Where I had researched, he must have pored over and sifted through the whole Internet. That’s what he does. He had developed his own recipe for shaving oil, for Pete’s sake, and that’s also what he does!

I replied to his email to tell him that I was looking for something more reflective, more abstract. He said he would get back to me, but he hasn’t yet. In the meantime, I did the only thing I could do with what he had sent me:

I shaved off all of my facial hair.

I left my eyebrows, of course, but I got everything else. I followed the spirit of Zach’s how-to to the letter, and afterward I felt just like Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption; like I had just crawled through a river of crapola and came out clean as a whistle on the other side. I had found the missing links in my clumsy attempts to shave vintage-style, and I could practically hear Morgan Freeman narrating my triumph. It doesn’t get any better than that, folks!

Not that I have any problem with beards. I had this Lemmy thing going on for the last couple of years: the muttonchops with the attached moustache. I’d call it the ol’ Burnsides, but it just didn’t get that bushy. I’d love to grow one of those thick, bushy beards, but my hair doesn’t grow like that; it grows straight and is fairly thin. I think I’d do well with a thin beard, but right now I’m sporting what I like to call my “Summer-face”, and it does get people talking at work. I showed up that Monday morning for the department meeting and I could tell when The Sarge saw me that he approved. Everyone had something to say. Joltin’ Joe told me that I had dropped ten years, and I told him I appreciated that, seeing as how I’m pushing forty. Carlos said I was messing with his head; every time he saw me he thought I was a new guy.

But I’m still me.

Still pushing to live my adventure —

Still exploring.


(The One-Minute Writer’s One Word Wednesday: Beard | Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Today 2015.05.19 —

(Image credit: Linda Owen)

curling ferns —
fractal green echoes
of living lace



The rain came down in buckets this weekend, and with it came something akin to an Autumn chill, as though winter was sullenly pouting at having been flouted, thus missing out on being given its full frigid due.

There may yet be some advantage to this global warming trend, depending upon where you are . . . even if it is just a cyclical bump and not an apocalypse — not that I’m taking sides.

The rain, however, is just as bad as — if not worse than — three feet of snow on a weekend where I was constantly running between the house and garage for two straight days, unable to put anything warm on my feet because the only thing I can get around comfortably in are my new flip-flops . . . and so with some muscular issue as yet unidentified and unaddressed in my left foot I found myself on my feet all day, for three straight days as we worked on renovating this downstairs bathroom.

Needless to say, my foot does not feel any better this week.

We did, however, make great strides. in the tear-down the weekend prior to this past, I was forced to flip an outlet around to the opposite plaster-on-lath wall; to re-plumb a new shower drain from scratch in order to replace the ancient copper waste pipe that had been eaten away by time and drain cleaner; re-solder the shower water supply pipes to accomodate the new faucet handle; not to mention the dozen or so runs to the home improvement store to get this fitting or that valve.

After that weekend was over, all I could have told anyone was that we managed to tear the bathroom down to almost nothing.

This past weekend was better, though, and continues to improve as we do a little each day. We drywalled, taped, and mudded the walls. We put down cement board and tiled the floor. Last night we grouted the tile.

And through all this, all I can think of is having a toilet ten feet from my office door again. Like how inconvenient is it to have to have to ascend and descend two flights of stairs every time I gotta take a whiz, especially when I drink enough coffee in the morning to justify hiring an in-home barista?

It’s enough to put a guy off his joe.

And I’m wondering too, whether I can build up the steam to keep going after it’s done, to pursue this or that home improvement project so that this place can eventually be sold at a massive profit, perhaps that can get us into a nice little place in the Pacific Northwest — only time will tell but I’m on a mission to keep the ball rolling in that direction.

Like Sisyphus.

And I’m keeping the faith alive . . .

(Header image by Alan Levine)

Watch who you’re calling grasshopper, mister! — Haiku Today 2015.04.27

Shipwreck of Point Reyes at Twilight by Orin Zebest
(Image credit: Orin Zebest)

dim-eyed ship
grounded, left for dead —
standing watch


It may be difficult for people who know me to believe this, but it feels like I am always on the brink of giving up — like I’m that close to giving up on everything, out of sheer frustration. Something keeps whispering, “forget it, dude. Take the blue pill. Tune out, step in line. Everything will be so much easier if you just put on the autopilot.”

