25 October – The night drive

Welcome to the thrill
of the night drive,
where little owls rise,
twin-moonlit rabbits dive,
and ghostly sheep appear.
It’s never quite quiet
on the night drive,
where stalwart hedgehogs thrive
and kamikaze bats collide
with the metallic seeker you steer.
So always stay alert
during the night drive,
for this might be the right time
to disbelieve your own eyes
at the creatures that come near.

25 October - The night drive

23 October – Faltering pheasant

Faltering pheasant, this is not the time to dither,
I’ve slammed on the brakes but you must move quicker.
Don’t get confused now, swerving one way then back,
I understand you’re scared but don’t get in a flap.
Head for the hedgerow, wherein lies your salvation,
you’ll get there safely if you stick to one direction.
Faltering pheasant, keep your head together,
don’t be feather-brained, move your actual feathers…
What a surge of relief now you rise above the lane,
but please don’t ever do that to my fragile nerves again.

22 October – Season of mists

The mists have returned to their old thieving ways,
kidnapping the moors, keeping them captive for days.
The tops have been exchanged for a thick damp haze
which shrouds out everything but close, cold greys.
Mists are lauded by romantics for their air of mystery
but their weeping, creeping gloom forces me into retreat.
I flick every switch to flood my world with light,
hoping for bluer skies tomorrow, or even frost’s first bite.
Mischievous murk, please return my upward view,
I want to look to the hills rather than only seeing you.
Lift! Leave! Evaporate! Unhang your encroaching cloud!
Let the sunshine in again. Please. Soon. Somehow.

22 October - Season of mists...

21 October – Apple picking

Standing on tiptoe to reach, twist and pluck
fresh from the tree gives you quite a rush.
Better than posh piles stacked high in supermarket aisles,
one imperfect apple picked yourself is superior by miles.
Feeling the rounded weight in your lucky hand
next to the tree that gave it helps you understand
the worth of what you hold, and the time it took to grow;
a brand new revelation of what you already know.
Surveying your bounty now, you recognise it as treasure,
magnifying the joy of juicy, crunching pleasure.
Visit an orchard if you can, meet different varieties,
their names will entrance you with their possibilities.
The Russet tastes like pear, the Sunset’s sweet as pie,
put Blenheim Oranges in crumbles to serve up Autumn highs.
Gather them all in October before it is too late,
if there’s too many to eat, it’s the perfect excuse to bake!
But don’t forget the wonder of seeing them on the tree,
grasping them one by one, savouring the moment deliciously.

20 October – Neighbourhood hooligans

I didn’t see who did it
but I’m on to their kind,
though they won’t really care
just how much I mind
them covering my wood stain
with their foul graffiti,
spoiling my fresh paint job
so utterly brazenly.
Hours of work invested
to make the wood shed smart,
now they’ve sprayed it with their filth,
have they absolutely no heart?
What’s the point of scrubbing it clean
when I know they will return,
after all, I put it in their space,
when will I ever learn?
How are they supposed to know
what is tree and what is not?
And if they could tell the difference,
why would they give a diddly squat?
So let this be a lesson
to me and to you,
you can call it ‘garden furniture’
but they’ll still name it ‘loo’!

19 October – Murmuration

Starlings suspended in air,
whispering silent conversation,
miming complex charades of shapes
in ebbing, flowing synchronisation.
A shimmering shoal of black
rippling with tides of turning wing,
a seamless fabric floating dance,
an almost mystical thing.
I long to join the swarm,
to warp and weft with feather in flight,
to harness the power of wind
to be in the swell, at one with the might;
to swirl in a soup of bird,
a temporary twister let loose in the clouds,
to help cover the tops and fields
with extraordinarily beautiful shrouds.
But it’s enough to stand below
and drink in the awe-inspiring sensation
of marvelling at the mirages
of a shifting murmuration.

19 October - Murmuration

18 October – Hotel of horrors

I thought the results would be predictable
when I decided to be more hospitable
to creatures exhausted by flying and creeping;
any minibeast looking for a safe place to sleep in.
I established my bug hotel resort with pride,
congratulating myself on protecting those inside;
a five star shelter offering only the best,
a luxury holiday, a first class nest.
(I’d followed the experts’ advice to the letter,
it would be hard to build anything better.)
So imagine my shock when instead of offering rehab,
I found I’d unwittingly created a deadly trap.
What I had designed as retreat accommodation
was commandeered by blue tits seeking feeding stations!
All those sleepy residents, enjoying comfort and style
had been lamentably lured into somewhere horribly hostile.
It just goes to show when you get involved with nature,
you’re not always in control, and that is the danger!

17 October – Stowaway

Way to go!
Ride the flow,
see how far you float.
Perhaps you’ll see
the vast North Sea,
little leaf-fall boat.
What a thrill ride,
surfing wild tides –
sailing made extreme.
But first you need
to balance speed
with staying above stream.
Down the Nidd now,
show the Ouse how,
make it all the way.
Do a number
on the Humber,
conquer the leaf boat race.
Be a winner,
little skimmer,
play the game and thrive.
Stay right on course,
jet ski the force,
just remember, do not dive!

17 October - Stowaway

16 October – Mottled metaphors

Not every Autumn leaf heralds colour and beauty
worthy of serenading in song and poetry.
Some take on more sinister complexions,
inspiring singularly ominous connections.
Hostas are case in point, snakes in the grass,
mottled scaly skin urging you to walk fast
lest they grow into motion and slither after you,
yes, hurry on past hostas, whatever you do.

16 October - Mottled metaphors
Mottled

15 October – Left behind

Why are you still here, October Swallow?
Your swoop is long gone, how can you follow?
Will you try to navigate the currents alone?
When did you discover you were all on your own?
Were you caught sleeping while the others stole away?
Are you pathologically late, or are you just afraid?
Is this your first winter? Have you flown the route before?
Have you any premonition of what is in store?
I see the panic in your flight as you search the empty skies
for any other travellers accidentally left behind.
Two weeks ago I wished all the swallows had remained,
but now I find I’m wishing you were far, far away.
I’m willing you to beat impossible odds triumphantly,
to fly six thousand miles alone, to arrive miraculously.
I don’t know if you can get there, but I’ll hope with all my heart
that you’ll make it to Africa if you’re brave enough to start.

15 October - Left behind

14 October – Golden birch

This silver birch
requests a new valuation,
an upgrade,
a higher price,
a re-estimation.
Yes its trunk is silver
but its leaves are shining gold,
its two-tone
precious metal
is making it feel bold.
This championing fan
thinks it should have its way,
a re-appraisal,
a neo-naming
to commemorate its Autumn blaze.

13 October – Angry AGM

The clamour is circling,
parliament begins
with dissonant debating
in a loud cawing din.
No ‘order!’ caller,
no mask of civility,
every claw is out
in a rook committee.
“Where should we roost?”
“What should we eat?”
“If we can’t agree on anything,
why do we meet?”
Who is in charge?
Nobody knows.
On and on they squawk,
round and round they go.
At least that’s how it seems
from down on the ground,
but perhaps I’m misinterpreting
their murderous sound.
Maybe they are experts
in clear communication,
perhaps they should contribute
to governing the nation!

12 October – Free falling

I will stand under the beech tree
as the west wind blows
and dance among its whirling, twirling gold leaf snow.
I will gaze up at its burnished clouds
that scatter gilded birds
and let myself rest from trying to find the perfect words
to capture, to conjure, to hold the moment tight,
to pin it to paper before it’s lost to time’s wild flight.
I will stand under the beech tree
as the west wind blows
and spin and laugh, rejoicing in its rustling, radiant glow.

11 October – Unidentical twins

Stand off on the path
as brothers choose sides,
face down each other
and fiercely divide.

