Whirlwinds (tanka)


Redlights, Volume 17, No. 1, January 2021



Photography by Autumn Mott Rodeheaver


whirlwinds of scarlet
and ochre leaves
flit across the square –
days of self-isolation spent
learning to slow down




Pale Ghosts…

photo by jim clark, American Beech Trees

American Beech Trees, (c) Photograph by Jim Clark

It was a very exciting moment last week for me to open up the latest issue of Moonbathing, a journal of women’s tanka, and see one of my own tanka included. To be in the company of so many very talented tanka poets is a highlight of my year.

Published by poet and editor, Pamela A. Babusci, Moonbathing is a journal that showcases the many sides of tanka. The poems cover a wide variety of experiences, emotions and subjects…and all written by talented women poets.

Here is my tanka:




Moonbathing is edited and published by Pamela A. Babusci



Beech Leaves by Walter Reeve

American Beech Leaves, (c) Photo by Walter Reeves

The Gleaners

The Gleaners

This beautiful photo was taken by a friend, Patti Hardee Donnelly. Patti is a Middle School Language Arts Teacher at the same school I retired from. Each grade level does regular community service, and the activities are varied. Last month, Patti took her Middle School Advisory to spend an afternoon of gleaning sweet potato fields. As they were working through the fields, Patti took this photograph. She very kindly let me ‘borrow’ it for this haiga.

The concept of gleaning is an ancient one. So long as people have planted fields of crops, others have followed in their wake to glean whatever food might be left behind. It doesn’t matter if the vegetables are picture perfect, so much as they provide food for those who are without. Taking a group of middle class students who are in no danger of starving is a very purposeful way of both doing community service and providing a life lesson to the students. The gleaned sweet potatoes do end up on dinner tables of people who are happy to have healthy, fresh produce. The students who do the gleaning, perhaps for the first and last time of their lives, surely learn a lot about the facts of poverty and hunger. They learn a lesson in simple compassion. How often do most of us come face to face with the pain of hunger? The answer for the majority of Americans is ‘rarely.’

Here in the United States, we have just celebrated Thanksgiving, a time in which we feast and share our meal with those we love. Soon our thoughts will move on to Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, winter solstice, New Year’s and a whole period of seasonal gift giving, sharing food and good spirit. Let’s stop for just a minute and think about all we are fortunate to have–we who go to bed in a comfortable place after having had adequate meals. For December, I’m going to spend some time thinking about the concept of gleaning, both the physical and metaphorical. Having borrowed Patti’s beautiful photo and ‘gleaned’ it for my haiga, I hope I can find other ways to give back to the world.

Thank you, Patti Hardee Donnelly, for allowing me to use this picture, but thank you also for teaching your students about the importance of compassion and service to others. I will always celebrate and salute teachers like you who make a real difference in so many lives.


the gleaners

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Gleaners, also called, The Gleaners
Oil on canvas
H. 83.5; W. 110 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Jean Schormans



Some Small Poems for the Autumnal Equinox

autumn haiga 2015

This morning I woke up knowing a change was in the air. With intermitent gusts of wind, my garden feels different. From my porch where I sit writing this, I hear cardinals talking to one another in soft chirpy sounds, not full song. A nuthatch scampers up and down the tree trunks hoping to find a tasty insect for its mid-morning snack. What is clearer though is the background sound–the small insects that hum and buzz in notes I can’t clearly discern. All I hear is a constant high pitched sound–but it is a soft sound, not the commanding songs the cicadas sing. A chickadee now scolds someone, probably my dog who is suddenly interested in wandering in our back woods.

The breeze comes and goes. Wind chimes sing their beautiful songs. Leaves shudder and flow in the wind, then settle down to stillness. A large robin sits in the birdbath drinking in the water, probably for the last time before it makes its long migration down to southern Florida. Now a flock of crows jeers at something, most likely the red-tailed hawk that lives nearby. And since I’ve sat here long enough, a single butterfly sips from the last flowers of the purple buddleiah bush. It is a yellow swallowtail and probably the very last one I will see this year. There have been no others all week. A female cardinal visits the other bird bath. Luckily these beautiful red birds don’t migrate from here. They will stay all winter long, and I will put birdseed out for them each day. 

Autumn has always been my favorite season since I was a little girl. I grew up in the northern climate of Buffalo, New York where the lake winds brought the strong Canadian coolness and fall was often upon us in early September. Not so here down south. Here, North Carolina weather can change in an hour. We can have this first taste of fall and tomorrow might bring back the heat of summer.

Life in the United States changes with this season since children return to school, vacations are pretty much over, and everyone settles in. I find myself cooking soups once again. Last night I made Italian Wedding Soup, a perfectly delicious way to welcome the change in seasons. 

Fall or autumn? I grew up calling it ‘fall’ and with the obvious falling of leaves, that word makes good sense, but the poetic side of me loves the word ‘autumn.’ I love saying the word, hearing it, feeling it on the tongue. Autumn is delicious! And ‘autumnal’ is divine. Who can resist the beauty of this season? Not me.

Here are three other poems–two tanka and one haiku– to welcome this special season and day of the autumnal equinox.


and nighttime
in a slow dance—
tomorrow one
will lead


Gold Autumn Leaf


autumnal equinox…
the moment when day
matches night




autumn’s equinox
when time is equal—
if only one day
could be like this


Red Leaves

The End of Autumn

Red Leaves

                                                                                     “In my End is my Beginning”

The End of Autumn

How could we pass through autumn
without thinking about life.

Life and death.

Life and birth.

Birth and death.

The book ends of our existence
with pauses of space in between
waiting for us to write the chapters
that will fill the empty volume
that eventually defines a life.

Golden Leaves

These photos were taken by me at the Duke Hospice at The Meadowlands in Hillsborough, North Carolina. This hospice is set on an old farmstead in rural Orange county. The hospice and grounds are a wonderful gift to all who pass through.

Quotation embroidered by Mary, Queen of Scots

Quotation embroidered and worn by Mary, Queen of Scots