1 June 2021 – Wild Word Sketches update


Exactly a year ago today, I started what I thought was going to be a month-long journey.

For several years, I had enjoyed taking part in the Wildlife Trust’s #30DaysWild initiative in June. And last year, I decided I would mark it by writing a nature poem every day for a month.

I enjoyed it so much, I decided to carry on, with the slightly ambitious target of writing a poem for every day of the year.

I wasn’t quite sure how I’d fare – especially during Winter. But the seasons kept shifting and nature kept inspiring and the poems kept coming, and coming, and coming…

Until yesterday, when I published the 366th one!

I made it!

It was really fun to celebrate this milestone with some nature themed treats, and to marvel at just how much small things can add up to when you keep doing them.

But this experience has been so much more than a goal worked for, or an achievement reached, usually feels like.

I’ve had to be on the lookout for seven ideas a week, so I’ve been engaged in foraging for ideas almost every time I’ve been outside for the last 365 days.

It’s been a kind of immersive writing experience, different to anything else I’ve done. I’ve had to wait – and search – for every new concept at nature’s own unpredictable and unfolding pace, rather than being able to control them on my own agenda from my desk.

This has been healing and fitting in a year of personal recovery from serious illness, and in the global context of lockdown, where so many of us have found comfort in an increased rootedness to our local spaces and wildlife.

Writing these poems has been brilliant for me, and it’s been a huge – and joyful – part of life in our household these last twelve months; a frequent and fantastically varied source of conversation, discovery, wonder and laughter; a shared journey of quest and reward. It’s not just me that’s going to miss it…

It’s taught me so much more about the wildlife around me, as I’ve followed my curiosity to ask those around me who know more lots of questions, check finickity details or research peculiar queries I’ve suddenly needed to answer…. queries like exactly how long exactly does a mayfly live for? And where do daffodils really come from?*

I’m sure I’ll write more nature poems, including a few extra as I edit this collection, and potentially replace a few that I’m less keen on… but I don’t know if I’ll ever get to have quite this same type of writing experience again.

So there’s a poignancy to finishing, however exciting it is to be reaching the editing, illustrating and querying stage, in the hope of publishing the collection as a yearbook of poetry.

Thanks for being on the journey with me, especially those of you who have encouraged me with your feedback and shared your enjoyment of the process and the poems. I’ll make sure to keep you posted as and when I have more news about Wild Word Sketches‘ next steps.

God bless, and keep enjoying all the gifts creation has to offer us – I’m off to think what on earth I should do this June to celebrate #30DaysWild!


Wild Word Sketches update

*Despite myths about a mayfly living for a day, the truth is a bit more complicated. A female mayfly often lives for only five minutes – in which she is mostly reproducing(!) – but a male can live anything up to two days. Daffodils, much more simply, originated in Spain and Portugal.

31 May – Biophilia

There is a great love
few people discuss –
they’re far too caught up
with fickle Eros.
More constant than romance
with beauty that doesn’t fade
but renews itself as life and death
constantly change place.
This is biophilia,
a natural devotion
that draws us to the wild,
stirring and soothing emotion.
It inspires us to connect
with sister water, brother wind
and every other vital, vibrant
familial living thing.
I may not ever get to be
Juliet to a true Romeo,
but this love story with the wild
will always be my own.

31 May - Biophilia

30 May – In an English country garden

To walk around this garden is to walk around the world
as exotic origins, like petals, gently unfold
and betray that the seeming most English of sights
are awash with much more foreign and distant delights.
Lavender, stocks, hollyhocks and sweet sweet peas
come from a range of far-flung regions and countries.
The Middle East, Canary Islands, China and Italy
are where these should variously be found and seen.
When you contemplate the blaze of Rhododendron’s colours,
you might not be quite so surprised to learn and discover
that its blousy blooms belong in Portugal, Turkey and Spain.
But I think you might be shocked when I take time to explain
that daffodils and tulips come from similar areas,
though perhaps less so that camellias are found in Malaysia.
The British-butterfly-blessed Buddleia is actually Chinese
and I beg you must believe me, honestly, please,
that Wisteria grows in climes such as Japan and Korea
while some strains of lily come from Northern Armenia.
Lilac started life in Europe, but in its southern-most parts
and Hyacinth is Bulgarian or Palestinian at heart.
English roses are a mixture of indigenous and not –
but last not least, don’t let it ever be forgot
that Clematis, though its folk name is ‘Traveller’s Joy’,
truly is English, yes it’s absolutely the real McCoy!
It’s not just our population that blends ethnicities,
our soil is bursting with international species –
some gifted, others discovered, still more plundered by ill gains,
but whatever the story, the results are now the same;
English country gardens perhaps need a new name,
something that better reflects their cosmopolitan fame!

30 May - In an English country garden

29 May – A few short hours

What a difference a day makes
to the humble mayfly
who must live its whole life,
then so quickly die
in a few short hours
that we so often while away,
forgetting the sum of some’s years
can finish in less than a day.

I don’t know how time feels
to the humble mayfly
but I do know this swift life
reminds me it flies by,
and not everyone is given
this many precious years,
so I should live them rich
in free-flowing laughter and tears.

28 May – Newborns

I – Nettle nest

Who is this sleeping
in an unlikely nettle nest?
The first-born fawn at Studley
taking a late afternoon rest.

Day care isn’t available
to doting, devoted does,
so they choose a hiding place
nobody else could know.

The mother will soon return
to suckle her tiny bairn,
so let’s creep away quietly
and leave it alone again.

II – Taboo joy

My dog will not approve, but I must say a word
about all the new additions to local cow herds.
He hates it when May comes and they start to appear
in the lower fields – he’s utterly overcome with fear.
But I still must mark the glee of seeing new born calves
frolicking in the fields with their ungainly gangly dance.
One in particular, never seems able to stay still,
running round the field and up and down the hill.
He leaps and cavorts with pure, unfettered joy
that no inclement weather seems able to destroy.
My dog aside, I dare anyone not to feel elation
at the sight of a creature so in love with liberation.

27 May Dusk chorus

Everyone waxes lyrical about dawn chorus strains
but most forget to serenade the dusk’s lesser fame.
No need to get up before the swift rising sun,
just wait till the evening when your day’s work is done;
make yourself a cup of tea and head outside,
find a place to sit and be and simply abide…
You’ll be richly rewarded by a stream of virtuosos
performing polyphony with persistent crescendos.
The whole gorgeous din will sound finely orchestrated,
a symphony of sound surely purposefully created.
And a blackbird will sing with such sweet melody,
you’ll scarcely believe he’s re-enforcing territory.
This is the soirée of the avian woodwind players,
a spacious Evensong service for mindful prayers.

27 May - Dusk chorus

26 May – Under the Flower Moon

Meet me tonight under the Flower Moon
for Spring is ebbing fast and will be gone too soon.
We’ll walk among the bluebells in a silver glow,
blessed by gently illuminated lantern shows.
We’ll talk of time’s swift passage as it sails on past
and try to slow the evening down to make May last.
We’ll console ourselves by shaping plans for later in June –
to walk and talk again under the Strawberry Moon.

25 May – Old haunts

High on Ilkley Moor with no hat and no cares,
feet finding familiar falls on tourist thoroughfares,
I retrace the path patterns that taught me so much,
widening my heart to a broader, wilder love.
This is where I first found home among windswept heather
and lost my breath to freedom in fierce, fabled weather.

I descend to the Wharfe with eager, strong strides,
remembering countless times when I walked beside
its rushing, raw strength and across its stepping stones –
the first time I spotted a kingfisher on my own.
This is where I first breathed wild garlic’s perfume
and marvelled at its carpeting bright stars in bloom.

I steal briefly on to Beanlands, then cross to Middleton Woods,
the queen of bluebell-homes for miles and miles of neighbourhoods.
I lose myself in wandering on wayward, weaving tracks,
enjoying the poignant sensation of this special coming back.
I drive on to Burley to have coffee and cake with old friends,
remembering even when you move, connection to place never ends.

25 May - Old haunts

24 May – Townies

Skirting the fields with low skimming flight
like metal detectors searching for bright;
emitting a strange electronic sound,
lapwings stay close to the treasure-laden ground.

Their calls collide curious car alarms
over rural idylls and quiet lowing farms –
the strangest noise to grace broad blue skies,
belonging but evoking urban high rise.

I stop, look and listen at the fields’ first edge
to spy on their strangeness from behind the Hawthorn hedge.
I can’t help thinking that – a bit like me –
lapwings started off as townies before they found the country.

24 May - Townies

23 May – Secret staircase

High in Low Wood,
in a deep, hidden glade,
is a secret staircase
the little folk must have made.
It ascends a fallen tree
with such even steps
that it has the solid feel
of a planned project.
I imagine a figure climbing
to act the sentinel,
ready, if alerted, to ring
his warning bluebell.
This is bracket fungus,
well used to build these shelves,
a natural lookout ladder
for tiny woodland elves.

22 May – Shh!

Can you keep a secret?
For I’m not sure if I should say
the beautiful truth
I discovered yesterday.

Do be quiet now,
and come very close,
as long as I whisper,
I think it’s safe to disclose…

But shh!
Don’t disturb them
for they’re still so very small,
more like miniature naked mole-rats
than baby birds at all.

So shh!
But there they are –
behind all that ivy,
a trembling of greenfinches
you might just get to see.

But shh!
Please make sure
you tell nobody else.
Protect my little secrets;
keep them to yourself.

21 May – Nine new neighbours

Nine new neighbours have moved in across the street,
and just as I was hoping, seven have four feet!
There are five fantastic Collies with fabulous thick coats
and – the news that absolutely thrills me the most –
two Irish Cobs, with gentle, heavy gait.
I’ve sent a welcome card but I really can’t wait
to get to know them better and move on to stroking terms;
to perhaps become a horse-sitter and take occasional turns
at caring for my new friends when their owners go away…
yes, being their holiday cover would really make my day!

20 May – Weather teller

If you’re in the midst of a Spring dilemma
about whether or not to take out your umbrella,
just look for your little friend, the weather teller.

