Colorado Reflections

big Elbert drifts —
weightless through the purple haze
tourists passing skunk

The old saying that "if you have to explain the joke then it's not funny" certainly applies to haiku as well—you shouldn't have to explain it. But I think some erudition is needed for my haiku above in case some of the nuance is missed, especially the allusions to marijuana culture.

So let's break it down:

big Elbert1 drifts —
weightless through the purple haze2
tourists passing skunk3

  1. Mount Elbert is the most prominent peak in Colorado, and Colorado, of course, is the state most sympathetic and welcoming to recreational marijuana use.
  2. Purple haze is a particularly fantastic strain of cultivated marijuana, but also mountains quite often appear purple when backlit at dawn or dusk so "purple haze" has a duality here. Last but not least, "haze" is a kigo, a season word, signaling spring as well as be being descriptive of the marijuana strain, the haze of inhaled smoke, and the haze of the marijuana high.
  3. Colorado has an ever growing marijuana tourism industry. Skunk is not only the malodorous black and white mammal but also is the adjective to describe and entire class of marijuana strains of which the aforementioned purple haze is a part. A group of pot smokers walking along would be passing (i.e.,sharing) the joint among themselves.

So there's that. And if you're wondering, yes, at one time I had quite the penchant for the mary jane and even become quite skilled at indoor hydroponic cultivation, successfully growing the purple haze strain among others. But that was years ago. And now my own skunk inhalation occurs only when that malodorous black and white mammal has been in the area. That is not to say that I've become anti-pot or anything. I have nothing but good will for those that partake occasionally or habitually, and I'm thrilled that states like Colorado and others have gone in the direction they have. Indeed, if I were to find myself in Colorado, I suspect I'd be metaphorically looking for Big Elbert myself. On the day to day, though, I just got to a point where it all seemed more trouble than it was worth. Talk about cosmic irony: I think smoking pot made me too lazy to continue to smoke pot.

Now with that backstory and explanation, let's return to the haiku…

big Elbert drifts —
weightless through the purple haze
tourists passing skunk

The standard haiku pattern is:
subject and action (on two lines)

And I've got that:
setting: Mount Albert, Colorado, the Rockies
subject and action: tourists walking (weightless) and either passing a literal skunk or passing a joint of skunk (which is burning the purple haze strain) or, perhaps, both a real skunk and the pot skunk are extant in the moment of the haiku.

But if you'll allow me the indulgence, I want to say that the thing I really like about this particular haiku is that you can reverse the setting and subjects and it still works.

tourists passing skunk —
weightless through the purple haze
big Elbert drifts

big Elbert drifts —
weightless through the purple haze
tourists passing skunk

And in both versions "weightless" to me carries, well, a lot of weight (sorry). In the second version, there's big Elbert being weightless as it appears to float in the distance through the haze. And in the original version, the tourists appear weightless viewed from a distance passing through the haze but also are weightless in the sense of being under the effects of the marijuana high.

The word "drifts" also plays an important role in supporting the overall mood and awareness I'm trying to uncover. You've got big Elbert seeming to drift in and out of view through the haze, and the mountain changes locations, or drifts, as the tourists meander along a forest path; moreover, there is also the drifting of consciousness inherent to the marijuana high. (Those of you experienced with this pot-induced feeling will know what I mean.) That is, everything seemingly drifts in and out of the pot smoker's consciousness as his/her mind jumps from subject to subject then suddenly there will be a crashing, near mystical awareness of one's present surroundings, "OMG there's that huge mountain again! It's like frigin' beautiful!"

So, with all that said, I like this haiku.

You may or may not find this haiku a success, but I'm happy with it and the feeling it has left me with.

Thanks for coming along on the ride.