“Vive la revolution!
I stand for change,
I wear the colours
of a brand new age.”

“I believe the old ways
were built to last,
I stand for prizing
the wisdom of the past.”

Who is going to win
the sycamore civil war?
Deja vu tells me
we’ve been here before.

The new will sway the old
when prevailing winds change,
but red’s season won’t last,
green will come to power again.

The battle will continue,
regimes cycle round,
a final lasting truce
can never be found.

10 October – Crowded out

If you want to walk in Grassington you need to get up with the lark
to be totally sure to guarantee there’ll be enough space to park.
Although it’s not always cars of walkers that fill up every space,
but large gangs of sheep who think they own the whole place.
Good luck finding room if they’ve come out in force,
they’re utterly prepared to stop you seeing Linton Falls.
They don’t believe in Welcome to Yorkshire’s open philosophy,
it’s your departing they are marketing as their top priority!
But if you squeeze in somehow and finally get your break,
at least they won’t block your way to finding tea and cake.

10 October - Crowded out

9 October – Rooting

I have put my roots down here,
but they are new and shallow
next to yours.
Mighty Oak,
how many of my lifetimes
have you lived here
watching settlers walk past,
towering over the bankside path
as it erodes towards you?
I am impressed, yes – with half the world –
by your staggering height,
your broad shoulders
and wide sheltering arms
that seem to carry the sky.
But your roots captivate me most,
exposed by the water to reveal their true power.
Fingers of weaving strength sifting,
moving the earth,
grasping huge boulders,
twisting, turning,
steadying the ground
as much as yourself.
Teach me how to root like you,
to spread my palms wide in this soil,
coil myself back around the real;
and have and hold my belonging
here, on actual ground.

8 October – Sunset elegy

Little, lost, lonely sun,
where has all your lustre gone?
All your shine’s shone out and fallen,
every charred quartz treasure stolen.
Dazzling show reduced to husk,
lights turned off, day made dusk.
Do you remember when your bright head beamed
spotlights of shade across the ground beneath?
Do you mourn all you used to be,
towering tall and blazing free?
Little, lost, lonely sun,
don’t despair, you are not done.
You will rise again – at least a thousand fold –
dawning brand new stars of beautiful, burning gold.

7 October – Secret flower power

I’m only now waking to the secret power
of the completely ignorable ivy flower.
Who could imagine its strange ball ended stems
would prove so irresistible to our buzzing friends?
But its hedgerow wands are swarming with bees and wasps,
sleepily downing pints, then making sudden stark drops.
This is the last chance saloon for dosing up on nectar
before gracefully retiring from public life for winter.
So be careful when you go walking down ivy woven lanes
and you hear the soft humming of gentle refrains;
respect the spell of binding growth that draws each insect in
and marvel at mysterious blooms bewitching flying kin.

6 October – Leaf art

Flames dancing the hillside,
polished stained glass trees,
wild abstract paintings
strewn on pavement’s sheen.
Deep perpetual sunsets
setting on ground and growth,
greenery wearing giant gems
and bold designer clothes.
Bright constellations
of hanging sycamore stars,
fallen red dwarf suns
lying under ruby scars.
All in one small corner
of October’s gallery,
a dazzling show of leaf art
in just one stretch of street.

5 October – Neighbourhood watch

One of the best perks of living in the English countryside
is the more unusual chances for pet care that so often arrive.
Each year, early in October, we chicken-sit next door’s hens,
releasing them, then chasing them back into their pen.
They waddle and squabble like living parodies,
but there’s nothing like warm, fresh-hatched eggs for free.
The house across the road is still up for sale,
I really want our new neighbours to have animals as well.
I saw a girl in jodhpurs looking round positively,
I’m hoping horse-sitting is on the horizon for me!

4 October – Wrapping up

The first day to bite carries a sting from the north
but the dog needs walking, so we must go forth.
Here comes the challenge of British inclement weather,
the wrapping up in endless layers that seems to take forever.
But here comes the joy too of thick woollen clothes,
of unearthing your favourite gloves, and pulling your snood over your nose.
Here comes the cosy, the comfort and the cuddling,
so hug the cold wind close, for without it there’s no huddling.

3 October – Empty skies

I know there are other birds
still painting our broad, bright skies,
but I can’t help seeing emptiness
when the swallows have said their goodbyes.
I know there are other Springs
that will bring them back to me,
but I can’t help feeling bereft
every time they take their leave.
I know there are other people
longing for their arriving,
but I wish I could keep them near
while ensuring Winter thriving.
I know it must be a lure,
visiting multiple nations,
but I wish they’d give up their tours
and consider a nice long staycation.
I know they deserve acclaim
for flying six thousand miles,
but I’d be much more impressed
if they’d just not go, once in a while.
I know they need African sun
to warm their artistic wings,
but still, I lament their loss
as Autumn’s most painful thing.

3 October - Empty skies

2 October – An unlikely club

It’s customary to see clubs of birds perching on a telegraph wire,
but not ones including a predator among objects of its own desire.
That’s why we didn’t so much look, as openly stand and gawk
when a charm of goldfinches sat comfortably – next to a sparrowhawk!
What on earth possessed them all to court danger so brazenly;
to nestle next to a creature who would regard them as its tea?
I know there’s strength in numbers, but did they do it for a dare;
goading each other on to seek thrills by precariously staying there?
Hearts in mouths, we watched them, waiting for one to call chicken and flee,
but they all remained there resolute, standing their ground recklessly.
Thankfully they did react when their neighbour took ominous flight,
bouncing away delightedly without suffering a single bite!

1 October – The light seekers

Did you ever see the wonder of light painting plants before your eyes,
like an escapee science experiment in the laboratory of the wild?
In primary school we shut beans in the dark to see what they would do,
and were amazed to watch the staggering heights to which they desperately grew
to find the light they needed to transform white into thriving green,
to look again like the healthy shoots we’d previously always seen.
This year, inspired by the neighbours, I bought Autumn crocus bulbs,
and we’re watching the sun paint them purple as their light-seeking petals unfold.
Tucked away in their paper bag, they had already started to flower,
but were pure delicate white before feeling the sun’s magic pen power.
Now I’m reminded of this colour play, I look for it all around
and find creeping veins pumping green into shrubs on shaded ground.
But I have to rest my brain after thinking so hard about the biology
that conjures such incredible shifts with a touch of illuminosity.

30 September – The gall of it

Which wasp larvae have had the gall
to irritate this wild rose into growing a ball
of frantic, frenetic feathered growth? –
a beautiful, living, practical joke.
For the last laugh is on any bush or tree
whose defence can be used symbiotically
to create such a perfect nesting place
for a new swarm’s cosy nursery space.

29 September – Autumn devotee

If I could, I’d spend all of Autumn’s precious days
chasing the changing up the country’s motorways.
I’d drink deep colour all the way from coast to coast,
moving on before it faded to brown so I could boast
the biggest dose of blazing leaves one person ever saw,
a greater drenching in acorn rain than anyone had before.
I would gather vast bouquets of perfect poppy heads
and make giant installations of all the beautiful living dead.
I would feast on fruit from every corner of the isle
and stir great batches of sticky jam all the while.
I would absorb the abundance, immersed in every vivid sensation
till there was no time left for that feeling of consternation
that creeps and persists as the grey also builds,
and paints a counterpoint of gloom to all that glorious gild.
This is how I’d choose to celebrate all that Autumn has to give
and rise above the dampening bleak to truly, fully live.