Wood sorrel is wise and will whisper of rain
as she protects her petals from impending pain
by folding them up when pressure plummets again.

Seek out her soothsaying in woodland or hedgerow
or find a scrap of home turf for her wisdom to grow,
then – just like her – you’ll always be in the know.

If her petals are open, leave your umbrella at home.
But if they’re put away, take one everywhere you roam –
read the signs and stay dry thanks to the weather teller’s code.

19 May – Store-cupboard scents

The garden is stacked with store-cupboard scents
as even though Blackcurrant isn’t fruiting yet,
its leaves give off hints of thick sticky jam
that titillate the taste-buds with breakfast-aping scams
while bluebells broadcast honey on offer in thin air
with a rich, round sweetness from the foliage over there.
I’m heading in, defeated, to make a slice of toast –
and spread it sinfully thick with the flavours I love most.

18 May – Perspective

Strange to think our vast world of such rich, abundant life
is also a tiny rock spinning around a pinprick of light.
When I look up at the stars glittering distant in the sky,
it’s impossible to imagine our sun’s burning ball of fire
is also just a twinkle when viewed from far away;
but this enchantment is real – it’s the perspective of space.
The Earth can feel so big, and the Universe so small –
a distant night time show blinking way above us all.
But our globe is like a pebble or a perfect, polished fossil;
a microscopic jewel amid the swirling colossal.
Hopkins wrote God’s grandeur before we saw Earth from space –
imagine how he’d poeticise now on whole galaxies of grace.

17 May – Alone on Brimham Moor

Alone on Brimham Moor on a wet weekday,
its weird rocks shape shifting out of the grey,
stacking themselves together in impossible ways –
erosion sculpting gritstone as if it were clay.

I walk the winding tracks my feet have grown to love
as the Eagle and Sphynx watch me from above,
silent witnesses to wanderings of countless crowds
dwarfed by their majesty, left collectively wowed.

No wonder the Georgians pronounced these Druid’s stones,
unaware the credit belonged to River alone
as she first carved her path down through the valley below,
creating Nidderdale as her for-millennia-long home.

16 May – Quartering

Left, forward,
back, right,
Barn Owl quarters
the dusking light.
Looming large,
glowing white,
a sister moon
to bright the night.
Scurrying creatures
run and hide,
burrow and dig
to stay alive.
A fierce beauty
silently flies,
I catch my breath
as I catch the sight.
Grace goes hunting,
ready to fight,
the Queen of the Gloaming
is out tonight.

15 May – The lost library

Stitchwort, lungwort,
dog’s mercury and vetch.
Devil’s bit scabious
and Jack by the hedge.
Ivy-leaved toadflax
and cow parsley.
Sneezewort, shepherd’s purse,
snakes head fritillary.
Selfheal, bear leak
and purple loosestrife,
Ragged robin, herb robert,
night-scented catchfly.
A library of folk tales
with half the volumes checked out,
no way left to discover
what all the titles are about.
Wild flowers weave their antiquated
echoes of the past,
their stories lost to the wind
while their strange names last.
Hogwarts and Cackles
are now what come to mind,
endless ingredients
for Shakespeare’s witches to find.

14 May – On the wing

(For Barbara, in loving memory – and anticipation – of Liz Neville.)

On the wing
for everything –
to sing
and bring
them always home.

Constant motion
over land and ocean,
whether sleeping
or keeping
beaks wide open for bugs.

Ever the gypsy.
A rare joy-gift to see
– purposefully adrift –
brave, beautiful Swift;
speed champion of the skies.

14 May - On the wing

13 May – Time weaves spells

Time weaves spells
in Old Spring Wood
where fresh leaves,
established wood
and creeping moss
with memories
of seasons,
and centuries
circling ever round and out.

Monks coppiced here,
in Old Spring Wood;
their calloused hands
coaxing the land
to harvest
that grow again
as I trudge by,
still sensing them here
even while I conjure fresh ideas
to whisper and play
among the trees.

12 May – Airbnb

Next door’s eaves are filling up with the summer crowd
as the Martins move in – whether or not they are allowed.
Thank goodness our neighbours aren’t overly house proud…

Otherwise they might be left ruing the day
that the Martins returned for another stay
and counting down the weeks till they go away.

For the Martins aren’t intent on leaving things as they were found
and you won’t catch them pushing any hoovers around
to clear up all the debris they’ve scattered on the ground.

But they are great company for the Summer months
as they rollercoast the thermals of plentiful warm fronts,
performing daily shows of wild aerial stunts.

And this is surely payment and housekeeping enough –
to entertain us all every day over lunch
as we bask in the beauty of artistry above.

So welcome back Martins, please come every year,
there is so much joy for everyone when you re-appear –
you will always have a warm reception while you are here.

11 May – Tricksy trees

Things are not at all what they seem at this point in May
when chestnuts sport umbrellas and Spruces spruce up the day
with a thousand little brushes poised to clean or paint,
while Hazel covers herself with fresh growth of such restraint
that her tiny new leaves look fit for bonsai trees
as they flutter with infinite delicacy in the afternoon breeze.
No, this is not the time to get out your tree spotting guide
and use its leaf identity charts to accurately decide
the species you are seeing as you examine and compare –
best to wait till Summer’s here and then go from there!

10 May – Cold front cold shoulder

Go away cold front!
You’re not welcome here.
Stop pelting Spring’s bright flowers
with your little rocks of fear.
This is the weather
for April or March –
leave May alone!
Blow away! Quick march!
We’re tired of your hail
and single figure degrees.
Leave us alone now!
Give Spring some peace!
We’re ready for coatless days
and fine firepit nights…
let us have our sunshine –
give up your fight!

9 May – The bluebell manifesto

More than half the world’s bluebells grow in the UK
so don’t ever miss out on enjoying them in May.
Make sure you set aside at least one day
to walk among their fabulous, fragrant array.

You’ll find them growing wild in all our ancient woods
but why not plant their bulbs in every built-up neighbourhood?
Then they can do each citizen the power of good –
transforming the mundane with exquisite Wedgwood.

The world is much improved by well placed petal power,
uplifting the lonely and brightening the dour;
dousing the dull in heady flower showers,
making every minute feel like golden hour.

9 May - Bluebell manifesto

8 May – Forest bathing

I’m putting off any more procrastination
and booking myself onto a woodland vacation
where I can dose up on a free prescription
of health-boosting benefits beyond description.
I’m ready to breathe in my fill of phytoncides
while adrenaline and cortisol quietly subside.
I’ll happily let the green enhance my white blood cells
and relax in all its beauty while my immunity swells.
This is the science of ‘shinrin-yoku’ –
I hope you will explore its wonders too.

7 May – Treasure hunt

Searching for clues
written in spraint,
stealing down to the river
ready to wait…
Deposits on rocks
give it away;
the otters are back
on our stretch again!
This, for me,
is a wild weekend night –
staying up late
to catch a rare sight
of a run and dive
or brief bobbing head;
a rippling splash
already past the next bend.

5 May – The demon in the conservatory

There’s a demon in the conservatory
with two tiny green horns.
I don’t trust him at all
despite his frail, diminutive form.
It won’t be too long now
till his true colours gleam
and hints of his fiery powers
will be unmistakably seen.
They’ll grow in devilish points
all over his strengthening frame –
threatening savage burns,
matching his diabolical name.

4 May – Wisteria hysteria

Wisteria hysteria seizes me every time.
I can’t help acting as if its trailing blooms are mine;
leaning over gates and walls without neighbours’ consent –
desperate for a hit of its heavenly, heady scent.
Its heavy hanging flowers have me utterly enthralled,
there’s a Briar-Rose-enchanted-castle-sense about it all.
Oh, to grow a bower of cascades in my bedroom,
and sleep among their blue rain falls till late each afternoon.
But until I can live out Aurora’s daytime dreams,
I’ll have to keep inhaling this fragrance by illicit means.

3 May – Breakfast in the woods

You bring the blanket,
I’ll bring the tea,
come and have breakfast
in the woods with me.
The light will be dappling
every forest glade,
magicking the morning
with sun-kissed shade.
And the floor will be covered
with a billion bluebells,
their heady fragrance balanced
by petrichor smells.
Let’s catch the final bars
of the bird’s dawn opus
and give their wild melodies
our full, devoted focus.
Let’s hold this perfect hour
for as long as it can last,
and share all our secrets
while the day ambles past.

2 May – The great exchange

I’m searching the skies for the first few swifts,
even as the geese conclude their northward drifts.
Strange to think if I lived in Norway or Sweden
such different birds would herald my Spring season.
Stranger still to think about the whole great exchange
and how so many avian species know how to arrange
their jaw-dropping migrations around our vast planet –
to imagine myself inside the minds of cuckoos or gannets.
Migration is a marvel we are only starting to unravel
as we investigate the routes each different bird travels.
People used to believe swallows hibernated in dirt
before it was discovered just how far they traversed.
And still no one has charted where house martins go –
for now that is a mystery we must keep waiting to know.
We think that many birds can read magnetic forces
and orientate directions from the sun and stars’ courses.
We know some find their way without first being shown,
the route somehow understood before being known.
Millions race back home, hundreds of kilometres a day,
only pausing intermittently for short breaks on the way.
The distances they fly are astounding for their size –
a bi-annual Olympics played out before distracted eyes.
For all that we achieve with our advanced technology,
this great exchange holds an even greater awe for me.
I will never tire of learning about these brave explorers’ routes
and their in-built natural navigator system attributes.

1 May - The great exchange

30 April – Wild West wind

Goldfinches are thrown in from stage right
like rogue bowling shots
and Fuschia’s stripped bones rattle
like skeletons in a tight spot.
All the trees are wildly protesting,
waving at the wind to stop
and counting their lucky stars
they have few leaves right now to drop.
The chaos invades the house now,
tuning the flue into a flute,
piping out eerie low moanings
and mischievously dislodging soot.
It’s a Wild West out there now,
good luck to every life
that doesn’t have the advantage
of squirrelling away inside.
Thank God, I am cosily sheltering
as the rage romps on outside;
when the wind is in this kind of mood,
it’s definitely best to hide.

