Rethinking Business Towards Sustainable Development

I chanced upon a free business seminar for SMEs in Putrajaya on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in evenbrite.com one day in 2017, and signed up to find out what it was about. I was not an SME, but an independent self-employed writer, but I went anyway.

It was good that the organiser made it a point to organise such an event to increase awareness about the SDGs. At least the SMEs who made it to the event could learn more about them and how they could benefit from the SDGs as well.

After that, I wrote an article that was published in the Malaysian Naturalist, 71-3, March-May 2018, on pages 44-45. It’s called ‘Rethinking Business Towards Sustainable Development’.

Here is my published article in the Malaysian Naturalist for your reading pleasure.

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#Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic 2018 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT GUEST POSTS: “Poems of Nature & Life,” by Khor Hui-Min

I am excited to announce that I have finally published my first poetry book on 27 April 2018. It’s called Poems of Nature & Life and available in paperback and Kindle ebook format on most Amazon sites. You can see it at Amazon UK and Amazon US, to name just a few.

After I published it, I did my first ever guest post at Colleen Chesebro ~ The Fairy Whisperer’s blog. It was fun to write the guest post. Here it is. Hope you like it. 🙂

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Welcome to my author spotlight guest posts where I introduce you to independent authors from various genres from around the globe. You never know. You might meet your new favorite author!

My guest today is Khor Hui-Min. We met through Twitter and share a love of poetry. I always marvel at how our blogs allow us to connect with people from all over the world. Khor lives in Malaysia and her blog is called Project Prose. She also writes about meditation, and the environment, all things dear to my heart.

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Poet & Author, Khor Hui-Min

Khor Hui Min thinks of life as a continuous learning process and believes in a healthy balance between work and life. She is a freelance writer, who is active in publishing poems and short stories. She moonlights as a face painter for the Malaysian Nature Society and also enjoys creating and carving pottery. She has a Bachelor of Computer Science and Master of Science (Environmental Science). You can read more of her writing at https://projectprose.wordpress.com/ and https://huiminskitchen.wordpress.com/

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Meet Khor Hui-Min:

I have always loved to write. In my student days, I would write perhaps one poem a year. But in 2014, I attended a writing workshop by author Zen Cho at the Cooler Lumpur Festival, entitled ‘Inspiration, Influence, and Interaction’. I wrote a poem as an assignment at the end of the workshop.

Something in me changed. I decided that I would start a writing blog, and post something once a week. It turned out that when I sat down to write, what invariable came out was poetry. I wrote poetry every week. To find inspiration to keep the momentum going, I searched on the Internet for writing prompts, and those have been very helpful, even if the prompt was just a single word. I would challenge myself to think of something to write, anything. What came out was, of course, poetry.

I also liked to read about stories of myths, legends, and magic finding them very interesting. They are a source of inspiration to me too. That was how I came across Colleen’s blog, which I follow with interest. I also follow her on Twitter.

“I told myself that at the rate I’m going, in a few years’ time, I would have enough material to produce a book.”

In 2017, I took a leap of faith – I quit my editorial job in the educational publishing industry to become a self-employed writer. For a few months, busy with my new direction, I forgot about my intention to publish. But in April 2018, as the dust settled, my dream of publishing surfaced again. It just so happened that a friend in a writers group had published with Kindle in Amazon.com, so I asked her how to do it, and she patiently answered all my questions.

So, I published on 27 April 2018. The book has a collection of 53 poems, mainly focusing on nature and life. Nature has always been the No.1 inspiration for me, and it is reflected in my poems and articles. I also write poems on life.

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I have always wondered why there are so many unhappy poems out there – people write poetry on heartbreak, general unhappiness, and as an outlet to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction. I, on the other hand, like to write happy, positive and uplifting poetry. There is so much negativity in the world. Why add to it?

Instead, I want to bring more light and joy into the world instead. When people are down, they can pick up my book, flip to a random page, and read something that makes them feel better.

Here is a poem about forest folk from the book, which I hope you will like.

