Haibun: January

For the dverse prompt.

When indoor temperatures are only a few degrees above the outside, and chilblains form peeling potatoes got out of the barn, there is a kinship with the cold, the stillness and the furtive feathered and furred life that creeps and sweeps about the frosty fields. I feed the birds and whatever else enjoys fruit past its best and the contents of the bread bin. January is chill. We all long for the spring.

Stark still sky echoes

with the boom of cracking ice—

north wind keening.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

74 thoughts on “Haibun: January”

    1. It isn’t so cold here really. We’ve had three nights in a row of -5°C which is exceptional, and only 6 or 7° in the day but when the inside of the house is barely more than that except for two rooms, it feels very very cold.

  1. A kinship with the cold! I never thought of it like that but I see what you mean, especially in the stillness and the creeping and sweeping about frosty fields. I love the alliteration ’furtive feathered and furred life’ – it sounds like shivering! And that’s a chilly haiku!

      1. Me too! In the village where we lived prior to this one, just on the outskirts, there was a field with a pony that had no shelter, no blanket or coat, and nobody seemed to feed it. My husband ended up calling the RSPCA one winter, we were so worried about it. I hope the deer come back to our garden for shelter. The mice have a big pile of logs from the pollarded willow. 😉

      2. I don’t know where the deer go. They just drift through, always on the move. It seems so cruel for the hunters to harass them when they are already finding life difficult.

      1. I NEVER complain about summer heat, but then I don’t suppose it ever gets as hot here are it does with you. Up to 38-39° I can stand it. The 40° psychological barrier is harder to pass.

      2. Over 40 is horrible I agree. Luckily we haven’t had too many yet down here. Inland they have had 40 + for many many days in a row – even weeks in some places. I guess that’s why there are so many people down here. They are escaping the intenseheat.

      3. It’s the people who have to work outdoors I feel sorry for. It’s cool enough indoors even when it hits 40° outside, but roofers, builders, market people, I don’t know how they stand it.

  2. How the tiny furred things can survive in this is a mystery. There’s a feral cat that lives across the street. Its footprints have been showing up when snow is on the ground around the house. I’m sure it wants to nab birds coming in to the feeder.

      1. You certainly have some MOFO hunters in your neck of the woods. Killing everything in sight 😦 Not sure if you can see the pheasant in the pic? I thought of you and the pheasants when I saw him yesterday. I hope he stays safe here.

      2. Yes, I see him 🙂 There aren’t many wild populations here, they don’t like the cold so most of the birds that don’t get shot in the autumn shoots die of cold. They missed an awful lot of them this year I’m pleased to report 🙂 We had a small flock living in one hedge and there’s a bigger one in the field at the other side of the stream that we see wandering about. The fox got most of ours but the other bunch seem to be doing okay. The hunters do go after anything at all, but they’ve been quiet lately—too cold for the poor dears maybe.

      3. Encouraging on all counts. Plenty of areas for them to hide around here if the hunters stay away. A couple of years ago this guy in a industrial sized 4×4, dressed to the hilt in his man gear, knocked on the door. He wanted me to give him permission to hunt on my land. I gave him a look and said, no, sorry, I don’t allow killing on my land.

      4. How polite! Though I expect he thought you’d be intimidated enough by the gear to say, yes, please do, kill what you like. Round here they don’t ask, they enter with their dogs and they’re popping away as you’re racing outside shouting at them to bugger off. I truly hate those people. Husband is more diplomatic than I am. He talks to them and explains that we have dog and cats and even children who might get injured so could they please not trespass—whoops—hunt on our land. It’s worked. They don’t come in personally but they still let the dogs roam everywhere, hoping they’ll flush the game out onto the other side of the hedges.

      5. Apart from the drug dealers, the only people with guns in this country are the hunters. They form a group associated with the far right and the arms manufacturers and no government dares to take them on and limit their power. People are frightened of them and they have votes, even if they are only a very tiny minority. If hunting was banned tomorrow, apart from the Gilet Jaunes, nobody would protest.

      6. I’m not so sure I would want to ban hunting. There are the superjocks that like to kill, but there are also a LOT of struggling average families that hunt to put meat on the table. Hunters need to respect property rights. That said, it is troubling to see them leaning with the far right. I don’t know who Gilet Jaunes is?

      7. Europe at the moment is in the grip of the great fascist revival, called Populism. They’re everywhere, start off with some simple complaint like the raised tax on diesel fuel (because it’s polluting) and it escalates into attack on every government institution, the police, the works. It’s the mob in action, violent and mindless.
        I don’t know how things function in America but we have a hell of a lot of very poor people and I they don’t have the money for a hunting licence or a gun. The hunters here don’t kill for food, they shoot a lot of inedible animals, trap tiny songbirds, it’s pathetic. Fresh fruit and vegetables are more expensive than meat which is industrially produced and cheap. We have always eaten very little meat because we’ve never had much money. We haven’t starved, there’s plenty of other things to eat.

      8. Call me head in the sand about what’s happening in Europe. I can’t deal with it. You have to as your loved one is caught in the midst and for that you have my sympathy. Can’t even imagine it. In America, the long guns often are passed down from generation to generation, and many poor don’t buy licenses to hunt. They shoot game to survive. If you don’t know how to grow food and you can’t afford to buy produce which is ungodly expensive ($1.39 for ONE APPLE?????) meat from the wild is a godsend. Factory farmed meat is not healthy in any quantity, for either the poor animals or for the humans who eat it.