30 April - Wild West wind

29 April – The gauntlet

Running the rookery gauntlet is not for the faint at heart,
for there’s no going back once you’ve made a start.
The cacophony of cawing is fearful to endure
as you quicken your pace under the clamour to ensure
you are spared from being ambushed with rejected twigs
as they noisily build and throw down sub-par sticks.
And as their population markedly increases,
there’s a horrible chance of meeting flying faeces
as it fires to the ground in thick white bursts
(unless it can land on a human head first).
You’ll need to be brave to walk under their terrain,
or perhaps not brave, more like half deranged!

29 April - The gauntlet

28 April – Hanami

There’s nothing like an avenue of pink cherry trees
or the swirling confetti they surrender to the breeze.
I love their blossom best when it holds to the branch
but change my mind every time their petals avalanche
and turn the dullest street into a whirling flower globe
that carpets the curbs with Spring-tinted snow.
I would like my whole world to just stop and stare;
to make everyone present to every moment they are there.
I wish we, like Japan, practised ‘hanami’
and sat under their blooms in picnic parties.
Perhaps if we did, no one would think it strange
if I threw my arms wide to dance in rose-coloured rain.

28 April - Hanami

27 April – The sound of separation

A cry of separation always cuts to the quick,
more source sound than echo every time,
as if this lost lamb’s distress were really my own,
and it’s mother’s distant desperation, mine.
I am pinioned here, arrested, caught up,
in mourning’s raw call and response,
standing still in the then, the now and the when,
powerless to stop the melody of loss.

26 April – Lonely on the loose

There’s a greylag goose,
lonely on the loose,
who’s clearly not an introvert.
He tried his luck
as a mallard duck
but was excluded from their floating herd.
Next time we pass
he’s moved to the grass,
hoping to join the sheep’s gang.
But the flock’s strict ewes
really don’t approve
and put an end to his little-lamb scam.
Poor greylag goose,
still lonely on the loose,
I hope you find your own kind.
It’s hard being alone
when other species disown
and always choose to leave you behind.

26 April - Lonely on the loose

25 April – Learning the land

It’s amazing just how much you see in a seven mile long stretch
as you ascend to moorland and woods via fields, river and beck.
Here is one single April day’s living, spotting guide,
a gleaming, teeming cornucopia of rich, abundant life.
Sparrows, robins, nuthatches, wrens and a gang of long-tailed tits
play in the river’s trees while I breathe in wild garlic hits.
And ducklings, dippers, goosanders and geese float and squabble along
above hidden shoals that ripple the rush as one rises from the throng.
Celandine and wood anemones carpet the bank with colour
as magnolia-pink leaf buds appear above to restore the canopy’s cover.
A squirrel darts across my path, then is chased by another up high,
just as I see a kite soar by and hear curlew calls pierce the sky.
The blue is busy with action as swallows dance to and fro
while I continue through fields of lambs snoozing and gambling below.
Blackthorn and hawthorn tangle the hedgerows with hazel and bramble too
and tiny scattered stars pepper the green with forget-me-not blue.
Ash, alder, oak, birch, beech – all and more have sheltered my climb,
and I ask myself how on earth can this glorious landscape be mine?
Then I reach the tops and just stop thinking all together
as wild wide vistas of moorland greet me with space and still-black heather.
Even now, I know have seen more than I know how to see,
but I have years to learn the land and name the secrets it shares with me.

24 April – The chase

There’s a picture of me,
aged three or four,
on holiday in the lakes,
and even back then,
in my little blue dress,
I am focused on the chase.
Nothing’s really changed,
I’m the same now,
as I see their fluffy shapes,
I still want to snuggle ducklings,
I would if I could,
I know I’m a disgrace.
They’re tiny and frightened,
I know it’s not right,
but I just can’t help the urge,
so it’s good news for them,
I’m stuck here on the bank,
and our paths can never converge!

23 April – Say it with flowers

If you want to win my heart,
don’t send me exotic blooms;
just pick me a bunch of honesty
before it fades to pale seed moons.
Let its purples promise me truth
over romantic gestures –
I’ve outgrown flowery words,
it’s authenticity that I treasure.

If you want to make a bouquet,
then add forget-me-nots too,
but be sure you mean the message
you’re spelling out in blue.
I’m tired of fools who rush in
before they know they mean what they say,
if you want to woo me now,
candour will be the only way.

22 April – The shrewdest shrew

The shrewdest shrew
I ever knew
chose a South-facing wall
and built his home
between two stones,
tucked away from it all;
in a quiet spot,
hidden and forgot
by all the visiting hordes
where he happily could
eat the staff’s food
as it fell through the picnic table boards.
The shrewdest shrew
I ever knew,
knew his life wasn’t shabby.
He stayed well fed,
owned a sun-kissed bed,
just a short run from Fountains Abbey.

21 April – Live wire

The harvest spider drops,
like a trick in slow motion,
but I have conquered arachnophobia
so there’s no panicked emotion.
Instead I stop to watch
as he begins to re-ascend –
eight double-kneed pincers
climb an invisible sheer thread.
What a feat of balance,
of strength and precision,
to defy thin air
with vertical tight-rope vision.
It’s like a circus side show
right here in my living room,
I hope there’s a matinee scheduled
for tomorrow afternoon.

20 April – Dandelion defence

The alleys are littered with dandelions,
roaring bright out of black tarmac,
turning every forgotten corner
into a little sun trap.
The lawn police call them weeds,
but I will never agree
for their petal-maned lion heads
shine out colour gloriously.
I smile as they pepper the grass
with Spring’s yellow seasoning,
enjoying their splashes as gold,
despite accepted reasoning.
Time is ticking on fast,
Summer will soon turn all to clocks,
so I prize them while they last,
before they ride the wind half forgot.

19 April – Open for business

Marketing campaigns are launching left and right
as each flower brand prepares to sell its wares with bright
colours specially targeted to draw their audience in
so footfall increases and trading can begin.
“Fresh, pure nectar, come and drink your fill,
we’ll do you a deal, you’ll barely notice the bill.
What a good price for liquid so rich and sweet,
all we ask is you transport a little pollen on your feet
to the next store you visit in our boutique chain.
Oh, and do be sure to visit us again.”
Busy bees can’t resist, it’s a bargain, who could?
And nature’s business booms, just as it should.

19 April - Open for business

17 April – April apricity

Apricity, apricity,
what fortunate felicity
to feel your touch on my skin.
Apricity, apricity,
oh, how deliciously,
I sense you as you begin.
Apricity, apricity,
please keep warmly wooing me,
while we wait for Summer to come.
Apricity, apricity,
balanced by a gentle breeze,
silence my words and let me succumb.

16 April – Fickle feelings

I suspect poor April is no more fickle than me,
given I spent January through March repeatedly
longing for the evenings to grow light again
so I could go out walking after work with my friends…
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love restored late afternoons –
it’s just been since the clocks changed that I’ve also changed my tune.
The thing is, after dinner, when I’m winding down for bed,
I’m finding now I’m wishing dark came earlier instead!
If only I could pause the point of dusk dawning just right
to match daylight to my day, and darkness to my night.
But of course, if I held the perfect balance there,
Spring would stop advancing, and I’d complain that wasn’t fair!

16 April - Fickle feelings

15 April – The chiffchaff cheep

”Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
are you having a laugh?

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
I put in hard graft,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
to fly so very far,

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
from southern Africa,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
only to discover,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
it’s neither Spring nor Summer!

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
a land of gales and snow,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
isn’t where I meant to go.

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
what an awful holiday,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
I hope it brightens up in May.

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
why migrate to freezing Britain,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
not the Mediterranean?!

Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
it really isn’t fair,

chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff,
please hear my prayer!”

14 April – Chameleon

April’s putting on her very best show,
swapping sudden showers for full blown snow,
confusing us all with her chameleon weather
that alternates sunshine with thick falling feathers.
No one knows what to wear or whether to make any plans
as April pranks on, knowing she’s got the upper hand.
The flakes she dances down are the fattest I’ve ever seen,
bringing waffles to mind, and rich, fresh cream.
I stand baffled by the window and watch her change and shift,
held captive to the spinning power of sun, drift, sun, snow drift.

13 April – Indecision

The first brave Peacock flickers and flits
before beating his wings in hasty retreat.
Who can judge when hibernation is done
when hail and gales intersperse with sun?
But that first pioneer, though only briefly seen,
promises flutters will follow if I wait out the in-between.
It’s only a few short weeks now till they’ll dance regularly,
alighting on purple spears, and winking their eyes at me.

12 April – Food fight

Down in the park,
there’s a sudden, fierce fight
as a clattering of jackdaws
war to take the first bite.
The sun’s warming strength
summoned the ice cream van,
so the crew has been poised
to see exactly who can
win the prize of a cone
dropped by a careless punter –
(someone completely unaware
of the surrounding ice-cream hunters).
The swiftest swoops down
and claims his choice reward
but quickly discovers
he can certainly not afford
to sit at his leisure
and enjoy his rare-won treat,
for the others all pursue him
and he’s forced into retreat.
From tree to tree he flies
but he can never safely land
with the whole gang on his tail,
it doesn’t work out like he planned.
His initial swaggering victory
grows increasingly bleak,
as he darts to and fro
with a wedged-wide beak.
At last I lose sight of him,
and as the squabble moves on,
I’m left behind still wondering
if the cone will ever be truly won.

11 April – Fearless

The bold young stag
stares right back,
still too young to have learned how to fear.
Meeting us in the wood,
he expects only good,
stays unflustered at having us so near.
He seems undeterred
despite expulsion from the herd,
and wears his half-formed antlers with pride.
It is to my great gain
he so causally remains,
unconcerned with finding somewhere to hide.
His whole life ahead,
he feels no dread,
calmly stands his moss-covered ground.
And I don’t rush away
from a wild deer in the day,
I know too well the rare wonder I have found.

10 April – Daydreaming

Oh, to rest my world-weary head
on a portable thick feathered bed;
to shade my eyes from the sun’s bright glare
while absorbing all the warmth it lends to the air.