MOON DANCE

Dancing, twirling, in the moonlight
Skirts of petals, shimmering bright
Light as air; fluttering, gliding
Pleasant laughter like bells, tinkling
Twirling round in a ring, so wide
Graceful and lively, side by side
Dancing and singing, with delight
Pretty elves and nymphs, what a sight
Springtime homage to mother moon
So alluring; makes young hearts swoon

© Khor Hui Min, 20 May 2015

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Here’s how to find Khor Hui-Min:

Facebook at Khor Hui Min

Twitter at @MinKhor

Blogs: projectprose.wordpress.com and huiminskitchen.wordpress.com

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Poems of Nature & Life is available in paperback and Kindle ebook format from Amazon.

You can see the paperback version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1980944490

And you can see the ebook version here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CPBLK63

bluebird morning Thanks for stopping by to meet Khor Hui-Min. I look forward to reviewing her debut poetry novel, “Poems of Nature & Life.” ❤

 

via #Fairies, #Myths, & #Magic 2018 AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT GUEST POSTS: “Poems of Nature & Life,” by Khor Hui-Min

Living more sustainably – the plastic dilemma

If you read the newspapers or online news websites, or watch the news on TV, you would have noticed that pollution is a chronic problem affecting our natural environment, especially since plastic was invented.

Plastics everywhere

Plastic has been around for the last 60-70 years, but it has revolutionised our urban existence. Because plastic is so flexible and created to last such a long time, it has been an ingredient added into everything from clothing, cooking and catering equipment, to engineering and retailing materials. The problem is that nearly all plastic that has ever been created still exists today in some form, as they take a very long time to degrade. The chart below from BBC’s ‘Seven Charts That Explain the Pollution Problem’ illustrates clearly the lifespan of plastic.

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Due to consumerism, our lifestyles have largely become unsustainable, and we generate too much trash every day, to the extent that landfills are filling up way too fast.

Making Choices

So, what can we do as ordinary people to be more sustainable in our daily lives? Well, it’s all about choices. Yesterday, I participated in a beach clean-up at Bagan Lalang in Sepang, and after the activity, some of us were very thirsty, so we bought some drinks from a drink stall nearby. A friend thought out loud, “We just picked up all the trash on this beach. After that, are we going to generate more trash?” She was referring to the plastic cups. I said I was not going to throw the cup away, but bring it home, wash it, and reuse it. Reusing stuff is a very important part of a more sustainable lifestyle.

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The cup I brought back from Bagan Lalang Beach
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I stack up the cups and store them in my cabinet with all my baking stuff. Left of cups – stacked up containers with cookie cutters & other small pieces of equipment). On the right – cake boards.

Reusing Plastic Items

Plastic cups, plates, bowls, cutlery, etc. all can be taken home, washed, stored neatly and reused, at least for a few times. I like to keep them for outings, barbecues and parties. Once they are damaged, broken, change colour or warp in some way, then it is time to put them in the recycling bin.

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Reusable Cutlery, Straws & Containers

It is handy to bring your own set of reusable cutlery along with you to work or outings. In that way, you do not need to get the disposable type. These are very common now – they are made of extra sturdy plastic or metal, and come in their own containers or pouches. If the food seller offers disposable food containers and cutlery to you, you can politely decline them.

Similarly, bamboo and stainless steel straws are becoming more popular and more widely sold now. So, if you are the type that likes to sip your iced drinks through straws, it is a good idea to get yourself one.

Plan ahead. If you like to buy food on the way to work or on the way back home, it is good to have a few reusable food containers in the car or in your bag. For those who go out during lunchtime to buy food back to the office, having a reusable container in your office drawer, plus reusable cutlery, is a good idea.

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Bringing your own reusable container when buying food is an excellent habit. In this photo – nasi kerabu with half a salted egg.

If you like to buy coffee or drinks on-the-go, then it will be good to have a thermos or tumbler in the car or in your bag, so that you can do away with paper or plastic cups. Do you know that paper drink cups are not recyclable? The plastic waterproof lining of many paper cups makes them unrecyclable. If they are collected with paper and cardboard, they may actually contaminate the whole load because they are also dirty/stained – this will cause the lot to be sent to landfill.

