2014 Asilomar Retreat Write-up

Thursday – The retreat began at Elkorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve with a picnic, information at the visitor center, and the first ginko. (The slough is one of the few relatively undisturbed coastal wetlands remaining in California, “a haven for a wide variety of birds”.)

  • Phillip Kennedy and Amy Ostenso, registrars for the event, greeted us in the Historic Asilomar Social Hall.
  • The Bat, a book/poem was read by Alison Woolpert, President, to officially open the conference.
  • Warmth and welcome continued in a circle of chairs, as Betty Arnold, Program Chair, invited us all to introduce ourselves and share one haiku.
  • Featured speaker of the night, Patricia J. Machmiller, explained her process of writing haiku for the book Sweet Reverence of Little Birds, a collaboration with painter Flow Zittin and calligrapher Martha Dahlen.  “Through my words,” Patricia says, “I try to add something to the image, picking something that isn’t the first thing you would notice.”

Friday – Morning began with birding instructor Nancy Adam’s philosophy of “non-competitive supportive birding appreciation for local birds.”  With a light side to her expertise (birding in all 50 states and in locales worldwide) she states: ““Who cares if you saw a flamingo and it’s really a hummingbird.”

  • She then led us outside, and helped us to “see” all the birds in front us, from our meeting room all the way down through the dunes to Asilomar Beach.
  • Lunch was followed by Patricia Machmiller’s:  “Bird Sounds in Haiku,” how to incorporate the actual sounds a bird makes into a poem. The afternoon continued with time for ginkos.
  • A jam-packed evening began with Patrick Gallaher reading the dedication in YTHS’s 2014 Anthology Scattered Acorns to Jerry Ball who then shared his appreciation to a tear-filled audience.
  • Joan Zimmerman, organizer of the YTHS Tokutoni Haiku Contest, announced the winner,s and to a loud long applause read the first place Haiku by member Linda Papanicolaou, unable to be with us.
  • Commemorating the 40th anniversary of Sister Cities, Shingu,  Japan and Santa Cruz, CA, four locals:  Carolyn Fitz, Carol Steele, Alison Woolpert, and Joan read their and their sister city’s haiku.
  • With lights dimmed, Michael Sheffield read information about sand hill cranes, as Carolyn Fitz, behind a blank fabric canvas she had framed, brush painted cranes that appeared before our very eyes.
  • Haiga concluded the evening with a video by Ed Grossmith, and art work by individual members.

Saturday – In the morning we sketched birds as Floy Zittin demonstrated how to “get a basic bird down”, and capture a feeling (elegant, cute, disturbing…). We added haiku to our sketches under Martha Dahlan’s direction to have a focal point (the sketch or calligraphy) and to think of the emotional feeling of both.

  • A traditional Kukai was held in the afternoon, with the haiku read by Chris Stern and Betty Arnold.  Receiving the most votes was a bird haiku by Christine Horner:
the silence of crows
waiting for the argument
to resume
  • A Renku Party completed the evening and on into the night, with Patrick Gallagher and Debbie Kolodgi leading, assisted by Carol Steele and Alison Woolpert.  Asked by Patrick to dress festively for the occasion, Ann Bendixen showed up dressed as a skunk, and Toni Homan as a cat.

Sunday – In the morning we read the Renku, shared our art and poetry, and were led by Betty Arnold in a closing ceremony where, with eyes closed, she guided us in reflecting back on our four days. Then, rising to stand in a circle, she asked us to share bird sounds: “a way for our flock to voice its JOY with the retreat”.

  • For those who could stay longer, Patricia Machmiller held a haiku writing workshop, followed by dinner.

Also at the retreat, but not in the write-up by Mimi Ahern or photo captions (layout by David Sherertz): Sandy Ball, Peg McAulay Byrd, Eleanor Carolan, Johnnie Johnson Hafernik, Greg Longenecker, Bev Momoi, David Sherertz, and  Sandy Vrooman.