Oh, to sleep by the still mill pond
with no real responsibilities beyond
responding to the fickle April weather
with my versatile, iridescent feathers.

Oh, to dabble in the dabbling world –
to take each day just exactly as it unfurls;
to drift and chatter with a flock of friends,
floating in the water with no real end.

Oh, for the life of a simple mallard duck,
living laissez-faire and making my own luck…
As I watch them all sleeping with their heads tucked in,
I’m thinking, ‘’where do I sign up? When can I begin?’’

9 April – Liquid grace

Standing still at Studley,
the lake lulling blue at my feet,
thoughts rippling gently,
emotions lapping a quiet retreat.
When all at once, with a rush,
the whole herd crests the hill,
running as if all one stream,
pouring down the bank-side to fill
the vista with liquid grace
for a thrilling moment or two,
before flowing over the next rise
to the muted roaring of hooves.

8 April – Turf wars

Not everyone plays nice during nesting season –
turf wars abound, and for very good reason…
when territory is scarce, birds can’t afford to play fair,
especially when migrants return, filling the fast-warming air.
The viburnum is thick with sparrows, screaming and sparring it out,
each one making it clear they’re in charge beyond any doubt.
Two blackbirds take it further to swiftly settle the score,
clashing in mid flight with fierce interlocking claws.
Who will win the garden? The stakes are high; both need to win.
Time is fast ticking on, there’s a great pressure to begin
establishing a patch in which to raise this year’s young –
if you cede your zone, you’ve failed before you’ve even begun.
The fight is over quickly and only one male remains
to serenade his lady with rousing romantic refrains
while making it clear to rivals, “this patch is undoubtedly taken”
(in case anyone else dares to attempt an impromptu break in).
The ground is clear now so his mate can gather, build and line,
ready to rear another generation to dominate the skies.

8 April - Turf wars

7 April – In memoriam

By Bewerly’s stretch of river,
on a quiet pebbled bend,
a simple slate heart hangs
to mark a dear friend’s end.
I’m used to reading bench plaques
where parents and spouses used to rest,
but I’ve never seen a dog’s name
remembered where they loved best.
Some would think it sentimental
but I find it fitting and kind
to mark the extraordinary absence
such a companion has left behind.
I think of my own dog beside me
and the scores I see each day
chasing their owners outside,
reminding us how to play.
What endless lessons they teach us
in learning to love the outdoors
as they revel in every scent
and bound along on all fours.
How rich they make our hours
with their effervescent zest,
it’s a curious, cold-hearted mistake
to trivialise the importance of pets.

6 April – Panorama walk

It’s always worth the slog of the upward climb
to reach the point where I can see Great Whernside rise
in the distance before me, with Gouthwaite laid below,
the reservoirs’ cool blue only adding to her glow
as the sun plays gently on her moorland topped hues,
granting the most enchanting of Nidderdale views;
with the promise of the upper dale kissing the broad blue sky,
I am lured to keep on walking till I reach its greatest high.

5 April – The benefactors

Thank you to the neighbours who hang wind chimes in the trees
which serenade my footsteps with every breath of breeze.

Thank you to the gardeners that tend their front plots
but never fully know the fragrant joy they have brought.

Thank you to the farmers with footpaths through their land
which bring me right up close to tiny new born lambs.

Thank you to the wildlife just getting on with living,
completely unaware of the wonder it is bringing.

God bless the local benefactors who fill my daily strolls
with a thousand little gifts to gird my fragile soul.

4 April – Easter season

This is the season of the great resurrection,
echoed a million times over in stunning synchronisation
as myriad sleeping flowers come swiftly back to life
and burst through their buds to paint the world bright.

This is the season of the rising, conquering sun
gaining on the darkness and proving it has won
as light dawns stronger with each passing day,
banishing the lingering sense of ever-present grey.

This is the season of new beginnings on overdrive
as hope overwrites death with the indelible pen of life
and broadcasts loud and lush that at last all will be well,
decking trees with blossom and ringing uncountable bluebells.

3 April – Lamb therapy

The fields are thick with lambs now,
turning every walk into a treat –
you can barely tramp for five minutes
before hearing an excitable bleat.
As I stride across to the gate
three play chicken on the path,
standing stock still and staring,
then sprinting off as I pass.
Further up, in the sunshine,
others decide to nap,
snugging themselves right down
into the wool on mum’s back.
I dare anyone to see them
and not feel a lift in their mood –
a daily dose of cute sightings
does you the power of good!

2 April – Resilience

Brought down low from great heights.
Felled, then left.
Ash to ashes and stump.

But still you persist
with your tiny shoot steps
to recommence your long climb.

Your remaining rings surround you,
mocking with distant memories
of just how far you used to reach.

But still you re-quicken
after losing almost everything,
so surely, I can also try.

I watch over your sprigs,
believing in a tree from twigs,
trusting in slow grown highs.

1 April – The housekeepers

Thank goodness for dunnocks and their diligent ways
making up for blue tits in their destructive phase.
Every piece of garage roof pulled out and thrown down
has been duly tidied up by this garden-proud crowd.
Not for dunnocks, a terrace littered with yellow foam waste,
they keep their beaks down till they’ve cleared up the place.
And for their reward, they earn themselves nest decoration;
it seems, unlike the tits, they’ve approved our insulation!

1 April - The housekeepers

31 March – Mirrored moth

The mirrored moth is still,
caught in a perfect hold,
gown spread feathered-silver wide
in a frozen American Smooth glide
as if the music has stopped.

Soon she will dance again,
spinning all around the room,
flitting, fluttering in constant flight
searching again for mirrorball lights
and a partner who will not fade.

30 March – Dear oak tree

Dear Oak tree,
is this rock for me
to sit at your feet and hear
for a little spell
all the tales you can tell,
having stood here a hundred years?

Dear Oak tree,
oh, to wait and be
while the world rushes by on its way.
I would emulate you,
learn to grow not do –
to slow down and just breathe in the day.

Dear oak tree,
if only you and me
could properly and lengthily converse,
I would grow so wise,
seeing life through your eyes,
studying your lessons, chapter and verse.

30 March - Dear oak tree

29 March – Mistaken identity

Almost every bird species has a clear, distinct look
to identify male from female so they can’t be mistook –
just go and look them up in a spotting guide book.

But robins are the exception that proves this general rule,
making it easy to ensure they have everyone fooled –
which, when you think about it, is really rather cool…

I’ve always felt that comedies of error are far-fetched –
Rosalind couldn’t pass for Ganymede just by changing dress.
But I think a robin theatre cast might actually impress…

You wouldn’t have a clue who was who and what was what,
belief wouldn’t be suspended, more like utterly forgot –
what a shame Robins don’t give Shakespeare more thought!

28 March – Grass portal

Nothing is like the smell of fresh-mown grass,
caught unexpected in the air as you pass,
breaking through the present with a thousand memories
of playing fields and picnics and grassy, bare knees.
Up and down the dale, mowers join birds in chorus
as the weather makes cutting-time decisions for us.
But to get that particular, cut grass high,
it’s still always a case of right place, right time.
Today, I am lucky for the first day this year
and sure enough every Summer yesterday swiftly re-appears.

28 March - Grass portal

27 March – The rennovators

Of course, the blue tits prefer to begin nesting in our garage eaves
rather than taking up residence in the box purchased specially from the RSPB.
But why must they insist on pulling out endless tufts of roof insulation
and scattering it all over the terrace, much to our constant consternation?
They’ve obviously decided their field-foraged lining is far superior to ours
but blatant house decimation for bird-nest creation is taking it a little too far…
Maybe next year, we should fill the nesting box with stacks of rich yellow foam,
then perhaps they’ll throw out all of that and leave our poor garage roof alone!

27 March - The rennovators

26 March – Caught up

I’m on the tops
when the starlings drop
and at last I am in a murmuration.
Totally surrounded.
Utterly dumbfounded;
left bereft of any real explanation
for the rush of thrill
that I half-feel still
at the memory of full-flock storm
twisting and turning,
as they answered my yearning,
to be caught up in their shifting, swirling swarm.

26 March - Caught up

25 March – The golden miles

All at once, every daffodil shoot standing patiently to attention
explodes into flower in a tidal wave of golden synchronisation
like popcorn kernels bursting to treat in rapid fire succession.

Who needs a red carpet when bold bright trumpets line every road –
announcing Spring and promising yellow-bricked travel all the way home?
It feels as if every bloom-decked lane has been decorated for you alone.

Someone told me our daffodil miles are legacies of the Second World War,
when flower crops were pushed aside so vegetables could come to the fore,
that planting daffodil bulbs along verges was like a vast seed bank store…

What a win for the English motorist, that they still line all our highways
like ground-bound bunting strung up in time to mark the Easter holidays,
vivid aisles of glowing petal sunshine that annually amaze.

25 March - The golden miles

24 March – Bon appetit!

Don’t walk by the river hungry
once we reach late March
or you’ll be torturing yourself
as you amble past
spreads of lush wild garlic
filling the air with aromas
of cordon bleu cooking
and rich Italian flavours.

Don’t close your eyes by the river
once we reach late March
if you want to avoid disappointment
when you re-open them at last.
For your nose might have just convinced you
you’re being served moules frites in a bistro
or tucking into tagliatelle aglio
as you dine by the Ponte Vecchio.

23 March – Reawakening

It seems like Honeysuckle comes back to life overnight
as hundreds of green leaf butterflies suddenly alight
then open their wings to shape shift again,
transmorphing into water lilies in a masquerading game.
Her trails interweave with settled Ivy’s evergreens,
shining fresh growth green with an almost glowing gleam.
I greet her reawakening with gently bubbling joy
anticipating the pinks and perfumes she will soon deploy.

22 March – Feed-off

A persistent little bleat
and four gambolling feet
chase their mother down for dinner.
But Ewe moves fast
to scoff enough grass
to avoid feeding making herself thinner.
Thank goodness lamb stops
before Ewe’s tail lifts to drop
yesterday’s feasting in her wake.
But then he gains more speed
and finally meets his need,
drinking deep with a gleeful tail shake.