I’m pretty sure that’s not true, though. The quittin’ part of me wants me to believe that following “the program” is easy, but the fightin’ part of me keeps telling me to look around and remember what I see: there are all these people who have been left behind by time’s passage, more or less mired in this mindset that keeps them from being able to move forward with their abilities, trying to slog it out until . . . what?

They failed to prepare, like the grasshopper who had to lean on the ants to get through the winter. They can’t work competently in the modern framework, but rather keep doing the same thing they were doing in their youth, with no consideration for what happens to them when they’re run aground by time and circumstance.

Forced into retirement, as it were, by the march of progress. Where’s the incentive for the ants to carry them to the finish line?

I will not be that guy. I refuse to go softly into anything. Indeed, I am on the brink of quitting, but I’m really just looking down. My foot tries to tell me I can’t run anymore, but I won’t let it tell me it’s the end of the line. We’ll see what happens when it stops hurting. Something keeps telling me I should give up on writing too, but I’m obviously too stubborn to let that go.

Bully for you.

(The One-Minute Writer Prompt: True Story | Header image by Alan Levine)

What are we trying to hide? — Tanka Today 2015.04.26

Little Frog by Bart Van Dorp
(Image credit: Bart Van Dorp)

nestled frog
back against a wall —
one way out;

just a moment’s peace
in a savage world


Sometimes it seems no matter how advanced humanity becomes, the elements of our lives will always boil down to the basic set of behaviors that early humans must have used to survive and thrive where they lived long ago. With little more than rough-hewn tools of wood, stone, horn and bone, they began carving their name into the surface of the earth. First we put our initials on this tree of life, and then over time the graffiti proliferated until it was hard to see the tree for all the carving on its trunk —

only the tree is still there.

The wilderness remains
beneath the hard, slick veneer —
the software layer —
of the modern day.
We think we’re smart;
we ranged
and we conquered with concrete
the hardware of life
that made us this way.
We tear it to bits,
inputs for the machines
that give us the warm fuzzies . . .
and we conquer all
but ourselves.

I find that society itself is a denial that this is a savage world, and that lasting, inner peace is something that must be manufactured whole-cloth within each of us; because in truth every moment of peace is a win that cannot last too long. Flexibility and resilience are two of the most valuable virtues one can possess, and analytic introspection the highest skill; yet these aren’t enhanced by our educational systems. They must be self-taught, and thus we find ourselves living in this lie, that school has all the answers to making it in the real world.

 Don’t forget about the old school. This world we’ve built is no safer than the one it was built over. There are predators all around, and you’re always being evaluated as potential prey. Learn to roll with the punches and change direction as necessary. Discover community with others nearby.

And of course, don’t take yourself too seriously. There is no inner peace until we choose to find it within, in spite of everything we dislike about the world and the way it works.



(Header image by Alan Levine)

The Shadorma Connection: Haiku Today 2015.04.24

(Image credit: Wonderlane)

having sat
long enough to dream,
turned to stone;
when rising
awareness returns once more
yields a lighter shell

Several weeks ago, I told myself I would do this. I would broach “shadorma”. This is a poetic form that — to me — appears to share many characteristics with certain languages: Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki, et cetera.

I’ll admit that I’m kind of a language freak. While I don’t have the time or leisure to study or practice full-on the scholarly art of linguistics, I do my best to pick up and retain what I can. I don’t, however, tend to mess around with synthetic, or constructed languages; that is, languages that have been invented, rather than evolving naturally from preexisting languages through everyday use over time.

In any given fiction-based media format, an imaginary language can be named, described, and used as a tool for world-building with little more than a few fabricated words. This is the easy route, and there is no shame in delving any deeper than that. The creator in question is, after all, writing a book, script, or screenplay; there are other considerations that take precedence, and that language is only one component of a window dressing that must at some point move the product.

And what is this product the author seeks to move? Is it blocks of glorified wood pulp? Volumes of the under-appreciated written word? Or is it the imagination? The heart? The soul? You can’t achieve the latter bits by micromanaging the mechanics of a language nobody speaks, while letting the other details become shadows by contrast. So most fictional languages never achieve synthesis, and they really don’t have to. That’s the realm and bailiwick of theoretical linguists, after all.

On the other hand, Tolkien was a lifelong scholar of ancient European history, specializing in Anglo-Saxon epics and languages. He invented fourteen languages, and from them came stories of Middle-Earth, whose very creation sprang from a single word spoken by Eru Ilúvatar.