28 September – House guest

A butterfly in the house is a strangely magical thing,
like a fairy painting over ordinary with whimsical wings.
All that fluttering motion against the stasis of four walls
whispers to the freedom deep within that eagerly calls
back to childhood, to wonder, and to lingering play,
to chasing fleeting colours on bright Summers’ days.
I seek to guide them out, though their leaving is loss,
but today’s snoozy Tortoiseshell won’t accept me as boss.
It’s determined to move in for winter’s full duration,
folding up its wings to suspend in hibernation.
We’ve coaxed it from the stairs and the shelves in the hall
but it won’t budge from the conservatory roof at all.
No matter, now it’s safe, it’s very welcome to stay
where the heating can’t confuse it that it might be May.
It’s a very special guest I’m delighted we can keep –
a still-winged sprite taking an enchanted beauty sleep.

27 September – Out of season

Raspberries and crocuses growing in September
cause Autumn to pause, and us to remember
Spring and Summer as if they were still here
with lost colours, tastes and warmth suddenly brought back near.
This is the gorgeous, irresistible reason
for growing varieties that feel out of season.
For what could be more fun than time travel plants
that whisk you back and forth as the year departs?

26 September – Downpipe drama

The downpipe was emanating a strange fluttering sound,
so we gingerly took it apart to see what would be found.
We expected a butterfly who’d somehow lost its way
rather than a coal tit turned miner, tunnelling for the day.
What possessed it to dive down our gutter’s water slide,
it was, of course, utterly unable to confide.
We set it, bedraggled and dazed, to dry out in the sun
and trust it fully recovered, for later it was gone.
The very next Thursday, while drinking our morning tea,
what should we chance to look out the window and see
but a coal tit perched on the buddleia in the pouring rain…
I’m hoping, if it’s the same one, it won’t get drenched again!

26 September - Downpipe drama

25 September – Daylight robbery

The first leaves to fly
are pilfered not fallen,
as a moody Friday wind
gustily breaks their fragile hold
and seizes them for itself.
Tossed up as well as down,
they flicker and wheel
like drunken sailor butterflies
at the mercy of contradicting currents
overwhelming their tiny wings.
I witness the crime,
caught in a snow globe
of stolen tree confetti
while the gasping, grasping gale
thieves my breath too,
and blows it who knows where.

24 September – The tiptoe tree

Down where the river swells wide
and greedily licks the bank
in premonition and echo of flood,
a brave alder stands resolute tall.
A persistent survivor
of constant colonising land grabs,
it clings to its diminishing earth,
rising on tiptoe to straddle the fleeing ground
and remain balanced,
poised and elegant above the fray.
I think of a ballerina’s strength
ascending en pointe,
and applaud the beautiful struggle
of the alder’s stoic dance.

23 September – Uninvited sun

I wonder which bird it was that dropped their tea
in the terracotta pot under the viburnum tree?
For we certainly didn’t plant a sunflower seed,
and although of course I wouldn’t say it was a weed,
one is flowering uninvited all the same.
But as drizzle sets in, and our remaining blooms fade,
it’s fabulous to find a brand new sun displayed,
so we welcome it gladly though it shines out of place,
a beautiful surprise; an unexpected grace.

22 September – Woodland tricks

There’s something about woodland
that weaves tall tales from thin air,
then embroiders them
with thick undergrowth and dappled shade.
Life and story blur and meld
into something both and neither
as the impossible trespasses into truth.
Here, everything is close to being something else,
shifting shape or casting shadow
to wear imagination’s form as its own.
Today, there’s a fallen branch
emerging from the leaf mulch
with a face so suggestive of snake
that I hurry past its slithering
before it can follow me home.

21 September – River tree

Low light polishes the river to mirror shine,
projecting flying ripples on to the overhang
to dance along its branches like water flames
licking the wood with dappling burn,
until it becomes a web of suspended tributaries
rather than a solid, rooted, growing mass.
I stop to enter the illusion,
embrace still set elevated to cinematic motion
as light pulls its playful tricks
and quasi-consumes the river tree
with liquid luminescence.

20 September – Landing strip

We didn’t know we were on a flight path,
circling the reservoir at Thruscross
and chatting away the afternoon.
Our attention was on the water,
where four Canada geese swam straight lines,
transferring from the air their flair for formation
to float in ordered elegance below.
Then suddenly,
flying low over the sharp rise of the moor,
a whole skein descend in sequence
with jet skiing finesse
while we look up in awe as if at a festival
where the Red Arrows are performing a stunt.
I marvel at how close they come,
their undercarriages shining bright white,
as they dip just over our heads
and alight with perfect precision
on their glistening, rippling landing strip.

20 September - Landing strip

19 September – Surprise trekkers

Some weekends when walking up Nidderdale’s gravel tracks,
you see surprising characters out trekking in little packs.
They’re singularly uninhibited and often directly stare,
as if it were you that was a novelty to discover tramping there.
Sometimes they stop to snack on unsuspecting wayside trees,
eating with their mouths wide open despite being in company.
If they do decide to smile at you, it’s a very toothy display
but it brightens up the morning to meet llamas on your way!

18 September – Ghost flowers

Departed but not gone,
ghost flowers linger on,
echoing blooming tall
despite the fade and fall
of colour, petal and seed.
This is an Autumn tragedy,
glory reduced to parody,
as brown stems still stand proud,
bereft of rainbows shining loud,
all their lustre lost to the wind.
But still I remember their names,
see them and greet them the same,
for even when shrivelled and dry,
they proclaim their histories gone by
and promise resurrection return.

18 September - Ghost flowers 1

16 September – Elusive neighbours

If you want to see wild deer
leaping the walls, bounding the fields,
you need to be up when it’s still dark
and chase the seclusion sunrise yields.
You can’t control their sightings,
can’t predict when they might appear,
but early in the morning
is when I’ve always found them here.
Watchful gazes fix on you,
then white bobtails glide their retreat,
caught in magical gladed moments,
disappearing in rustles of leaves.

15 September – True colours

Everywhere around us, with new shades appearing each day,
the trees are gradually revealing their true colours again.
I used to believe Autumn’s turning was all about decay
until I learned the dying green is really being drawn away.
How strange these pigments flaming new were really always here,
covered by chlorophyll’s mastery till they all but disappeared.
It’s only when strength retreats that hidden hues can shine,
weakness revealing burning beauty, fragile but sublime.

15 September - True colours

14 September – Picnic crashers

In my defence, the wind started it –
stealing a piece of popcorn
out of my unsuspecting hand
and hurling it onto the path.
An explosive act
detonating a debris of gulls
as eye after eye sizes up
our bench as the main chance.
A black headed battalion lines up,
swaggering and cawing
like a gang of drunken louts
lowering the tone of the park.
I am led astray,
courting their absurd strutting
by scattering more provocation
to keep them keen and close.
My cackles grow louder than theirs,
and that and the swooping flapping
leads you to plead for mercy
to finish your sandwich in peace.
But I am hooked on hilarity
and continue my mischief
all the way through lunch,
much to the delight of our uninvited guests.

13 September – Chasing rainbows

All is murk, mizzle and gust
but glinting among the drear rain dust,
a perfect arc of colour suspends.
And though it’s a bleary morning,
I feel tinted promise dawning,
long to pass under it into more.
But as I advance it retreats
then swiftly dissolves and depletes,
leaving only dampened desire behind.
Then just as I fear all is rain,
stripes of light re-appear again
just a little way on, up the valley.
I would rather chase rainbows all day
than accept the world as painted grey,
so I walk on to the next arching hope.

12 September – Miracle aviator

It is common to praise the ariel displays
of swallows, kestrels and kites
as they paint the sky in beauty
with their dances, hovers and glides.
But today my sights are lower,
much closer to the ground,
where the weightier wood pigeon
is so often to be found.
Here is a true miracle of fantastic feathered flight
as frantic wings whistle and flap with all their might.
Somehow the pigeon is conquering the air,
even though the odds seem staggeringly unfair.
The din overhead carries hints of impending dread,
it always seems each one might just crash land instead!
The effort it takes just to clear the garden gate
suggests they were designed for a walking fate,
yet with ideas wildly above their station,
they’re trying their best at amateur aviation.
But watch them when they’re distant and high,
using momentum’s speed to fall,
and you’ll realise extreme descent
is their true airborne call.
Seeing them soundlessly ride
the downward current’s flow,
suddenly they look born to fly,
elegant and graceful from far below.