20 March – Warren watching

Warren watching,
hopping spotting,
I would gladly stay
observing rabbits
and their habits
all the livelong day.
Now I know
they’ll make a show
every morning when I’m out
I play predict
– five, four or six –
how many will be about?
Counting a colony
is an advanced hobby
for they dart, dive and freeze,
then there’s camouflage
to disguise they’re at large –
you won’t see them if they don’t please.
But great rewards
soon afford
when you persist in applied appreciation.
If you don’t slacken off
you’ll discover lagomorphs
offer quite the very best stimulation.

19 March – Hunger games

Just at this point when Spring is gaining the upper hand,
it’s hard for us to even begin to halfway understand
that this turning point that represents so much renewing growth
doesn’t provide everything with this same sense of hope.
For British birds and beasts, this is the great hunger gap
when edible growth is scarce and there’s no more stored up snacks.
Just as we’re fixating on flurrying lambs and blossoming trees,
fierce battles for survival are raging among those in need.
Thank goodness for Mavericks like Ivy supplying fresh March food
when things would otherwise be desperate in most neighbourhoods.
So when you sigh in relief for a ‘making it to Spring’ reason,
spare some seed for those not yet benefitting from the season.

19 March - Hunger games

18 March – War stories

Jackdaws and buzzards clash in the sullen skies,
re-enacting the Battle of Britain with war-charged flight.
Buzzard dives aggressively, spreading his Spitfire wings,
desperate to assert his sovereignty over invading kings.
But Jackdaw is nimble and intent on domination,
mobilising his squadron in intimidating formations.
The struggle is dramatic, enhanced by hostile weather,
blustering and battering every fuselage feather.
But the buzzards triumph in the end, as we knew they would,
try as they might the jackdaws fail to re-write the history books.
War stories haunt collective memory, echoing in refrains –
how long till we look to the clouds and only see birds again?

17 March - War stories

17 March – Why me?

What is it that feels so personal about a surprise attack of hail,
like a well-aimed blow or a dose of anti-fan mail.
It usually falls with such violence, you hardly believe it’s not being thrown
with the one singular purpose of spoiling your plans alone.
Yesterday it pummelled my car on a winding country lane
and the crash of stone on metal drummed an almost deafening strain.
I surrendered and slowed my speed right down to a cautious, creeping crawl
but I could still barely see through its thumping, grumping squall.
I’ve resolved to be kinder to sleet, but I draw the line at hail,
I can find no goodness in it, I have tried to no avail.

16 March – Idiom proposal

English is full of idioms for going the wrong way;
blind alleys and garden paths can both lead you astray.
But as yet no one has immortalised the devious sheep path
which looks so well trod… only to get the last laugh
as you find yourself knee-deep in spongy, marshy heather
at just exactly the point there’s a turn for the worse in the weather.
So next time you find yourself searching for the perfect phrase
to describe being horribly misled in a most frustrating way,
may I propose you refer to the devilish sheep path
to provide a perfectly perilous metaphor on your behalf?

15 March – Blossoming

Viburnum passes the baton
with slow fading grace
as Wild Cherry begins
the local Spring tree race.
My first glimpse is by the roadside
as the car speeds past too fast
to stop and applaud the arrival
of my favourite sight starting at last.
Frothy flowers of pastel
commence candy flossing the trees,
delighting and uniting
with the little girl in me.
Now I’m on constant lookout,
hunting everywhere for blooms,
searching for rich pink avenues,
willing them to open soon.
This is the peak of my year
– and it’s coming, sure as the dawn –
renewal written in petals,
always lovelier than years before.

14 March – Aged wood

Lichen is up to its old tricks I see,
completely covering this slender beech tree –
coating every inch with seeming orange dust,
giving wood the look of metal as it rusts;
tarnishing a trunk that would otherwise seem new,
cheating fresh-faced growth out of greenwood youth.

14 March - Aged wood

13 March – Internal conflict

Brave bullfinch,
do you think
you are beast or Matador?

As you dip your head
do you see red,
enraged by your own colour?

Brave bullfinch
are you on the brink
of challenging your own dear self?

What crossed wires
labelled you, bold flyer,
so confusing your mental health?

I hope you get clear
on your role right here
as you perch on the Alder to reflect.

I think you require
a name that inspires
more clarity and self respect.

13 March - Internal conflict

12 March – Maverick

Ivy launches a new look –
indifferent to seasonal trends;
ignoring the fresh Spring fashions
sported by most of her friends.
She eschews pale green leaf buds,
rejects blushing pink,
disdains cheerful yellow
to boldly do her own thing.
There’s a touch of the goth about her
as she douses herself in black,
living out her own personal Autumn –
trying to bring berries back.
Black is classic and elegant,
it never goes out of style,
Ivy believes herself chicer –
wears a smooth, satisfied smile.

12 March - Maverick

11 March – Coming home

High on Hanging Moor
on a wild Bronte day
when air and cloud merge
into endless biting grey,
breaking through the bleak
comes a pure haunting cry –
the first calling curlews
returning to home skies.
Advancing from the estuaries
to circle still-black heather,
summoning hidden hopes to rise
above the bitter weather.

11 March - Coming home

10 March – Chicken chic

Is it really only me
who looks at chickens and sees
them tottering along in high heels,
as if trying to impress
with extreme forms of dress
to increase their popular appeal?
‘’Look at me,’’ they cluck
as they boldly strut their stuff,
with their heads so haughtily high raised.
‘’Watch me fabulously preen
even while I also glean,
I deserve to be endlessly praised.’’

10 March - Chicken chic

9 March – Rebranding exercise

March seems bent on redressing its flowery reputation,
rebranding itself as a gangster coldly terrorising the nation.
Its touch is fierce and chilly, with ice in its veins,
it may have Spring’s beauty but it’s inherited Winter’s brains.
The truculent child of both, warring within its own self,
the minute it tends to warmth, it regresses to something else.
No one can appease it as it stomps and blusters and blows,
whether it will tire itself into calm, nobody yet knows.
I wish it would get past its tantrums – accept its calendar place,
get on with ushering in growth, take to sunnily smiling with grace.
But it still seems insistent on holding out for redefinition,
asserting its tougher side and seeking Winterly recognition.

9 March - Rebranding exercise

8 March – My naturalist

Everyone needs a guide
and you are always mine,
leading through peaks and dales,
opening town-bound eyes.
Unveiling the overlooked,
naming the newly found,
reframing familiar sights,
quietening for distant sounds.
I speak your language now,
my knowledge is growing tall,
but you keep questing for more,
and I love to follow it all.
I keep walking beside you
as you tend the world to bright,
you keep teaching me joy,
quickening my heart to write.
Together, we forage the wild,
soar with the wonders we find,
thank you for constant adventure,
for never leaving me behind.

8 March - My naturalist

7 March – Sun seekers

The moment it’s out,
we are too –
rushing to feel it’s warmth
for even a moment or two.
The texts ping in all day,
‘isn’t it lovely outside?’,
we’re all part of the frenzy,
caught up in vitamin D highs.
I stand and catch a few rays
every time my tea brews,
feeling justified in my obsession,
knowing this spike will make the news.
The dog turns it into a pilgrimage,
following beams from room to room,
stretching out more like a cat
for most of the afternoon.
But you can’t really blame us,
we’re English after all,
so it’s always a major event
when the sun bothers to call.

7 March - Sun seekers

6 March – Sound bathing

I read about some interesting research the other day
that claimed bird song makes us happier than getting higher pay!
I don’t know how they measured this or what quantities they used
but I can well believe the truth of it, and surely you can too?
Particularly at this time of year, when it’s like a volume dial
is being daily turned up, accompanied all the while
by blooms breaking bud and growing sunshine
that warm memories into promises of better, brighter times.
Everything insides us associates birdsong with Spring
and that intangible sense of hope renewing every living thing.

5 March – Unruly housemates

We love the resident birds who share our home turf space –
so much so we make sure to give all of them names.
But Mavis the blackbird is sinking in our estimations
since she took up her new hobby of veg bed devastation.
She systematically works her way up and down the strawberry bed,
flinging out compost and runners in the hope of being fed
on choice worms and spiders that might be hiding there,
with no thought for our garden plans – it really isn’t fair.
Now her husband Cyril is copying her disruptive tricks,
dislodging the raspberry cane soil with destructive little flicks.
We’ve tried shouting and clapping to inspire some form of repentance
but they seem completely unaffected, so it looks like grudging acceptance
is the only option open to us now they’re committed to this path –
it’s time to quit the intended reform we’re imagining on their behalf.

4 March – Lambing season

The antenatal fields fill
with slow, lumbering ewes,
staggering under their own weight,
lying listlessly while they wait
for their time to finally come.

But across the road in maternity,
there’s energy everywhere
as crazy hour seizes the lambs
and gambling new-born gangs
race their mothers ragged.

This year I sadly can’t visit
Birchfield Farm’s lambing live
but I stop every chance I get
to watch each butting head
and gleefully wiggling tail.

It’s not the same as bottle feeding
and stroking the lambs in the shed
but it’s still a miracle up close,
an uplifting daily dose
of tiny bleats charging the air.

3 March – Hidden below (II)

Inspired by my mental meanderings of a couple of weeks ago,
when I pondered the underwater lives the river hides below,
today, as I walked through Spring Wood, my thoughts turned to the soil
and that other mysterious world I forget, concealed beneath us all.
With every single step I make, I cover more surface ground,
oblivious to all the teeming wonders my senses haven’t found.
In each field of hidden earth I neglect to even consider
bulb shoots searching for light while worms busily slither,
warrens warming sleeping rabbits and moles tunnelling along,
buried seeds secretly germinating, beetles finding a place to belong.
Such a plethora of life lives largely unnoticed by me
as I stride on in ignorance, blind to all I cannot see.

2 March – Celandine time

As I cross the grass,
I almost walk right past
the first glinting celandine.

It’s like a tiny wink,
prompting me to think –
flowers are stepping stones through time.

