sea-mist rolls in . . .
headlights from the school bus
weave through the valley

Pamela Smith

blue-sky

Viewed from a distance the scene has a certain cinematic quality and is one I can well imagine as the opening scene to a film.

We may infer from the haiku that the mist here is especially dense as visibility is reduced to the point where all we see of the school bus is its headlights. I find any mention of lights in the mist or fog appealing to the imagination. Mist and fog have the effect of softening light, of hiding details and blurring the edges of things, all of which can bestow an element of the ethereal.

The sea-mist suggests a seasonal context, but the exact season is not defined. This would depend upon (as a kigo ought) the particular seasonal events and conditions of the location in which the haiku is set. In a country where seasonal conditions vary so enormously, we can very rarely identify seasons with specific climatic events and conditions. As it turns out this was a mid-winter happening but as we know sea mists occur at many times of the year. Personally I find this kind of ambivalence in kigo quite satisfying. We are treated here to a particular occurrence in the weather, beautifully expressed. That is more than enough for me.

The author’s description fills in some of the backstory for us, “the school bus was chugging slowly along, like a snail, stopping and starting as the kids were picked up (though I couldn’t see that) and the bus lights were a soft smudgy yellow that stood out softly against the overall greyness that had hidden nearly everything else . . . there had been rain the night before and there was some fog around too, the fog and the sea mist meeting made it an especially beautiful scene.

There is an appealing sense here of the lives and everyday activities of people nestled in the larger reality of nature: the valley (perhaps by implication, the river), the mist, weather and atmosphere, as well as the sea. There is no escaping this, we are always immersed in, and a part of, the natural world.

I thoroughly enjoyed the simplicity and beauty of this haiku and am deeply impressed by its iconic quality.

First published: Windfall, Issue 2, 2014

Selection and comments by Simon Hanson