For those who travel frequently, or like to have garden parties or picnics, a set of reusable lightweight crockery and cutlery would be ideal to have. I got this 46-piece blue picnic set at carrefour many years ago, and they have served me well.

Recycling Plastic Items That Can’t Be Used Anymore

Once your reusable plastic items cannot be reused anymore, it is time to put them in the recycling bin. I sort my recyclables the low-tech way in my yard – one bag for plastics, one bag for paper, one bag for metal items, and another bag for glass items. It takes me a few months to fill up a bag. When a bag is full, I will take it to a recycling bin.

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Remember that you have to clean your plastic containers, glass bottles and metal tins before you put them in your recycling bin. You do not want to contaminate the whole bin. Also, please take note that soiled/dirty paper cannot be recycled. Dirty paper (especially those stained with food) will contaminate all the paper pulp during recycling.

So, if you haven’t thought about living more sustainably, it is never too late to start. If you are already doing all the necessary steps for living a more sustainable life, then congratulations! Keep up the good work.

 

Beach Clean-up 2017

I like it when people from all walks of life come together for a good cause, and I saw this at the first beach clean-up organised by Guardians of Mother Earth at Bagan Lalang Beach, Sepang. It was really great that friends and total strangers came together, many with whole families in tow. In fact, the organiser, Mei Boh, was surprised by the overwhelming response, because over 60 people came.

Although it rained in the Klang Valley in the early hours of the morning when we set out, we were blessed with great weather – clouds protected us from the strong sunlight typical at beaches, enabling us to collect all the rubbish we could find over 2 hours. We were thankful to Mei Kuan for sponsoring the equipment to help us, such as gloves and thongs, among other things.

We were divided into 5 groups, and each group covered a different section of the beach. Some went to the sandy area exposed at low tide, some pulled out rubbish from between large stones in a rocky area, while some combed the grassy area where people had their picnics and barbecues.

Some volunteers washed dirty plastic plates and other plastic objects before putting them aside in bags specifically reserved for recyclable items. Au Yong from ICycle advised us to put recyclable items in clear plastic bags and unrecyclable rubbish in black plastic bags. So the sorted recyclable items could be recycled later.

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Mohd Faisal Abdur Rani from Let’s Do It Malaysia brought his weighing scale, and he weighed all the rubbish we collected.

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It turned out that we collected 200 kg of trash in 2 hours! We were amazed that the Bagan Lalang Beach had so much rubbish.

After we finished collecting the rubbish, we had a short meditation session led by Susee Ram, followed by sharing sessions and refreshments. The first sharing session was by Au Yong from ICycle, and the second sharing was by Mohd Faisal. Faisal showed us how to make eco bricks.

All in all, it was a fabulous day and we returned home satisfied that we had done something good for the environment to end the year on a positive note.

 

My first volunteer experience with the Nature Guides

In September 2017, I volunteered with the Nature Guides for the first time, helping them to conduct nature walks in the gardens of Carcosa Seri Negara, as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day 2017 celebrations. I wrote an article about my experience, and it was published in the Pencinta Alam November 2017 issue.

Here is the article, as published in the newsletter. Pencinta Alam is the national monthly newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

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Here is the text version for easy reading:

On the Trail as a Nature Guide

Article by Khor Hui Min
Photos by Angeline Siok and Norazmir Mustapha

In all the years I have been a member and volunteer of the Malaysian Nature Society, I had never volunteered to be a nature guide. I had joined various walks conducted by nature guides once in a while, and found it interesting. The wealth of information about nature, beneficial plants and animals the nature guides had was enough to fill volumes of books, I imagined.

At last in September 2017, I finally volunteered myself to assist the nature guides to conduct walks as part of the Jalan Merdeka programme at Carcosa Seri Negara.

I missed the initial briefing for volunteers on 19 August due to other commitments, but reported for duty on 16 September, which was Malaysia Day.