If I didn’t know the month,
I could learn it by each bunch
now that Spring has started to make waves.

What a better way to measure,
clocking time by new-found treasure
at a gentle, bloom-inspired pace.

1 March – Spring’s switch

Finally, it’s the first of March
and I want to clap my hands.
Spring is officially here
so Winter must be banned.
But this morning’s misty cold
just underlines how wrong I am;
seasons don’t switch like that
in a neat, calendared plan.
Instead they wrestle and tussle
in a back and forth tug of war,
repeatedly alternating
which one features more.
Yesterday I wore no coat
on a beautiful sun-kissed day
when the air was still and fragrant
and February felt like May.
I flung the back door open
and sat on the terrace to read,
but today I’m back huddled inside –
it feels like it was just a dream.
Spring’s colours are surely starting
but Winter has not gone away,
frosting the mornings with white,
overcasting the yellows with grey.
They say March enters like a lion
but then leaves again like a lamb,
so I guess I have to be patient
and keep waiting the best I can.

29 February – An extra day

What would I see on one extra day?
It’s easy for me to imagine
those elusive hours
through rose tinted bowers.
Perhaps I’d capture
the creatures that elude
and the moments
that escape me.

Where would I go with one extra month?
It’s easy for me to chart journeys
that chase the northern lights
on husky-pulled sled rides.
Perhaps I’d experience
that unfulfilled desire
and the plans
that escape me.

What would I do with one extra year?
It’s easy for me to devise projects
and brilliant schemes
that further my dreams.
Perhaps I’d pursue
the paths that intimidate
and the opportunities
that escape me.

How would I live one extra life?
It’s easy for me to picture
being in many diverse places
behind hundreds of different faces.
Perhaps I’d master
some better skills
and learn the lessons
that escape me.

Time is a strange beast isn’t it?
It’s easy for me to admit
I so often want more,
but what on earth for?
Perhaps if I really grasped
the hard-to-hold minutes of now,
so much less
would escape me.

29 February - An extra day

28 February – Smart growth

Long before our smart phones and the internet of things,
flowers were responding to data and the insight it brings.
Biological algorithms were programming swift decisions
that served nature’s needs with pin point precision.
Take the crocuses I walked past yesterday and today,
wide open to clear skies, then closed again to grey.
Not only do they read the signs for when to germinate,
they’re busy calculating when it’s best to pollinate.
When the sun shines and insects are out for a feed,
clever flowers open wide to fulfil their deepest need.
But when it’s wet and quiet, they shut up shop again –
why risk their precious treasure getting washed away by rain?
After all, pollen’s the reason for bothering to bloom at all,
so they wisely protect their assets for when visitors come to call.
Technology is still impressive, we’d be fools to think otherwise,
but there’s smart growth all around us, so let’s open up our eyes.
Often we think of flowers unfurling just once from their buds
but miss their intricate systems that harness the power of bugs,
let alone begin to imagine how the wood wide web works
as trees use mycorrhizal networks to converse without words.
So next time you marvel at computers and all they can achieve,
remember the complex codes hard-wired into growing green.

27 February – Redecorating plans

If I were to decorate my house
exactly as I choose,
I’d paper the walls with skeleton leaves
and carpet the living room
with bluebells wall to wall
and a rich snowdrop swirl,
my style would unashamedly be called
‘whimsical flower girl’.
My bedroom would be an arbour
of blossoming cherry trees
that would scatter me with petals
as I lay fast asleep.
The hall would be thick with lilies,
their scent drifting up the stairs.
Hyacinth and honeysuckle
would sweeten the bathroom’s air.
The banisters would be twisted jasmine,
the kitchen floor lined with ferns,
and everything would flourish at once
rather than taking its turn.
I’d find some space for tea roses,
for both their scent and sight,
and light would break through the foliage,
so I’d live in dappled delight.
I’d also need some lavender,
but I’d be running out of space,
and then I’d just want more
till I needed a bigger place.
I expect I’d reach the point at last
where I’d finally understand,
my extreme home decor spree
wasn’t such a master plan.
For soon they’d be no room for me
but still so much I’d left behind –
so perhaps I’ll just fill a vase or two
and leave the rest of the flowers outside!

27 February - Redecorating plans

26 February – Afternoon hike

There’s an air of great excitement
about Friday’s afternoon hike,
it feels so long since 4pm
belonged to broad daylight.
Of course, we talk too long
by the swing bridge bench
and by the time we head home,
dark has re-commenced.
But it feels so good to reclaim these hours,
to be outside again in the evening,
and besides the dusk has its own rewards
for just as we are leaving,
a kindle of rabbits spark to life
with tails flaring in the gloom
and a white owl flies overhead
like a living, quasi moon.

27 February - Afternoon hike

25 February – A twit twoo who’s who

If you hear a hooting call of “twit-twoo”
it’s not really an owl – it’s actually two.
They’re busy talking – him and her,
back and forth; ask, confer.
Not all owls even make this sound;
when you hear it, it’s Tawnys you’ve found.
Barn Owls prefer to hiss or shriek,
Little Owls yelp, rather than cheep,
Short-eareds have even been known to bark,
Long-eareds whistle to pierce the dark.
And those are all the owls you’ll find
in the British countryside.
So next time you hear a “twit-twoo”
you’ll know what’s what, and who is who!

25 February - A twit twoo who's who

24 February – Spring is advancing

Spring is advancing – en garde! – be prepared,
tiny leaf spears are breaking bud everywhere,
and here in the woods, an army of new blades
is piercing the soil, ready to conquer the glades.
Out in the fields, the first lamb scouts are exploring,
confirming received intelligence that Winter is indeed thawing.
And back on the home front, the news spreads quickly
as every trilling bird fulfils its patriotic duty.
Advance Spring, advance, we welcome your invasion.
You have the will of the people; the heart of the nation!

24 February - Spring is advancing

23 February – Stealth attack

Who threw scores of paint balls
at poor defenceless Hazel,
when she was rooted in the hedgerow,
unable to fight or flee?
And to add insult to injury,
when her limbs were bare,
stripped of any cover
to protect or distract?
Doesn’t she look a sight now
with a hundred splodges,
staining her slender figure
with round yellow welts?

‘’I did it, I did it,’’
pipes up proud Lichen,
when I get close enough to see.
‘’I think she looks quite fine
in experimental haute couture,
and while we’re talking,
would you really deny me
somewhere to grow?
It’s taken me a long time
to achieve this look
so if you don’t appreciate it,
just move on!’’

23 February - Stealth attack 1

22 February – Precocious

It’s still February,
yet here you are,
peaking too soon
like a childhood star.
Didn’t last week’s snow
give you a timely cue?
The calendar isn’t quite ready
for a flower like you.
You’ll never be picked now
for a Mother’s’ Day bouquet
or trumpet triumphant news
in a golden Easter display.
But you do stand out now,
alone there on the verge,
shining ahead of your time,
way ahead of the yellow curve.
You won’t be lost in the crowd now,
no one will focus elsewhere,
you’re a vindicated Narcissus –
briefly fairest of the fair.

22 February - Precocious

21 February – Camera shy

Murphy’s law freshly redefined:
try to capture wild creatures in time
with any kind of focused lens
to remember or share with friends.
Just as you frame the shot,
they’ll fly or dart or flee,
this is a recurring trend
I can completely guarantee.
Today, a plucky sparrowhawk
was happy to let us stand and gawk,
until we tried to take his picture,
when he quickly enforced the “no photo” stricture.

21 February - Camera shy

20 February – Winter’s best

More than crisp fresh snow,
bright white mistletoe,
or any other Winter treat,
there’s one favourite sight,
one utter delight,
that has everything else firmly beat.
The absolute best
is tree silhouettes
reaching across every view
to point out the splendour
of delicious dusk colour –
rich pinks against deepening blue.
For this joy alone,
I refuse to moan
when Winter drags her feet,
for although it’s a trial
when cold stretches for miles,
there is nothing that can compete
with the beauty of trees
stripped back to their seams
– every single finger defined –
as they gently shift
while sky-scenes drift
into glorious sunsets behind.

19 February – House hunting

The market is fierce, the competition high,
house-hunters are fighting over where they will reside.
Forget gazumping, that’s for children and amateurs,
in the nesting game, there are more violent parameters.
The gloves come off to secure the perfect place
when time is tight and you’ve a brood to raise.
Finding the right home is stressful for humans too,
but I’m still relieved we don’t approach it like birds do!

19 February - House hunting

18 February – The first crocus

The first crocus is shy,
keeping her colours closed
and hiding behind the skirts
of a wintered brown fuchsia,
as if to say,
“Nothing to see here;
move on;
look elsewhere”.
She takes after Spring of course,
all reticence and blush,
tip-toing in,
not quite sure yet
of her place in the room…
But the secret’s not safe with me –
I point her out to everyone.
And it’s cover blown,
debutante exposed;
time to be celebrated –
ready or not.

17 February – Hidden below

I wonder, when the dale is covered in snow,
whether they all know about it, down below?
Deep in the river, in that hidden underworld
I forget is even there, as I walk above it all.
And this makes me question, more generally,
who is swimming past, that I cannot see?
Are there swarms of eels racing schools of brown trout?
Which larvae are down there, lurking about?
For all my adventures and lessons in natural history,
underwater life still retains this air of mystery;
for I walk along the river searching surface, ground and sky
but am blind to fish and insects rushing quietly by.

16 February – Nocturnal empathy

We’re desperate for the longer days and the growing greater light –
the shorter nights, the dampened dark, the medicine of bright.
But how do the night watch feel as the shadows ebb away
and their freedom is restricted by brutally advancing day?
Do they live their year in reverse, working towards Winter solstice,
greeting the gathering gloom as a time of peace and solace?
Do they spend the summer season moaning about the light,
counting down the days till there are more hours in the night?
I expect they take some comfort in warmer times at least
and in the bi-product of more sun resulting in better feasts.
But still, I feel I must temper my lengthening day celebrations
in deference to nocturnals and their likely sinking sensations.
And as for those who’ve spent Winter in the joy of hibernation,
well, there must be part of them that feels pure consternation!