12 September - Miracle aviator

11 September – Saltburn

The schools are back,
leaving beauty spots free
so we drive to the coast
for seaside therapy.
Black sand marbles golden
in abstract, flowing shapes
and the currents within me shift
with the push and pull of the waves.
A sand piper plays for laughs,
scuttling absurd little shows
while I delight to reunite
the beach with my shoe-freed toes.
The gulls cry a perfect soundtrack
as I breathe deep salty bliss,
feeling my inner oceans calm
while sea and shore gently kiss.

10 September – In my hand

In my hand I hold a maybe future tree,
a perhaps full forest of oaken possibility.
All contained in the potential of a tiny acorn,
dappled dreams and towering shade waiting to be born.
This one is alone among thousands of fragmented shards
that the leaping woodland warriors saw fit to discard,
having eaten their fill and scurried on to find more,
reducing rooting prospects on the earthen floor.
I gently drop my green survivor back, and hope it will one day grow
to wave tomorrow’s broad branches over me as I return to walk below.

9 September – Seed magic

In the season of seed it seems right to write a verse
on the five magic ways seeds use to disperse…
the first way they scatter is through gravity’s pull,
the second is through birds and critters eating till full.
The most dramatic way is when they explode by force,
but drifting on the wind also works well of course.
Lastly some use water and it’s transporting flow:
and that, my friend, is the five ways they go.

8 September – Peaking too soon

If I were a goosander
living the river dream,
I would fly to beat the current
then land and drift downstream.
But I’d never be as happy
as in my younger days
when I’d snoozily drifted
safe above the babbling waves,
nestled on my mother’s back
gliding great distance effortlessly,
experiencing the high life
with no work required from me.
I think after that beginning
even flying might seem a chore,
while doing my own swimming
would be a total bore!

7 September – Autumn art

Whenever the waysides fill with seed heads and teasels,
I half expect to come across paint pots and easels,
so strong is their connection to lessons in art
and a succession of teachers trying to impart
the beautiful way they display texture and shape,
the perfect still life subjects their arrangements make.
The hours went slow trying to echo them on paper,
and I spent most of the time talking to my neighbour.
I still can’t capture Autumn’s emblems in charcoaled lines
but I have learned to recognise them as treasured finds.
I bring them indoors and group their stems in jars with flair,
enjoying their finery now, and remembering then and there.

6 September – Evening fly-by

Disturbing the peace,
at first they’re heard not seen,
like the dissonant honking
of competing car horns
caught in angry confrontation
somewhere in the next village.
And then they fall quiet overhead,
their swift soaring image
conflicting with their previous sound,
a graceful ticking yes in the sky,
flying in perfect formation
as if unity and close co-ordination
were the only things on their minds.
The perfect team, using the air
and its slip streams to common purpose,
they sweep on in silent, consistent shape.
But once out of sight, synchronised motion
is replaced again by cacophonous commotion,
and I can’t help thinking, despite every analogy,
that the goose at the back is protesting the route.

6 September – Evening fly-by

5 September – Early morning stop out

It’s way too light in the early morning
to expect to find a bat gently snoring,
but sure enough from the edge of the green pot,
one is hanging fast asleep as if it forgot
to follow its colony to more private climes,
where all is shadowed and safe from daylight shine.
We get close enough to marvel at tiny feet holding firm
with so much more weight hanging down under them.
We wonder if our bat will sleep till night’s cover returns
but it wakes, stretches, scratches and quickly learns
that it isn’t quite where it would like to nap all day,
so it takes off during breakfast, and flies fast away.

4 September – Friday foraging

We find a delicious recipe for hedgerow cake,
which we cannot resist trying to make.
So we climb the hills and scour the wayside for brambles,
getting stung, scratched and temporarily entangled
with the bushes that bear the confection we need
to make the wild concoction we long to eat.
And even though my hands are scarred and raw,
tinged with purple that wasn’t there before,
it was worth all the effort and the prickling thorns
to slowly forage for a beautiful black store,
and to enjoy the slowing, calming sensation
of picking the ingredients for a new creation.
We return laden with piles of juicy loot,
mix the sweet batter, then add our fruit,
and when it’s all baked, iced and served
it feels so satisfyingly well deserved…
but shhh, we picked enough to make more
with nothing like the work it took before.
And I suspect I’ll still enjoy the next one immensely,
even without picking one single blackberry!

4 September - Friday foraging

3 September – Second new year

The first mornings of September feel just like that,
with clear blue skies, low golden light,
and crisp air that smells of fresh beginnings,
carrying with it the always remembered expectation
of brand new exercise books and shiny, sharpened pencils.
The dew is so heavy it glimmers like frost
and even though it’s decades since my terms began,
I still feel I must be back to school soon.
Focus and purpose pervade the day,
the chilling air forcing a final goodbye to summer,
and a growing acceptance that as the students return,
so the swallows must leave again too.

2 September – First Discovery

The first Discovery was crisp and sweet,
a tangy, tasty orchard-plucked treat.
I eye the rest of the pile with tingling tongue,
apple month has only just begun.
Fruit bowl, fridge, cupboard and table
we’ll find as much space as we’re able
to fill with stocks of ripened fare
to feast on, freeze, stew and share.
But for now, even in this first crunch’s savour,
it’s all here distilled – pure September flavour.

1 September – Lighting the fire

I’m still watching for the green to turn,
but warm Autumn colours already burn
in the shimmering flames of the first fire
to cosy the house since last winter.
Outside the blaze hasn’t reached the woods
and there’s no golden glamour to compensate
for the gusting cold and greying skies
that steal sunshine memories as summer dies.
But here inside, all is promise and premonition,
as wild dancing colour draws us in and on
to picture titian trees and hear crunching leaves,
anticipating frosts and firework bursts
by blazing bonfires, holding mulled wine in thick-gloved hands.
So much of the coming season is felt now,
prefigured in this first amber shining,
as we sit in the living room glow and wait
for the world to bronze beyond the grate.

31 August – Wild wood wander

Old Spring Wood seemed quiet,
still and empty of all life
but the trees
and me
walking under them
in peace.
No bird song or greetings
from people or dogs,
just the trees
and me
walking under them
at ease.
When suddenly, like electricity vibrating in the air
I’m surrounded by loud thrumming all around, everywhere.
The source? Invisible though I look in every direction.
The result? An incomparably unnerving sensation.
If I didn’t know better I’d suspect some kind of haunting,
but the reality is actually almost as daunting.
There must be thousands of them above me, wasps or bees,
hidden swarms gathering en masse in the canopy of trees.
I speed up my pace, feeling considerably on edge
till I’m out through the gate and past the boundary hedge.
Pleased to be back on to safer, silent ground,
I walk on in relief, trying to process what I found.
But the next time I return
to brave Old Spring Wood,
all is calm and tranquil,
sounding vacant as it should.

30 August – Nasturtium nursery

Four cabbage white babies crawl in a line,
eating the mattress on which they also lie,
while another in its adult shape flutters near to me
and I hope to myself that they don’t completely eat
the lily pads and flowers I was counting on for lunch,
after all, they’re not the only ones who like to munch
on peppery salad leaves and bright orange blooms,
so I hope they move on from my nasturtiums soon!