‘Jalan Merdeka – Traversing the routes to Merdeka’ was an exhibition on our country’s journey towards Merdeka from 1896 to 1957, showcasing the historical Carcosa and Seri Negara buildings, which were next to the Lake Gardens, Kuala Lumpur. Jalan Merdeka was organised by the Asian Heritage Museum, and ran from 1 September till 31 October 2017.

Being a nature guide is not easy. There are a lot of plants and trees to recognise and remember, and we have to memorise their special qualities, medicinal uses, as well as other interesting facts, all of which are supposed to be interesting to the visitors joining the walks. After my briefing on 16 September, I could only remember half the plants, to my disappointment.

After some revision, and following on guided tours conducted by seasoned nature guides, with notes in hand, I finally conducted my first tour on 22 September, which was the following weekend. I was finally like, “What the heck. Just do it.”

It went rather well, which was a pleasant surprise for me. The large group of visitors, consisting of a mixed crowd of nature enthusiasts and casual drop-in visitors to the
exhibitions at Carcosa Seri Negara, spread out rather too much somewhere in the middle of the walk, so I had to wait for the people at the back to catch up with the people in front, but the weather was good for a walk, and I thought they rather enjoyed the fresh air and their morning exercise.

There was no prepared script, and we decided whether to share more detailed information or stick to the basics, or even shorten the walk, depending on the interest
shown by the visitors who joined each walk and whether they were in a hurry. Furthermore, I was not naturally good at public speaking, and did not need to speak to
customers at work, so this volunteer opportunity took me out of my comfort zone and forced me to talk (albeit rather loudly) to strangers. Thus, it was an opportunity
for personal growth and development, which was beneficial to me.

By taking the effort to recognise and remember plants, their flowers and fruits, and to memorise interesting information about them, I learnt so much more about our
garden plants over two weekends than I had ever done so in school. All in all, it was a good learning experience for me, I enjoyed spending time with the nature guides,
and I would definitely do it again.

🙂

Photography trip to Kuala Kurau

In early September 2017, I joined a photography trip to Kuala Kurau, Perak organised by the Selangor Branch Photogroup of the Malaysian Nature Society. I then wrote an article about it, and it was published in the October issue of the Pencinta Alam, which was the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society.

Here is the article published in the newsletter:

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Here is the article text in plain HTML format:

Photographing Fishing Villages, Paddy Fields and Wildlife
By Khor Hui Min

The last time I joined a photography trip organised by the MNS Selangor Branch Photogroup was many years ago. We took photos for Dr. Ruth Kiew’s plant book in 2010. At that time, I did not have a DSLR camera yet, and the coordinator Alex Foong was wondering aloud when I was going to get one.

Then, in early 2017, I bumped into Alex Foong in Ikea, of all places. He asked me if I had sent in photos to be considered for the first-ever Photogroup exhibition at WhiteBox, Publika in June 2017. I said that even though I had put it into the Pencinta Alam while editing it, I had forgotten about the deadline. I asked him when the deadline was, and he said the deadline had already passed, but the committee was still looking for more photos to add to the pool for consideration. Please send by tomorrow, he said. So, I went home and looked inside the folders of my hard disk and managed to find a few to submit. Three were selected for the exhibition and the rest was history.

The natural progression of things led me to join a photography trip to Kuala Kurau (8-10 Sept), organised by KK, George and Alex. The trip had about 24 participants, mostly with assorted DSLRs.  Our trip started with a visit to the Taiping Zoo and Lake Gardens.  Although it rained at the zoo, I was lucky enough to get a few good shots of the beautiful animals, before the rain became too heavy. My favourites for the day were the Baby Hippo, Crowned Crane, Flamingos, African Spoonbill, Milky Stork, Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron, Lions, Axis Deer, Bawean Deer and Sambar Deer.

After we all arrived at the meeting point, we proceeded to Kurau Inn Homestay, which was about an hour’s drive from Lake Gardens. It was a lovely place to stay in the middle of a traditional village and surrounded by paddy fields. My room upstairs was spacious and had nice comfortable beds, fans, air-con, as well as a little pantry with electric kettle, mugs, forks and spoons, mini fridge, small dining table and chairs. The common area upstairs was big and airy, and our trip participants would gather for evening chit-chat after dinner there.