15 February – Taking the waters

Welcome to spa country;
where smart towns stand proud,
and refined tastes abound
for those who seek springs
and the finer things.

Welcome to spa gully;
where Robin is bold
and braves icicled cold,
following therapeutic rules
by bathing in freezing plunge pools.

14 February – You wooed me with catkins

You wooed me with catkins when I was young,
when our love was simple and budding-begun;
when we collected piles of soft pussy willows
and I told the school hall how the wind blows.

You drew me deeper to you with the ocean,
where the pull of your tides washed my soul wide open.
You won me completely out on your moors,
as I learnt your wonders like never before.

You always pursue me, wherever I go,
waiting at each window, ever eager to show
river, mountain, desert, whatever you can find
to keep your magnetism mesmerising my mind.

I cherish your wild, unpredictable ways,
the surprises you give me, the times you amaze.
I’ll spend my life exploring your beauty –
protecting you is both my joy and my duty.

I respect your anger, and even your raging,
I grieve with you when you are cracked and shaking.
I long to hold you and calm you again;
to rock you to rest – to ease your pain.

I will love you each day, till death do us part,
and your soil embraces my stilling heart.
I will dream of the day you don’t spoil or fade,
where your life is forever and ever re-made.

14 February - You wooed me with catkins

13 February – Dawning

The day is close to waking up before me now,
and next to my window, on the maple’s bough,
the winged orchestra is warming up again,
harmonising with sunlight’s swelling refrain.
Spring is almost stirring – stretching, yawning;
hear her distant melody – catch her first chords dawning.

12 February – Singing in the rain

While others fall silent,
Mistle Thrush sings on,
filling the wet garden
with his Storm Crow song.
While others wait for sun,
Mistle Thrush persists,
reverberating his notes
through drizzle and mist.
While others hide away,
Mistle Thrush remains,
perching in plain sight
to perform his bold strains.
While others grow downcast,
it will be to my gain,
if, like Mistle Thrush,
I learn to sing through rain.

11 February – Living in hope

I’m living in hope that Red Squirrel’s bright tail
will one day soon be seen in the trees of Nidderdale.
I’ve heard of wild sightings as far south as Redmire,
so surely the population won’t have to get too much higher
before they leap lower still through North Yorkshire’s woods
and arrive safe and sound in our neighbourhoods.
If they reach here, I don’t know how I’ll celebrate
the end of my agonising, life-long wait
to live alongside this elusive, impish mammal,
and have seeing one become absolutely normal.
It would be nothing less than a dream come true,
so come on down red squirrels, I’m rooting for you!

11 February - Living in hope

9 February – Cold cure

Take one steaming cup of tea
and some ornithology
to brighten up your February
with fresh feathered therapy.

Sit by the window’s bright daylight,
cocooned from the cold winds’ bite,
look for each cheering sight
of garden birds as they alight.

Count how many types you see
visiting the viburnum tree –
let your heartbeat skip with glee
as you watch and wait and be.

Then despite the bleak, short days,
you will find your outward gaze
medicates any malaise
until you’re chirpily amazed.

This is the cure for Winter cold,
a remedy known from days of old.
I hope by now, you’re feeling sold,
ready to relax, and do what you’re told!

8 February – The returning

Deep in the earth,
it’s already begun.
Sleeping bulbs are waking –
the aconites have come.
Even when fresh snow falls,
something is now in motion
that can no more be deterred
than the tidal pull of oceans.
In a few short weeks now,
anemones will bloom,
tulips will proudly unfurl –
colour will be here soon.
The flower wave is starting,
each arrival swelling the good,
the quickening is hastening,
bluebells will swiftly fragrance the wood.
And every opening is welcome,
tumbling over itself in yearning
to lay out nature’s best carpet
for the first swallows’ returning.
Yes, the swallows will return my love,
the garden will grow again,
apple blossom is near now,
Spring is just down the lane.

8 February - The returning

7 February – Puddle play

What is it about puddles that strip the years away,
enticing every adult’s inner child out to play?
As long as you’re in your wellies, it’s impossible to resist
their promised splishy-splashy-sploshy mischievous bliss.
Even when murking with lurking silt and slime,
a magnetism draws you to paddle in their grime.
And if you’re the first one to succumb to temptation –
what delicious delight to rain down surprise precipitation!
This is why puddle power strips the years away,
drenching the greyest day with vivid shades of play.

5 February – Snow sculpting

There is a deep, delicious and powerful joy
in turning fresh-fell snow into a sculpting toy;
out in the magic, making more with your hands,
seizing a moment you can’t schedule or pre-plan;
knowing it’s fleeting, as will be your creation
as it shrinks before the sorcery of evaporation.
Forget clay or play dough, it will always pale
next to forming white stuff figures at colossal scale.
Yesterday, I broke tradition, and swiftly crafted a rabbit,
which I think, on reflection, might become a new habit.
I felt a special glee when the ears stood up tall,
and all the twiggy details had me totally enthralled.
If only every afternoon included such fun,
I wouldn’t mind the cold, or miss the absent sun.
If only every work out involved building with snow,
I’d never make excuses, I’d definitely always go.

4 February – My side of it

It wasn’t my fault.
Not even close.
I was just out walking,
minding my own….

When the oak started it,
landing a thick, wet clump
right in my open hood
with a smug, muffled thud.

The attack was freezing cold
and put me in a mild funk,
which lifted when I responded
by aiming straight for its trunk.

Luckily, none of my neighbours
came past and witnessed me
hurling my perfect snowball
at a seemingly passive tree.

They wouldn’t have believed
it wasn’t a pacifist,
but I hope you see my side of it,
or at least get the gist…

If you start a fight,
you must be prepared for blows,
this rule still applies to trees
who are heavy handed with snow.

3 February – Blank canvas

Winter often appears bleak,
as if she can only speak
of bare ground
and barren earth,
stark trees
and short, pale turf.

Winter often appears empty,
a living antithesis of plenty,
with silenced song
and absent tints –
a modernist makeover
after lively chintz.

But Winter is also ideas in waiting –
a blank canvas for endless re-painting.
Remember and picture
whatever you will,
then daffodils dance the verges,
and heather hides the hills.

Winter is a vast, spacious invitation
to re-colour your world with wild imagination.
Collide all the seasons,
smell blossom, taste fruit,
combine every favourite –
there’s no need to choose.

2 February – First responders

Thank God.
They’re here –
rushing to the scene.
Ringing white siren bells,
flashing brilliant green.

Thank God.
There’s hope –
clustering on the ground.
Crowds of first responders,
gather closely round.

Thank God.
There’s growth –
breaking barren earth.
Punching above its weight,
shining for all its worth.

Thank God.
Snow drops
never fail to appear.
Spring’s paramedic pioneers
are finally, healingly here.

1 February – Foraging

Every morning I go foraging,
foraging for fresh finds –
experiences and sightings,
metaphors to unwind.
I search every nook of nature
to plunder its endless feast,
filling my pockets with description,
storing up assonant treats.
One ear is deep in the moment,
the other listens for the page,
letting words sigh out in strings,
trusting they’ll compose and arrange.
Language haunts me outdoors,
the wild speaks on inside;
this is the glorious double life
of idea-foraging delight.

30 January – Let Winter remind

Let Winter remind with shifting ground and stormy songs –
we cannot tame nature. We are not in control.
May the rising, raging rivers that threaten again to flood
cause a warming warning thrumming in our stubborn blood
to attend to the truth, not distract, avoid, ignore;
to allow natural protest signs to come to the fore.
There is a ravaging wildness our damaging further unleashes.
Nature is not always safe, we don’t know what we’re releasing.

We must slow down.
We must use less.
Let Winter remind –
let her violence bless.

29 January – The Dipper’s lament

Sorry to disappoint,
but it’s just me, the humble dipper,
who you see rising and falling,
skimming so close to the river.

Sorry to disappoint,
for I know you’re a veteran wisher,
hoping every low flying bird
is the flashy, sassy kingfisher.

Sorry to disappoint,
but he’s not the colour you see,
it’s just a trick of the light –
he’s actually brown like me.

Sorry to disappoint,
but I’m dapper in my own right,
so feast your eyes on finesse,
stop looking for charlatan bright!

29 January - The Dipper's lament

28 January – Time to shine

When rainfall is high
and sunlight is low,
moisture rich moss
comes into her own.
Where bracken’s died back
and trees are all bare,
suddenly moss makes
you stop stark and stare
by gleaming a green
that at least, initially,
seems like it must be
achieved artificially.
So verdant it shines
with its rich velvet folds
that seamlessly drape
over dry stone walls,
and coat all the trunks
with natural flocking,
clothing the trees
in long, thick stockings.
Moss time is creeping
so who is to know
when this magic-in-the-making
first started to grow?
But now it has quietly
conquered my dale,
lending it landscapes
of old fairy tales.
So when rainfall is high
and sunlight is low,
moisture rich moss
gets her chance to glow.
And I am left asking,
how did I ever dismiss
moss to mundanity
when it can look like this?

27 January – Holly’s fingers

Holly drifts her fingers in the beck,
like I do when I’m in a boat,
feeling the rush of resist
while I safely, gently float.
But it is January not July
and not really wise to linger,
caressing the water’s surface
with naked, exposed fingers.

So Holly’s fingers are icicling
as the beck water freezes fast.
If I was her, there’s just no way
I’d have the resolve to last.
The air alone has chased my hands
deep into my bright red mittens,
I wish poor Holly’s could get warm too,
no matter how prettily they glisten.

26 February – Migration

No one checks their papers
or protests their destination
when pink footed geese
arrive en masse in our nation.
Three hundred and sixty thousand
waltz in for Winter unbanned,
despite emptying out
their entire population from Iceland.
They fly in with free movement
to avoid hostile weather.
and ensure their unfurling futures
are given a chance to feather.
They’ll say it is simpler with birds,
but it bruises and breaks my heart
when people in such desperate need
are not given the same kind of chance.