28 August – Turning seasons

The leaves are still green
but the signs are everywhere,
from the crisping air of morning
to countless seeds in the dog’s hair!
Summer’s handing over,
ticking off her final tasks,
while Autumn is impatient
to begin making his mark.
The lights will change soon
to sheen the world amber red,
the gorgeous green of summer
retiring to her bed.
But the wheel keeps turning
and what is lost will be found
as the seasons shift and shimmer
and the last comes back around.

28 August - Turning seasons

27 August – Drying out

Wings too wet and heavy to flit away,
a peacock butterfly spends half the day
sunbathing its splendour on the garage wall
until it’s confident it will flutter, not fall.
Then with a flourish it rises high
dry enough to fly enough to reach the sky.
I miss it gently fanning its beautiful wings
but receive a new gift when the song thrush sings.

27 August - Drying out

26 August – Chasing purple

The news is in, the heather’s out
so we drive to the tops to see
the fresh made purple hill-waves
of the deep, wide moorland sea.
Vast expanses painted in flower
stretch blooms to the edge of sight,
entrancing even those familiar
with this annual summer delight.
I try to hold it in memory,
dales dyed their best for the country shows,
but can’t recapture top of the world splendour
once I’m back in the valley below.
I wish it would last forever
but then it wouldn’t be the same,
I couldn’t chase its beauty
in a yearly fleeting game.
So I’ll just cherish this moment,
breathe deep the brief lilac haze,
and console myself when it goes over,
it will return again to re-amaze.

25 August – Butterfly dream

I’m sure, like me, you’ve had those days when you wish you could be,
someone or something else different from yourself entirely:
to fly and soar on the wind as a bird free and high,
to be your carefree dog as he sleeps by the fireside.
But I must confess to feeling more than a little surprised
by the metamorphosis-seeking Cabbage White that I spied
clinging with wings closed green to a tall vegetable stem,
as if what it perceived to be the envy of all men
was becoming a corn on the cob!
For twenty four hours it paused there quite still,
but all the wishing in the world could not fulfil
its desire to experience another’s life for a day,
so it gave up, ascended, and fluttered away.

24 August – Passed over

It must be hard to be a mint’s flower, constantly overlooked
when its leaves are eagerly sought out and celebrated in recipe books.
For centuries the herb’s been picked to soothe, freshen and flavour,
while its blossom has remained passed over and out of favour.
It’s hard when no one appreciates just how prettily you bloom,
even if they’re always thankful for their infinite uses for you!
So when you sauce your lamb, brush your teeth or drink mint tea,
remember the beautiful petals that ensured there was more seed.

23 August – After the rain

After the rain,
the ground is soaked
with rose confetti
and fallen fuchsia bells.
Heavy rudbeckia heads
half collapse themselves down
like folded umbrellas,
still dripping wet.
And the garden
smells of spice
as moisture polishes
the curry leaves
to sing their flavour
through the air
so deliciously
you can almost taste it,
after the rain.

22 August – Biscuit blooms

I saw the strangest bush when walking along the track,
its blooms looking for all the world like an opened pack
of those retro snowball biscuits that came in pink and white,
transporting me back to Eighties childhood treat delights.
I ask myself what other deja vu flowers I might find? –
midget gems and party rings dancing through my mind…

21 August – Friday night film set

The evenings are chillier now,
dusk creeping into night
in front of us
long before it’s time for bed,
so we retreat to the sofa
to watch whodunnits
on the TV
rather than sitting outside instead.
I am gripped by the murder plot
but just as hooked on
a second screen –
the window to outside’s darkening activity
where, drawn to the light
of flickering flames
from our candles,
two darting bats weave their own mystery.
The house in the film is turreted
and there is an unusual
blending of worlds,
as if the garden here is becoming there,
and the night winged creatures
painting black on midnight blue
so close to us
might actually be an imagined, storied pair.

20 August – Honeysuckle hope

This is the first year I’ve looked around carefully enough to see,
after honeysuckle finishes flowering come bursts of bright rubies.
Fragrance fades, petals fall, but shining in their stead,
clusters of radiant berries adorn it with new found brilliant red.
It’s a simple, obvious picture, but no less hopeful, profound and true,
when what you’re known for fades, unexpected fruit still comes from you.
So trust in the turning season, trust even as blooms spoil and spill,
without the loss of what is, tomorrow’s promise cannot be fulfilled.

19 August – Surprise bouquets

Down in the garden, in the raised veg beds,
some unexpected blooms are raising their heads.
A florist would look blank if you asked for them there
– in fact that would be quite a fun little dare!
But trust me, they’re beautiful despite their progeny,
these new Charlotte blossoms, shining fine for me.
Paper white petals with a yellow trumpet heart,
perhaps it’s time potato flowers got to play their part
in the bouquets we choose, arrange and display,
why disqualify them because of their humble name?!

18 August – The blue tit files

Every evening when the light begins to dim,
the sun is dipping and the blackbird sings,
one after another, a troop of sleepy blue tits come,
filing themselves under the fascia board, one by one.
How they slot in such a tiny space I never will know,
but I love to sit and watch them as they go
to rest their weary feathers, already lost in reverie
while the blackbird sings lullabies from the sycamore tree.

18 August - The blue tit files

17 August – Butterfly hypnosis

Mesmerised, in a Monday morning trance
at the whizzing, spinning butterflies’ dance.
Courting conducted at a dizzying speed,
gyroscoping with fluttering ease,
tumbling, rolling over and over,
high above, now down near the clover,
a two spoked Catherine wheel sparkling bright,
flickering, shimmering gymnasts of light.
I must walk on and begin my day
but I take to heart their sense of play.

16 August – Daisy joy

Daisies, daisies, give me your answer do,
why can’t I ever walk past
without stopping to smile at you?
I think it’s those summer lunchtimes
sat out on the long school grass,
picking petals to predict romance,
so happy not to be in class.
Stringing your stems in garlands
round ankles, wrists and necks,
of course that’s why, years later,
I never can forget
the feel of cheer and charm
as you scatter your smiles at me,
even when I’m walking at speed
and seemingly far too busy
to stop and sit and play again
at lovelorn games and daisy chains.

15 August – Hula girls

The wrens in my garden are tiny hula girls
who hop into the Fuchsia and set it all a whirl
with quivering and jiggling as they hunt among its leaves,
unaware of their performance as they retrieve
bugs for their breakfast, for lunch and for tea,
an accidental dinner show at nine, twelve and three!

14 August – Garden strays

Landscape, habitat, historic local fauna and flora
are all interrupted by escapee garden explorers.
It’s important to strive for balanced biodiversity
but I can’t help the childish rush of delight when I see
a burst of exotic dragon heads painting the hedgerow red
when really there should only be brambles there instead.
Against the grey of dry stone wall
and the constant green of field, fell and all
there is something gleeful that always transpires
when I see such vivid blooms of crimson fire
– be it legitimate joy or half guilty pleasure –
I still believe I’m finding wayside treasure.

13 August – Ode to sparrows

This song’s for the sparrows,
perennially underestimated jewels
who dart and dive and flap and squawk,
under incomprehensible mob rules.
Daredevil kamikazes almost brushing the hairs on your head,
little gutter acrobats drinking up rain and scavenging for bread.
Disruptors of ordered vegetable beds, with a taste for bathing in soil,
who use the potting shed’s asphalt roof to exfoliate tummy and tail.
Shakers of Viburnum branches, huge gatherings full of clamour,
making up with plenty of drama for all they lack in glamour.
Balancing on bamboo pole ends, on top of the bean teepee,
extreme perchers excelling at what looks impossible to me.
Why are they so dismissed, barely given a second look,
when their characterful shenanigans deserve a story book?
Perhaps it’s time to make them heroes of a famous tale or two,
or at the least to underline they’re well worth bird watching too.