“Ea!” — Let it be! (I imagine it sounds like the German “ja”, which would be appropriate.)

The Klingon language started as twelve words created by James Doohan (“Scotty”) for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. When Star Trek III rolled around, linguist Marc Okrand — a specialist in Native American languages — was asked to make a real language for the Klingons to speak, so he took those dozen words and created a lexicon and grammar that eventually became The Klingon Dictionary and two more books on the Klingon language. Coincidentally, Okrand has been quoted as saying that others have achieved greater fluency in the language than he. Considering the Star Trek franchise’s fan base, this is probably the most living of synthetic languages.

A cashier once tried speaking to me in Klingon at a Radio Shack. Maybe he thought I looked the type, but I was mostly confused and sought a hasty exit.

Dothraki was one of those languages that were thrown in for an added feel of reality by George R. R. Martin in his novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, but when HBO started production for Game of Thrones they vetted the creation of a solid language to linguist David J. Peterson, who delivered about 3,400 words (only half of it before filming began, though,) and a grammar inspired by both dialogue from the novels, and several real languages. Unlike Klingon, it sounds really cool and probably wouldn’t be nearly as hard to apply to the real world . . .

Except there’s no way to say “thank you” in Dothraki — which makes less sense than you might think if you’re familiar with that fictional culture.

What does all this have to do with a poetic form called “Shadorma”?

Shadorma was created by someone, but we don’t really know who. The mystery behind its creation is something that people usually write about when introducing the form. Often, they quote a part of the brief Wikipedia entry that says that shadorma allegedly originated in Spain and was revived and popularized somewhat recently, but that there’s no evidence of the form or its moniker ever existing until its recent “revival”. That does nothing to mitigate the fact, however, that shadorma is here and people like and use it. Some people write that it may be a hoax or a lie, but is that a useful way to introduce this form to someone?

Like the aforementioned languages, shadorma is clearly inspired by some extant forms of its kind — the Americanized haiku (three lines in 3/5/3 syllables) and the tanka (a haiku plus two more lines of the longer length — 3/5/3/5/5 or 5/7/5/7/7 for American and Japanese forms, respectively) because of its form: six lines, in 3/5/3/3/7/5 syllables. Twenty-six syllables in all, almost doubling the length of a Japanese Haiku. One could imagine several methods by which the form may have been a hybridization of the aforementioned forms.

A little extra room makes a whole lot of difference. The form gives the poet some more wiggle room for the picture they want to paint, which in a synesthetic way explains why it has started to become popular: I’ve read enough double haiku posts, where the author writes two haiku that work together to make one image. Most people won’t go outside the rules with haiku, though, because that’s a form rife with querulous rule-mongers and exasperated rebels. The shadorma, then, would be a natural draw for someone who cares about the fact that a single haiku is meant, as a rule, to stand alone.

The most striking and interesting feature of the shadorma is that as its fictional past is untied to the forms that clearly inspired it, all the rules that attend to those other forms are allowed to fall away; and that’s not only super-convenient but it’s also extremely liberating. You aren’t required to use nature as your subject. You don’t have to have the “cutting word,” which as I understand it is not a word in truth, but a form of punctuation. You can rhyme, if that works for you. You can write a piece in multiple shadorma, and forget the tanka tradition of haiku-plus-opinion . . .

Not that the rules have ever applied to me!


At the end of the post, I don’t really care where shadorma came from. The fact that someone made up this form just makes it like any other poetic form, although most people lay claim to their creations; even if they do so only after it’s proven useful to others, so as to avoid embarrassment by being tied to a flop. My only beef with the shadorma is its name. Though a bit of imagination might attribute a Middle Eastern influence on the name via traditions of the Moors in Spain, it’s really just gibberish, as far as I can tell. It doesn’t feel right in my mouth, but maybe that’s just the newness of the word; if I had been its creator, It may have been called a “cuadrito”:

A little painting.

The most epic cut of the most epic TV show intro ever:

Are you interested?