25 January – Silent moment

Here, the loudest sound is silence,
broken only by a distant stream
that whispers constant chatter
like an undercurrent’s theme.
Even the birds have hushed,
stealing the air of song,
leaving a rare quiet peace
my soul yearns to prolong.
This is a gifted moment,
everything calm and still,
standing, lullingly listening,
half way up Hawkshaw Gill.

24 January – Too cold to snow

Why do English people so often say,
“it’s probably too cold to snow today”?
Is it temporary amnesia that makes them forget
the Arctic and Antarctic are much colder, and yet
still the snow persists there, despite descending degrees;
Of course it does! Snow is right at home in a big freeze.
I think it must be deeply rooted in our ingrained association
of clear, cloudless skies with cold – extrapolated to correlation.
But please can we agree now, once and for all,
it can’t ever get too cold for snow to fall!

24 January - Too cold to snow

23 January – Winter tonic

An old rhyme says you can kiss whenever gorse is in flower,
which means, of course, any day of any month at any hour.
For even when every other colour has long since gone to ground,
Gorse’s sunshine blooms can still be happily sought and found.
Give thanks for her year-round yellow, unsung heroine of plants,
who humbly and hiddenly shines with a constancy that enchants.
Breathe in the scent of Summer whenever you can get a dose –
for I promise Gorse smells of coconuts when you get really close.
Just be careful of all those prickles, protecting her flowers and seeds,
Gorse apologises to no-one, she simply does whatever she needs.

23 January - Winter tonic

22 January – Cloudbow philosophy

proud bow,
almost impossibility,
claiming fame
with no rain
to reduce your visibility.
Breaking the rules,
too cool for school,
having and eating your cake;
please can I borrow
your joy without sorrow
to catch a cost free break?
What do they say?
When it rains,
look for rainbows in the sky.
Cloudbow plays editor,
undoes the metaphor,
leaves you mourning the why.
Oh to have rainbows
without the heart blows,
just pure safety and bliss.
But this it seems
is the stuff of dreams
outside of eternity’s kiss.

21 January – Caught out

It’s unwise trespassing on a snowy day,
unless you want your crime to be given away.
For there on the surface, in crisp firm print
will be the evidence of your footsteps, bold and distinct.

This is how I can deduce a pheasant has been here,
even though its fabled form has long since disappeared.
Its every step and turn documented in relief,
I wonder what it took, the careless, clumsy thief?

21 January - Caught out

20 January – Mole mountain

What Herculean strength caused this eruption through the fallen white
piling up thick brown snow from below, dispersed by burrowing might?
How strange it looks now standing in a wide flawless sea,
a lone dark mud volcano rising incongruously.
Will any other islands be likewise bravely pioneered?
Or has the exhausted founder simply down and disappeared
after discovering extra resistance pressing on him from above,
and concluding it’s not worth the effort, for money or for love?

20 January - Mole mountain

19 January – Snow gulls

Like a second snow fall,
a flock of white wings float,
mimicking murmurations
in a spinning ermine coat.
As below, so above,
mirroring endless pearl,
the gulls glitter and glint
as the sun catches their swirl.
What is all this purity?
white every which way I look,
washing the weary world wonder-full,
like the once upon of a book.

19 January - Snow gulls

18 January – Maple masquerade

Finally the Maple gets its long awaited day
to blossom like a cherry in the prime of May –
a whimsical makeover of fluffy white clouds
that airily weigh down its bare brown boughs.
Dressed in bridal showers until it must thaw
and drop its melting flowers to the garden floor.
So brief, it’s out of season rush of rich bright bloom,
a chance to be another tree that falls away too soon.

18 January - Maple masquerade

17 January – Hyacinth hope

Every year when Christmas is all packed away,
I like to buy a hyacinth to put in its place.
It’s always been brought on to bloom before the season,
a premonition of what’s to come, an early Spring beacon.
I choose one boldly bursting from its purple onion ball
with a thick succulent stem already growing tall.
I watch in delight as the first trumpet is woken,
then drink in the scent as more and more open.
A blaze of bright blue fills the newly bared room,
prefiguring the colouring that paints empty ground anew.
It’s just enough flowering to hold on to in the bleak,
a promise March will be here in a few short weeks.

17 January - Hyacinth hope

16 January – Accidental art

Sometimes it’s hard to believe nature is at work indiscriminately
when the results of her touch show such particular artistry.
Take the rock in a stream eroded into a fast swimming fish shape
or the exquisite way frost traces each detail across the landscape.
It’s as if such marvels have been sculpted deliberately by hand
rather than simply appearing randomly and being totally unplanned.
I’ll never tire of finding these magic eye picture surprises,
artworks hidden deep in the swirl of myriad colours and sizes.

15 January – Bottling glow

I wish I could bottle up pure golden winter glow
for those grey days without compensatory snow.
Then I’d stock up shelves with endless jars of the stuff
so everyone I know and love could access enough
of the hope-giving shine we so desperately crave
to give us the get up and go we need to be brave.
But all I can do is drink this dose deep for myself,
then store up beautiful memories on my own mind’s shelf,
and trust my imagination, when outside is dreary and cold,
to pour them out and flood my thoughts with low light gleaming gold.

15 January - Bottling glow

14 January – Top tup

Isn’t it enough he has the pick of the flock
without also deciding he can sit and lie on top
of the hay trough his harem are trying to eat from?
No, clearly this tup just thinks he is the bomb.
Feminism hasn’t reached the ewes in our dale,
they passively look on and allow their token male
to dominate the field in reward for just being a ram,
assuring he stays King Of The Drove, and Father Of All Lambs!

13 January – Snowflake spotting

Every snowflake
has a unique face,
yet they fall from the sky in crowds.
So easy then to miss
each silent, perfect kiss
as they cover the ground in clouds.

Just so with all of us
when we neglect to fuss
over each one’s wonder and worth,
consigning some to statistics
and others to sheer logistics
as we strive to make our own way on earth.

If only we could slow the flow down,
have time to prevent overwhelm-drown
and see each six-fold symmetrical star,
the world would no longer be the same
for we could hope to learn every name,
and understand all those stories and scars.

But so thick and fast they fall
we don’t really see them at all
as they fly, float, fall, lie or die…
And so we must concede,
life is lived at speed,
even as we bravely continue to try.

12 January – The sound of snow

The sound of snow is a paradox,
so silent it muffles the world
as it falls and dances and drapes –
its beauty to gently unfurl,
but then crunches underfoot
in crisp, compressing crush,
boldly making its presence heard
as we tramp and tread and brush
its weighty loads off branches
in sudden thumping thuds
and listen to its thawing drips
grow to rush the river to floods.
All this then is the sound of snow,
from silence to a repertoire of tones,
weaving symphonies of percussive peace,
counterpointing the world’s very bones.

11 January – The snow worm

Yesterday we found a worm sliding along the snow,
stranded many worm-miles from his earthy home below.
What confused him into pushing up through all that white?
Did the strange lunar surface he discovered give him a fright?
He looked so weird and out of place, like an alien in the Arctic
but perhaps he found leaving his comfort zone helpfully cathartic.
Either way, we cleared some grass and placed him gently down,
hoping he could burrow himself back through the hardened ground.

10 January – White delight

This morning Narnia came to me
in a flurry of waking dreams,
softly softening the ground below;
coating the tree canopy beams.
The whole whirling world a shook snow globe,
spinning magic out of dross and rust,
transforming every prosaic detail
with Winter’s winsome fairy dust.
Every larch dressed as a silver birch
as wind wrapped their trunks in white,
and I smiled at my five year old self
as she clapped her hands in delight.

9 January – Surprice

When I suggested a walk at the reservoirs, I just didn’t think
I was inadvertently luring my friends to a treacherous skating rink.
The water was lapping as normal, but oh my word, the paths
left me seriously concerned on absolutely everyone’s behalf.
Like so much in life and nature, it’s all about your expectations
because at other times, of course, we seek out skating sensations.
But none of us came prepared with any blades or hopes at all
and so we spent most of our walk simply trying not to fall.
Next time we’ll know when the tops look dazzling and splendidly, snowily white,
heading up to the reservoir paths is probably not very bright!

8 January – The Scarhouse stoat

The Scarhouse stoat
was different to most
for he didn’t just scuttle away,
but stopped by the wall
opposite us all
in order to properly survey
such strange creatures
with fearsome features
and multi-coloured fluff at their throats.
It was quite the sighting,
although it was frightening –
what a story to tell other stoats!

7 January – Ice cold clarity

When waterfalls become icicles
and streams shimmer under sheets like shoals,
it’s hard to ignore the wonder in the world
and the majesty of souls.
So breathe in the crisp cutting air my love,
let it clarify and clear,
drink in the remembrance that for all you have lost,
you have everything you need right here.

6 January – Winter coat

I think this silver birch must be rather pleased to see
her trunk wound round and round with rich, thick ivy.
For when it’s so cold and she’s lost all her leaves,
why wouldn’t she fantasise about being evergreen?
How smart to wear a creeping cloak that keeps her warm,
to insulate and decorate her thin, bony form.
How fabulous to be draped and utterly entwined
by forest green that makes her look timelessly fine.
How splendid to enjoy such a dazzling masquerade
while other deciduous trees just mourn how they were made.

5 January – Morning moon

A cloudy pink morning covers the East
but when I approach my western window,
the moon still shimmers her quiet sheen
like a pearl in an ocean dimly aglow.
It’s proper day now, after nine at least,
but the queen of the night still lingers,
clinging to her chance at daytime shine
as if nothing on earth could bring her
to accept her place is in the dark,
which of course is completely right,
for every morning, she is still there,
camouflaged by the sun’s greater light.
It’s a rare treat to see her like this,
a beautiful blushing morning moon,
but even now she’s poignantly pale
and will be lost to me far too soon.

5 January - Morning moon

4 January – Daylight display (II)

The river path is slush now
with brown breaking down the green
but discarded fallen fireworks
have been newly truly gleamed.
Hogweed skeletons spark again
with clusters of snowflake flowers,
reprising their summer displays
and turning back the Winter hours
to August when they first exploded
in glorious detonating white,
and November when we echoed them
with sky-flowers in the night.