12 August – Songbird apprentice

I will sit at the foot of the old ash tree
and open my heart to the sound
of the Song Thrush weaving its melody –
sweet, lilting and loud.
Each year that passes, I will hope to hear
how it lengthens its narrative of notes,
telling new tales of winter survived,
stretching cadences like long summer days.
Perhaps I too will learn his craft,
building my stories year by year.
Perhaps I too will find fresh notes
for others to sit and hear.

11 August – Welcome?

When you lay out your welcome mat
and fling your back door wide,
be careful because you might not know
quite who you’re inviting inside!
Some guests will hop into the kitchen,
confused about where to feed fledglings,
others will fly all through the house
on wildly misdirected wings.
Then a cricket might just sit boldly
on your actual welcome mat,
leaving you protesting,
“I didn’t mean quite that!”.

10 August – Blackberry promise

When summer’s in its swan song
and August’s long begun,
a strange melancholy can beckon
with the end of holiday fun.
That’s when you need reminding
Autumn brings her own bliss,
look to the hedgerows dear one,
there’s something you shouldn’t miss.
Search for the delicate white,
find the first black beads to bite,
savour the sweet tanged delight,
let flavour win your internal fight.
Believe the promise of more that’s coming,
welcome the herald of colour and fruit,
soon trees, not just brambles, will be laden
with delicious new beauty to salute.

9 August – A glad song

I was just so glad
when the first gladioli
grew their stems
full straight and high
and broadcast their blooms
in beautiful hues
making perfect
the present-bulbs I gave to you.

And it makes me so glad
that this wonder is real,
you bury a knobbly gift
and trust its promise fulfils.
Weeks and months pass,
then when you’ve half forgotten
colour unfolds fountains
and shines surprise gems.

8 August – The night watch

I always imagined our view
unlooked at when we sleep.
When we’re not on the terrace
and the doors are all locked,
while the creeping dark
slowly covers the garden
in moonlight quiet
and makes everything
still.
Paused.
Waiting to be reawakened
by opening curtains and doors
and human activity restored.

But I was wrong.

Our view is looked at when we sleep
by those that scuttle and creep and keep
the night watch.

One such creature is covered in spines
and has been spied now as he climbs,
hauling himself slowly up the steps
with splayed flat feet and tiny short legs
to snuffle for grubs and evening snacks,
to enjoy gazing out before turning on his tracks.
Now he descends again,
a slinky on the stairs,
trotting back happily to his own bed,
cosied in under the potting shed.

No, our view is not unlooked at when we sleep,
no doubt many more have managed to keep
their secret, shadowed prowling unseen
while we look away, lost in our dreams –
missing seeing, not just the view,
but the night watch team and all they do.

7 August – Shifting skies

Sitting out late, enjoying the light
and the delicate breeze of approaching night.
The fire pit blazes and up in the skies
a feathery cloud blanket lies.
All feels protected, charmed – at peace,
we listen and look, resting in ease.
Then there among the blue and gold,
the evening shivers in more cold,
and sure enough the blanket shifts
into tiny cloud-seeds that start to drift,
like a dandelion clock blowing on the wind
with time to waste and tales to spin.
And all of this beauty whispers to me,
“time for bed dear heart, time to sleep”.

7 August - Shifting skies

6 August – Buddleia bonanza

Suddenly they’re everywhere
with rocket lollipops bright,
colour and fragrance luring
intoxicated insects to delight.
The bush at the end of the lawn
teems with hustle and bustle,
butterflies, bees and stranged-wingees
all competing for who has the muscle
to down the very best nectar and pollen
before closing time comes
and bloom ends,
and spears bend,
and flowers spend
their last drops of the good stuff all out
and down to the ground.
Even today in the pouring rain,
Buddleia’s open to visitors again.
A bumble bee looking for cover
hangs on upside-down and under;
yesterday’s lollipop fast becoming umbrella –
the perfect shelter from inclement weather.
So if you want to draw a crowd
and do not mind your buzzing loud,
do the tiny world a favour,
plant a stash of their favourite flavour.

5 August – Watched

I open my curtains at six fifty nine
to sixteen jackdaws on the telegraph line.
A group stake out, every eye focused down on me,
staring and cawing intermittently.
Corvid surveillance causes me some unease
so I run downstairs to make the morning teas!

4 August – Don’t just stop to smell the roses

Don’t just stop to smell the roses,
stop to smell it all:
fresh mown grass,
new cut hay,
the tumbling scents
of honeysuckle
and jasmine stars.
Stop to see as well.
Pause your walk to watch
a wagtail’s bobbing dance,
to laugh at sheepish grins,
applaud a strutting stoat
and gasp at kestrel dives.
Stop to touch the lupin’s furry seed pods,
feel for yourself a cleaver’s stick,
and welcome tall bracken tickling your face.
Stroke the horses when their heads
rise and peer over the wall,
stay, talk awhile softly
to each and every creature you meet,
enjoying their wordless replies.
Yes, absolutely stop,
park your car in the lane,
get out and cherish the chance
to remain longer and linger
at the sight of a rare brown hare
running or sitting
beyond the field’s barred gate,
or as a moorland sweeping barn owl
lands on his own pausing post
and locks his piercing eyes with yours.
Stop to listen too,
to hear every birds’ song,
from the sparrow’s chatter
to the blackbird’s virtuosity
and the curlew’s haunting call.
Then look up again
and truly notice
each and every
jewel like bird
that graces a tree
or visits the garden.
And if you hear the kingfisher call
on the winding river path,
just wait,
always wait,
for you might just glimpse
a flash of brilliant flight.
Don’t just stop to smell the roses,
take time to breathe and be
in the woodland, the water
and the wide open spaces
long enough to receive
the wild, unpredictable gifts
of God that grow and roam
and are –
here for you to find.

3 August – Garden mafia

They’re back again
and I know it’s more customary
to sing and serenade
their colours and revelry,
but haven’t you noticed
they’re absolutely in gangs,
mobs of seed spitting,
bird feeder disrupting young lads.
I love them, I do,
they deserve descriptive emotion
but before I can get there
I’m laughing at the commotion.
Finch faces, finch faces
what are you so busy conniving?
Golden but mischievous –
darling bright scoundrels thriving.

3 August - Garden mafia

2 August – Daylight display

The river path is lush now,
growing high verdant green,
and every several steps
fireworks explode between.
Caught mid detonation,
flower-sparks shine,
a dazzling scattering of stars
frozen still in time.
Strange to explain
what I hardly believe,
these breath-taking bursts
are simply called ‘hogweed’.

1 August – White rose day

What else should I serenade on Yorkshire’s day
besides the bright rose, the white rose
that represents her name?
But so many more beauties
come to the fore,
the rivers, the dry-stone walls,
the blustrous, broad-placed moor.
Ten years I have lived here now, under her spell,
and I still can’t find sufficient words to halfway tell
how I love her with her heather, and her ever-changing skies,
how she’s home and half-heaven in my awe struck eyes.
I will walk out my devotion on her coast and up her hills,
each step a caress as I explore and fulfil
my promise to both of us to grow to know her well,
woodland and wildlife, beck, field and fell.

31 July – Interloping leaper

We set off round the reservoir track,
intent on a catch up natter,
suddenly three are joined by a fourth
keen to add more chirrup and chatter.
Little interloping cricket,
be careful where you leap,
we are pleased to meet you
but we have secrets to keep.
Besides this seems a more dangerous route,
you’ll need to watch for every flying boot.
Jump to the left now, back to the grass,
we’ll agree to let your intrusion pass.

30 July – Baby wren

What is smaller than a wren?
A fledgling wren for sure!
I saw for myself by the river,
I’d never met one before.
Like a furious, fluffy pompom,
squawking in the tree,
frantic because its mother
was on the other side of me.
I didn’t want to prolong its panic
so I quickly carried on
but was gladdened by glimpse of small stubby tail
and miniature raucous song.