The next day, we drove out at 6.15am to set up our tripods for a sunrise photo shoot at the nearby bridge. In fact, we set up on both mornings there, but since it was the rainy season, there was thick cloud cover that blocked most of the sunrise. It was nice on the bridge, and I particularly enjoyed the blue hour before the sunrise. Besides setting up to snap photos of the sunrise, we also busied ourselves taking photos of the fishing village lining the river on both sides of the bridge, the fishing boats and the fish cages floating in the middle of the river.

On the first evening, we went to the seaside to take photos of the sunset. Instead, we took photos of dark thunderstorm clouds rolling in and flashes of lightning. In the waning light of the setting sun, I thought the landscape was really dramatic, accentuated by the strong winds. I loved it.

Other highlights of the trip included snapping photos of smelly salted fish as they dried in the sun along the road, and salted eggs in the Joo Hong Chan salted egg factory.

On the last day, we visited a small cockle processing plant beside a river in Kuala Gula, but since it was Sunday, it was closed. I entertained myself by snapping photos of the docked boats and makeshift jetties, while most of the group had a discussion with the boss of the cockle processing plant.

Last but not least, it would not be a great Photogroup trip without endless varieties of food, to which we owe KK our thanks. We sampled the hawker food of Kuala Kurau for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed delicious pre-ordered seafood dinners beside the river.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and productive photo trip, with great company and wonderful food. I shall look forward to future Photogroup trips.

Soil

Soil is everywhere, beneath your shoes, under your car, hidden under buildings and houses. It is something so ubiquitous that we take it for granted, but without soil, we would have no food and no environment.

An indispensable part of the natural environment, soil is important to plants, animals, rocks, landforms, rivers, etc. and it determines the distribution of plant species and provides a habitat for a wide range of organisms.

We need fertile soil to grow our food, and the food of our livestock. Without fertile soil, we would all be starving.

 
Source of photo: http://www.fao.org/soils-2015/news/news-detail/en/c/317128/

Today, we show gratitude for the soil under our feet, a reminder that we must care for our planet to ensure sustainability in the long term.

Here is a contemporary series of three haikus on the subject of soil:

Of soil and toil 

I

See the fertile lands
Fed by sunlight and water
Shoots growing gently

II

Touch the leaves of plants
Feel the soil in your fingers
From which your food springs

III

Now in this moment
Contemplate the miracle
That is our planet

 

Khor Hui Min
13 July 2017

Read more about soil here.

 

A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

I wrote an article for the July 2017 issue of the Pencinta Alam, the national newsletter of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) on the recent Volunteer Appreciation Day, organised by the Selangor Branch of MNS. The article is published on pages 2 and 3 of the newsletter. Hope you like it. 🙂

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Here is the text for the article in full:

A Time to Celebrate Volunteerism

Article by Khor Hui Min

From 20th to 21th May 2017, I attended the Malaysian Nature Society Selangor Branch’s Volunteer Appreciation Day at Ulu Tupai, Taiping. We stayed at the Ulu Tupai Waterfall Homestay for a night. It was a quaint little cluster of traditional wooden village houses on stilts located right next to a large and pristine waterfall. As a non-profit organisation, and a membership-driven organisation, this is one of the ways MNS (Selangor Branch) shows its appreciation to volunteers annually. For this, I would like to express my appreciation for their effort and thoughtfulness, especially the organising committee.

We spent the afternoon chilling out at the waterfall and getting to know the representatives from the different special interest groups. In the evening, after dinner, we went to the Night Safari at the Taiping Zoo and seemed to have walked for a few hours, following the guide on foot. The last time I visited Taiping Zoo was many years ago, but I always remembered the animals to be beautiful and well fed. Their coats were glossy and they came when our guide called out to them. They were healthy and well taken care of.

After we came back from the zoo, a group of enthusiastic nocturnal members went herping with Steven Wong, the coordinator of the Selangor Branch Herp Group till after midnight.