Some other titles I considered for this post:

  • I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here: the adoption of something small by a rich, poetic house
  • Klingons, Dothraki, and Elves — what the?!?
  • Shadorma: not a Middle-Eastern soft-serve treat (sorry to say)
  • The Difference Between Fluency and Geeky? About Half the Vocabulary
  • Shadorma: low fat, zero carbs, and naturally gluten-free
  • Nixon’s Plan for Sweeping the 2016 Election
  • Hold Onto Your Hats . . . it’s SHADORMA!!
  • Shadorma: I bet you can’t say that ten times fast without feeling dirty!
  • How to Charm Your Khaleesi in Just Twenty-Six Syllables
  • Shadorma: how something that can’t help you tame dragons can still be useful
  • Dragon Soup for the Poetic Soul
  • Sharpen Your Bat’leths, and Hone Your Haiku: Going to war with mythical poetry!
  • Fifty Shades of Shadorma

All comments, suggestions, and additional content are welcome in the comments thread!

(Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Day 2015.04.17 —

(Image credit: Nathan Nelson)


a look back —
this factory district
makes star-stuff



I missed National Haiku Poetry Day by a button-press, but that’s okay.


(Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Today 2015.04.08 —

(Image credit: Kevin Dinkel)

vast ocean:
surface lord, humbly
washing feet

You know, I tried to knock out a story today.

I really did try. I found an idea that appealed to me, I started with an intriguing opener, and then I tried to get in a little more during my first break, and my lunch . . . and then life had to get involved. Things at work, things outside of work — the blogging seas get rough at times!

Sometimes I wonder if I care too much about blogging.  But can I be blamed, if the best way for me to express myself is through the written word, for wanting to pursue a daily writing habit? What does it take to do that? Grit? Determination?


(Crossing fingers — I hope it’s not talent!)

(Header image by Alan Levine)

Haiku Today 2015.04.06 — We’re not in Kansas Anymore!

pink bloom by Johnson Cameraface
(Image credit: Johnson Cameraface)


crowding in
gawkers on the scene
with held breath


Do you ever feel like a change would do you good?

I keep trying to think of ways to spice up the routine here on Rob’s Surf Report, but then life interrupts me with dumb things like work and sleep. I made a photo post this past Sunday for the first time in forever, which was a refreshing change, but sometimes it seems like something more drastic could really get the juices flowing — like, what if I switched blogs with someone for a week?

This isn’t something real I’m doing, but consider the implications: a different blog is a different frame for the writing impulse. First of all, if you are a serious blogger posting to someone else’s blog, you’d be more likely to post regularly over the course of the week. You’d also be more likely to craft posts of a higher quality than usual. Is it a competitive streak that compels you to do so, or the wish to respect the other blogger’s space? Does that really matter? We are so often the first to let ourselves lapse. As unforgiving as we are to ourselves sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies when it comes to giving up, or rationalizing inaction in our own lives; but to work in another blogger’s space then holds you responsible for what they find when they return, and so over the short term this could spark a renaissance in work ethic for a floundering blogger.

Of course, this is where Murphy’s Law can come into play. I could be that person that — with all good intentions — orchestrates a switcheroo, only to be forced by unforeseen circumstance to forego blogging for the duration of the week. Whoops! “No big deal,” they say. “Don’t worry though, I took good care of your blog for you. Great idea, by the way.” Only slightly better would it be to be that person who does the right thing, only to find that their counterpart has not blogged at all, for whatever reason. In that situation you get your money’s worth in a mental change-up, while your own blog languishes.

All that aside, though, who would I like to switch blogs with?

Film poster for Freaky Friday - Copyright 2003...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not even sure where to start. To avoid a Freaky Friday of blogging, I’d want to pick something where I’m comfortable slipping into someone else’s shoes. JED’s Okay, What If? is worth a mention, since I have been trying to curate a list of topics for a while: stuff that I never get around to addressing, but that would make good What If fodder, like ‘what if an entire football team was body-snatched?’ or ‘what if an army of shoemaking elves decided to protest Footlocker?’

Now that they’re down on the page, I’m not so sure they’re all that great, but those are just two I threw down; so I think I could enter the What If arena if I only had the time. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself though, since last weekend was Easter and the last I knew, I am able to contribute to that site already. I should do that soon.

To avoid the risk of going overlong here, though, I’m just going to say that there’s already a certain element of the stage to one’s own blog, let alone to assuming control over someone else’s. That would involve getting into a different character, and then interpreting another’s work through your own work. Maybe I could trust myself to do that for another, maybe not. Maybe I could trust him or her to do a good job with my blog, or maybe I’d chew my nails the whole time. If I were given the option to switch blogs with someone for a week, I think I would do the right thing and decline, saying:


“there’s no place like home!”

(Daily Post prompt: Switcheroo | Header image by Alan Levine)