      9. I agree about the industrial meat production. If we all ate less meat and far less often maybe we could go back to the days of farming with real animals that live outside and eat grass.
        We’re all caught up in the stupidity of our leaders and our neighbours. What I don’t understand is how is it that the richest country in the world has people so poor living in it they are reduced to hunter gatherer tactics to survive? I can’t image your country at all. Strange, isn’t it? You’d think we all knew what it was like to live in the US having a daily diet of American TV shows and films 🙂

      10. Jane, I thought you lived in the US? Oh my goodness, don’t go by most TV shows. If you want to see the real America in a TV show, watch the US version of Shameless.

      11. Now where did you get that idea? I live in the depths of rural France, south west where the climate is the best 🙂 Our conversations must have been confusing for you! I was referencing TV shows in a metaphorical sense. Don’t have a TV. Nowhere to plug it in…

      12. Not sure where I got the idea, but now I have the reality. Pretty country from what I’ve seen in pictures. Didn’t Julia Child live around that way in years gone by? Recently read a book about her (Julia’s Cats) where it is described pretty liberally. Muriel Barberry does your neck of the woods justice in the last book I read of hers.

      13. I didn’t know Julia Child lived in France, had to look it up on Wikipedia. Says she lived in Provence near Cannes where all the rich and famous end up. This isn’t the Mediterranean, it’s greener and not even remotely tourist destination. I like it. Hate tourists and what they do to places.

      14. I don’t think it was the only place she lived but I think she lived there pretty much until the end… I don’t much care for the tourists here either. They swarm the place in warm weather, then desert in cold weather. Tourists are fairly respectful around here, except in places like campsites and outdoor music events with camping, which increase every year.

      15. lol, yes I live near the equator! j/k I’m in Michigan on the west side of the state, near Ludington (hopefully that shows up on a map)

      16. Found it! Yup, almost Canada. Ludington is about the same size as our nearest town, Tonneins. Google has a funny way of calculating local temperatures. It gives your night time temperature as -5°C which is hardly lower than ours was.. I’d have thought you would be down to -10/-15°C. Mind you, it also gives our midday temperature as 2°C when our thermometre reads 9°C.

      17. It’s hard to say what the actual temps are out there. I go by an outdoor thermometer stuck to a window and I *know* that’s way off, as it says 60F when snow is on the ground. The other one is the car thermometer and that one I think is pretty accurate, but it means going out to the car to check. Eh. Where it gets bad is with the wind chill, but what I’m going to call disturbingly, there has been little to no wind this winter. Another sign of global warming, imo.

      18. A petition has been handed in to the government today, castigating them for not taking any meaningful measures to stop climate change—2 million signatures! Pretty good in a country with a total population of 67 million. It’s the antidote to our gilet jaunes and the truck drivers who boycott every measure that discourages diesel, reduces the speed limit, protects wildlife.

  3. Strong chilled haibun, bare-boned brevity and bang on word-smithing. Our January, so far is mild on the west coast of WA; foggy, damp, dank and overcast, but temps still in the 40’s during the day.

  4. I too long for spring. Love this chill haibun specially with: there is a kinship with the cold. Enjoy the feeding of the birds, while listening to the keening of the north wind.

  5. Wondering why so cold in your house, and sending sympathy! I well remember north wind keening from my childhood on the farm, but not so much now that I live in the city. Sending you warm thoughts!

    1. Thanks Beverly 🙂 The house is very old, nobody knows how old, but it was here when the first map of the area was drawn 300 years ago. It’s always been lived in by poor people and when we bought it there was no heating and the electricity was just a few overhead lights that were put in after WWII. We thought we’d be able to bring it up to some primitive standards of comfort, but it’s too expensive. Everything needs doing, not redoing. No bathroom, no kitchen, no heating etc. Apparently the old couple who lived here until two years ago used to leave the door between the main room and the barn open so they could get the heat from the cows…

  6. really enjoy “and whatever else enjoys fruit past its best and the contents of the bread bin.” A “kinship with the cold”… yes, we must respect it, try and find its beauty.

  7. I want to invite you in…we have a wood-burning furnace. I definitely feel the chill in this haibun and love your “north wind keening” (the phrase, not the effect)!

    1. That’s kind of you, Lynn 🙂 We’re going to have to find different winter quarters. This house will never be anywhere near comfortable in the winter. Lovely in summer though…

  8. Lovely write Jane- you describe the cold well. I’ll take my brutal summers over the harsh cold any day. I lived in Philadelphia for almost 3 years, and it was enough for me.

  9. I like the way you concisely portrayed January and the cold that comes with it. Your haiku is beautiful read aloud. You made me look up “chilblains”.

      1. I am Canadian. I’ve honestly never heard of the condition at all. It sounds similar to frostbite, but not the same according to what I’ve googled. Hmm….

      2. Sorry, I meant American in the continental rather than the national sense 🙂 They form at higher than freezing temperatures so you don’t get the ice cells forming beneath the skin like with frostbite, but the outer skin does die and go black which isn’t very reassuring…

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