30 July - Baby wren

29 July – Dog walk dog rose

The wooded track at the end of the village
is steep and narrow to climb,
growing closer still now
as late July bracken towers over
brambles that trip and prick.
The dog tunnels under
and we, like jungle explorers
feel our way through
the dense curtains of foliage
all the way up to the top
to tread the lighter green
of grassy sheep fields,
and see the far, rolling hills.
We reach the farm track
where suddenly, a riot of roses
spill their friendly colour
all over a dry stone wall,
like a chocolate box picture
of Summer hedgerow bliss.
And I smile as I remember
how the struggle to ascend
is always worth it somehow.

29 July - Dog walk dog rose

28 July – Lone Ranger II

We know his game for sure now –
the shy retiring woodland buck,
for we’ve caught him in the act.
We’ve seen him leave
his calm, canopied retreat,
leaping up the track and back
to the fray and fracas
of warren life,
the endless demands of the drove.
I wonder how often he sneaks away,
how long he gets for this downtime,
and if the other rabbits know
his secret shaded peace.

27 July – River soundscape

I wish I could conjure words
to set the song of water,
but no string of sibilant sounds
can capture the constancy
of luscious liquid white noise.
Always by the river,
flow serenades me still,
whether carried in rush,
ripple or fall,
its noise quiets my soul.
It’s the same by the sea,
with the crash and the draw,
Iike a raging lullaby
that storms and soothes
all fear away.

26 July – Olympic digger

The first time I saw a mole
I was beyond surprised,
for they’d been so much bigger
in my childhood mind’s eye.
Pictures didn’t give me scale
and stories evoked a sense
of a creature more a rabbit’s size
than of such diminutive length!
And now the mole has shocked again
with new biographical information,
it turns out to have a super power –
it’s a complete digging sensation!
A full twenty metres each day
they tunnel with tiny searching claws,
just imagine how far you’d get
as a human, if their talent was yours!
Strange to think of them under us,
practically whizzing around,
subterranean superheroes
hiding obscurely underground.

26 July - Olympic digger

25 July – Wind coaster

I watch a kestrel plummet
from soaring high to valley’s depth
– a staggering daredevil drop –
and I wonder, is it all about the hunting?
Or do they also feel the whoosh and thrill
of flipping stomach when they fall?
Like the rush of roller coaster dips
that leave you hungry for the next ride.

24 July – Moving house

When setting off across the path
to make her home on better turf,
I don’t imagine this tiny snail
thought she’d be leaving earth.
To keep her safe from tramping feet,
we momentarily lifted her high,
what a change from what she’d planned –
temporary housing in the sky!
We landed her back on her previous course,
grounded and safe on pastures new,
they say moving house is stressful,
I hope it wasn’t traumatic too!

24 July - Moving house

22 July – Cyanotype fern

I follow the footsteps
of botanical explorers
and press my fresh picked fern
into deep Prussian blue.
I trust the sun,
the waiting,
the water…
and marvel how,
with photography at my fingertips,
this rediscovered technique
of picture painting play
can bring me utter joy.
It grows now forever,
an immortalised white fern
on a cyan fabric square.
But also yields its life,
green to gradual curling,
gingering, gently -furling –
a perfect specimen captured
in a small glass bottle.
What was it like
when this was newly all there was –
great brave science recording
with accuracy for perpetuity
brand new exotic species
from far flung lands?
It must have seemed,
as it half does now,
something faintly fantastical,
beauty, form, life –
arrested on a page
by powerful noon-day light.

22 July - Cyanotype fern

21 July – Lone Ranger

Far from the colony,
away from warren bustle,
the woodland buck goes hunting
all by himself, alone.
He only knows
what he forages for here,
whether choice fallen fruits
or simply peace not found at home.
We see him often now
exploring dappled dank forest floor,
at ease with us watching him
despite his introverted ways.

20 July – Sunset bow

The light has dipped,
the sun is low,
invisible to us now.
But somehow,
in a rain free sky,
a full and faultless cloudbow
arcs high and muted bright
above the gloaming light.
In all my years
of sunsets and rainbows,
this is something I’ve never seen,
and I linger in the garden
to gaze at it longer,
unsure if I’ll ever catch
anything like it again.
You never reach the end
of creation’s wonders
however long you live,
no matter how far you explore;
endless possibilities open,
limitless beauties surprise and stagger
as you walk your way over
our broad green-brown-grey earth,
and live out your days under
its shifting grey-blue-pink skies.

20 June - Sunset bow

19 July – Oriental aroma

Suddenly the potting shed
transforms to Asian arbour
as myriad jasmine stars
begin to come to flower.
I make a daily pilgrimage
to breathe in their scent,
green tea and sticky rice
playing happily in my head.
Upstairs in the bathroom draw,
a Yardley soap with this essence
is waiting to echo jasmine’s joy
when summer’s no longer present.

19 July - Oriental aroma

18 July – Red sky at night

Red sky at night,
everyone’s delight.
No matter what it foretells
of promised sunnier spells,
the magic’s in the moment
where fuchsia and magenta
brush and streak the setting gold.
Never mind your landscape,
your native fauna and flora,
all of us share sunset gifts
with their wide, bold wonder.
I like that sense of unity –
wherever your patch of sky,
you’ll receive precious evenings
draped in this vibrant high.

17 July – July duet

Today was a duet of sunshine and showers,
alternating soakings over several hours.
First one, then the other, now both in time together,
a swirling, whirling dance of light counterpointing weather.
Black cloud backdrops make for brighter spotlights on the hills,
damp drizzle downpours all the more serving to fulfill
the sweet feel of warmth as the choreography begins
directing sunlight surges to drift and filter in.
Down by the river is like a hothouse at Kew,
close and heady with heavy mid afternoon dew.
I choose to play along and get thoroughly drenched,
then sit writing in dazzle on the swing bridge bench.

16 July – Little red bead II

Not once, but twice this week now,
I’ve spotted a spotted red bead
against all conceivable odds
among the long meadow grass.
This second cousin of the first
displayed pure acrobatics,
ascending and descending
green sheer vertical poles.
The grass was dancing wildly
as trees in gale force wind
and it made me marvel still more
at this ladybird circus act.
When you appreciate the scale,
this is extreme dare-devil sport –
talent and technique shining hidden
among the long meadow grass.

16 July - Little red bead II

15 July – Kestrel magic

Today I saw a kestrel seeming floating on the breeze,
looking, for all the world, totally at ease.
But this sight transpired to be optical illusion,
for the bird was not still but in constant motion.
When they suspend they are really flying swiftly,
matching speed to opposing currents completely.
How do they judge an equation so precise –
let alone while looking so far below for mice?
Science and sorcery meet among the thermal winds,
while we drive past and on towards town and prosaic things.

14 July – Queue jumper

It was my turn in the bathroom
but when I arrived
a tiny creeping creature
was already inside.
I tried to reason with him
saying, “Mr Woodlouse,
if you want to take a shower,
obey the rules of this house.
You’ll need to wait in line,
and when your time comes,
you can’t share with a woman,
that simply is not done.”
Of course he ignored me,
but he did go on his way,
so my ablutions were kept private,
hip, hip, hip hooray!

13 July – Little red bead

Like a needle in a haystack,
the chance of seeing her there,
one tiny red bead
in the long meadow grass.
But I spotted her spots
and was instantly a child,
compelled to feel her crawl
through the blades of my fingers.
Ladybird, ladybird,
what a treat to find you,
a tiny little gem
on a weekday morning.
You took some convincing
to go back to your true stems,
was it fun to meet a lady-human
in the long meadow grass?

13 July - Little red bead

12 July – Redheads unite

It’s funny who you meet
on a Sunday morning amble,
neighbours, tourists, friends,
and then close by the brambles,
a tiny trotting stoat
with little white throat
and vivid titian coat
struts out into the road.
It doesn’t stop to chat,
it’s gone without a greeting,
but it lights up my day,
a brief but brilliant ginger meeting.

