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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Ray Rasmussen

What Are You Up To?

The sun's rays filter through a stand of black spruce where 20 horses, each loaded with 150 pounds of gear, are hitched. Dave, a lanky outfitter, and I are unpacking them. We chat about the grizzly sow and cubs spotted earlier in the day, about how the horses are holding up, about the people on the trip.

men's talk
the smell of sweat
and manure

As we struggle with the ropes, Dave asks, "Ray, what are you up to these days?"

I think of telling him that since I've retired, I'm embarrassed to receive a monthly check without having to work. That I no longer wake up by an alarm clock, my mornings unfolding slowly. That I feel guilty about those who have to set alarms, rush breakfast, fight traffic. That I view my avocations as luxuries in a world stressed by war and poverty.

Finally I say: "Well, I write and do some photography.

Dave replies, "Oh, is that right. Do you sell your photographs?"

"Some, but not enough to pay for the camera."

So there it is. I can't simply sit on the back stoop and admire the lawn growing, the shadows lengthening.

"Well," Dave grunts as he hefts a 150-pound load off the horse, "must be nice to have time to pursue your interests."

How many times have I heard that I now have time to be the poet I always wanted to be.

The horses don't like being corralled, and I don't either. In earlier times I was "a young man doing edge sports," "a professional," "a dad," "a leader" and "a teacher." Now I'm "a retiree," "a senior," with undertones of "geezer," hints of "useless."

We release the horses and they race out the corral. They kick up their heels, roll in the black loam, shake and begin to graze. I wish that the rawness I feel could as easily be shaken off, that this wildflower meadow could be entered so easily.

monkshood bloom
the whine of mosquitoes
seems diminished

Note: The last haiku was published in Modern Haiku.