The next morning, a hike to a waterfall was arranged, and a sizeable group went. Since our chalet was already situated next to a huge waterfall and cascades, I decided to remain there to dunk myself in the waterfall and snap photos of insects.

I have forgotten the year I first stepped into an MNS meeting, but it was a Selangor Branch AGM at Rimbu Ilmu in University Malaya, and Khairul Anuar was elected Chairman of Selangor Branch that year. I attended at the invitation of Saras Kumar, the then Marine SIG coordinator. Since then, I have been an MNS member and volunteer. The first time I picked up a brush to try my hand at facepainting was at Tioman Island Fest 2006. It has been over 10 years. Through the years, my volunteer roles have changed. Faces have changed in the ranks of the volunteers and among the staff of MNS headquarters. However, the spirit of volunteerism and concern for the environment remains ever strong.

MNS events are programmes and outings I look forward to, because it is not only an opportunity to go into the outdoors, but also a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones, while spreading awareness about the importance of the environment among the visitors to the event. I am proud to say that many of my friends are volunteers of MNS, and sometimes I feel that this group of long-term volunteers are like a family of like-minded individuals brought together and bound by the love of nature.

I hope MNS will grow and flourish with the changing times, and still be the oldest and biggest Malaysian-grown environmental NGO many years from now.


 

To see the whole newsletter, click here.

To find out more about the Malaysian Nature Society, click here.

Take Me Back to the Ocean

In my 15th post for the  Blogging A to Z Challenge, I wrote a poem on one of my favourite subjects – the ocean. It was a source of inspiration for me in my earliest poems, around 1997-2000.

O is for Ocean

Take Me Back to the Ocean

Take me back to the ocean
To the womb where Earth’s life sprung
To mingle with fish, turtles and cetaceans
In their home, from near to reaches far-flung

I yearn for the blue ocean
Filled with olden secrets profound
Always transforming; ever in motion
Its cycles are tied to our existence, all round

I dream of the turquoise ocean
The caressing of its waters a comfort
The sound of its rolling waves, a calming potion
Relaxing every fibre of my being without effort

I long for the waves of the ocean
Crashing and foaming on the soft, sandy beaches
Crabs drawn to the ebbing tides without volition
Along with a host of other little creatures

We gain so much from the ocean
Nourishment, subsistence, livelihood
So much it has provided through evolution
An integral part of the world’s neighbourhood

Indomitable, yet fragile, our ocean
So much we have harvested, gained from it
But so much we have exploited, without caution
Every year, every month, every day, every minute

What is to become of our dear, beloved ocean
Its delicate balance wrought from times prehistoric
An empty cesspool devoid of life; is there a solution?
Rein in profit-hungry polluters and educate the public

An original poem by
Khor Hui Min
18 April 2015

Ma'Daerah Beach, Terengganu
Ma’Daerah Beach, Terengganu

Beacon & Field

I just came back from a 10-day trip to Taiwan last Friday, and returned with over 820 photos taken with my trusty Canon 60D. I just love the photos taken with this camera, and the fast shutter speed is just awesome. I’m not into taking ‘selfies’ or ‘wefies’, but opt instead for nature, scenery and macro shots. In the city, I like to dabble in a bit of street photography to showcase the hustle and bustle of metropolitan life. More often than not, my photos remind me not only of the place, time and people, but also evoke some of the feelings from that point in time.

For RonovanWrites Weekly #Haiku #Poetry Prompt Challenge #36, the prompt words were Field and Beacon. I was inspired by springtime in Taiwan and the many beautiful flowers blossoming in profusion to write this week’s haiku. In fact, it stars the famous daffodil. 🙂

Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan

Daffodils

Like beacons in fields
Snowy white with yellow lips
Heralding springtime

A springtime haiku by
Khor Hui Min
22 March 2015

Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan

My favourite daffodil poem from my student days is by William Wordsworth (1770-1850). You can read the poem here. I find it remarkable that the poet could make the scene come alive and the daffodils dance with his prose.

Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan
Photo taken on 13 March 2015 at Yangmingshan National Park, Taiwan