10 July – Wet walk wonder

The path was as wet as the river
when we still set out to walk,
intent on blowing out cobwebs
and starting weekend talk.
All was streaky watercolour green,
everything leaking, seeping its seams,
smudging and fast becoming
indiscriminate haze.
When suddenly,
all in a rush,
a tiny cobalt dart
swiftly brushed the water
to make a work of art.
Its dazzling brilliance shone
then, as quick, was gone.
And we stood in the rain,
unaware of its soaking,
lost in kingfisher awe –
a turquoise gift-wrapped moment.

9 July – Foxglove forests

Peppered round the dale,
gardens, verges,
moor, woods, river
are little purple forests
growing tall and fine.
Miniature Scots pines
swaying in the breeze,
bending all their strength
to ring their merry berry bells.
Splashes of bright colour
that always bring delight,
whether weed or wild
they’re welcome with me.

But who was the thinker
and what was the thought
that decided foxes’ fingers
would fit in tiny petal sleeves?
Foxgloves seem more suited
to forming party hats for stoats
but I’m not sure such renaming
will catch on with many folks…
So I’ll just allow my sketch
to celebrate their beauty,
and leave the etymology
to heritage and dictionary!

8 July – Creeping beauty

Deep in the woods,
among the dank of the dale,
grow some curious fungi
who have learnt how to scale
the heights of ash and beech
to spread their creeping reach
into little elven shelving,
and mushroom moths unfurling,
all green streaked white and beige
against brown, forest green and sage.
Some even splay like goblin palms
as if stretching out with no qualms
about touching passing strangers
to dissemble and disarm.
I expect my fairy toadstools
to dance in circles on the ground,
but I’m quietly being enchanted
by the bracket fungus I have found.

8 July - Creeping beauty

7 July – Little gutter acrobat

When I want a drink,
I just turn on the tap.
But nothing so pedestrian
awaits this sparrow acrobat.
Up on the conservatory roof,
legs spread wide as a giraffe,
he tilts and turns full upside down
to take a simple draught –
squeezing head through tiny gap,
a limbo dancing ninja,
goodness me, what circus act
will he conjure during dinner?!

6 July – Sweet pea serenade

Is there anything more perfect
than the moment I see
the first sweet peas of summer
winking back at me?
This year they’re by the wayside,
growing wild and free,
a cacophony of colour
tumbling over hedge and tree.
They feel like garden runaways
scaling fence, breaking boundary,
I wonder where they’ll steal to next
to share their cheer and glee.

6 July - Sweat pea serenade

5 July – Heaven-sent

Heaven sent moist bracken scent
to stir my sense of wild.
Childhood southern seaside chines
in adult northern moorland wide
chime, converge, collide.
This is how adventure smells,
the quest – descent or climb,
England a borderless glasshouse,
an exotic landscape to find.

4 July – Sugar sprinkles

Well intentioned phrases say,
“look up”, “lift your head”,
but sometimes there is beauty
in looking down instead.
Saturday’s walk was wet,
my eyes were on the ground,
I couldn’t see the stunning view
but there was still treasure to be found.
Strewn across the track,
mixed with downtrodden grass,
a thousand sugar sprinkles,
discarded petal stars.
Sweet fragrance in the air
tells tales of their descent –
It’s elderflower umbels
for which they were meant.
But tumbled here beneath me,
each individual flower shines
with a new and broken beauty
those on the tree cannot find.
And it makes me remember
the brave wonder of this world,
where the shattered and battered
often transform into pure gold.
So perhaps don’t be frightened
to turn your gaze right down,
there among the debris
is something fresh and profound.

3 July – Heron walking

Yesterday was drenching
but it still felt strange
to see a heron walking
like a person, up the lane.
Far away from river,
still not that close to beck,
impossible to fathom
what was going through its head.
It was too far in front
to photograph the stroll,
which was disappointing
as it looked rather droll.
Best of all was the point
it stopped to pause and wait,
craning neck just high enough
to snoop over Peter’s front gate!

2 July – Windswept kite

The wind is rough,
the thermals unsure,
and stretched upon the wing,
close to the house
Red Kite rises and turns,
is tossed, thrown and spun.
A bird so often high and mighty
is like its paper alias today,
as if at mercy of current and string,
as likely under as over – all spin.
Less flying than surfing,
more suspended than soaring,
a wild adventure ride,
Creature in its element,
or element in its element?
I’m left asking as both disappear.

30 June – Goodnight gloaming

Goodnight gorgeous gloaming,
you perfect evening lantern show.
Thanks for flooding my bedroom
with your magic golden glow.
My west window’s a portal
to time between times’ shine,
to somewhere more than sunset
I ache to capture, keep as mine.
It feels wrong to close my curtains
in the presence of such light
but despite summer’s solstice,
I need it to be night.
So goodnight gorgeous gloaming
with your halcyon hints of glory,
return soon so I can climb the stairs
and retrace my steps into story.

29 June – Cordial rose

There is a fragrant type of rose
I don’t often see,
it grows in Irene’s garden,
its name’s not known to me.
But two years now in June
when she’s come round for tea,
she’s brought us its flowers
in a little gift posy.
This year when she left,
I remembered its story,
how all that beauty and perfume
found a second round of glory.
And though I knew from last time
the recipe would come through,
it still felt girlish make-believe
to mix a petal strewn pink stew!
But when sugared water plays with rose,
perfect scent transcends its sense,
and magic liquid Turkish delight
pours out delicious decadence.

28 June – Crossing paths

A rustle in the leaves
nestled near the track
then suddenly we see him,
almost lost in brown on brown.
A mini mountain climber
hauling up his hill,
crawling rhythmic, almost vertical
till suddenly he’s still.
Pace and progress all forgotten
when he senses us loom large,
he freezes, hoping hard
to merge with deep rich soil.
We recommence our walk
so he can reach his peak
but remember him all day,
the woodland toad we chanced to meet.

27 June – Hidden valley

High up in my valley
lies a secret second dale,
its river is a beck,
its hills mere bank sides steep.
Gladed and shaded
and overrun with moss,
every inch of it fairied green
as if time itself got lost.
This is where I climb
to walk my thoughts all out.
I leave them in the rock pools
that break the water as it falls.

26 June – Little orange helicopter

My warren watching
on the field side track
is rudely interrupted
by the sudden blur and buzz
of a little orange helicopter
darting through the tree canopy,
like a tiny drunken pilot
is testing out his moves.
Unexpected colour,
iridescent in the sun,
demands my attention rises
above hillside hopping fun.
Spot it if you can,
before it speeds away,
the first dragonfly of summer
dived across my path today.

26 June - Little orange helicopter

25 June – Spot the difference

This is how you know a fern is not bracken,
its leaves flow from the ground in an emerald fountain.
Everything unfurling from each single one
was squeezed into its frond before the stretching was begun.
I too will seek to trust this inside out becoming,
leave behind sideways growth, sprawling wide and running.

24 June – Metamorphosis

What miracle magic is this
to take a black spiked bug
and transform crawling ignominy
into something like fairy dust?
The jewel patterned Peacock takes wing,
fluttering with finesse and spin.
Does its memory, however faint,
remember the days before paint
transformed jet black to vibrant hue
and lifted it bodily to bird’s eye view?

24 June - Metamorphosis

23 June – Honeysuckle high

Strung across the sycamore stump
and among holly and hawthorn hedge,
are bunches of pale fairy lights bobbing
and twinkling between the green.
Almost always just out of my reach,
but determined to follow its climb,
I stand on tiptoe beneath,
a seeker of perfect highs.
Gently bending a string towards me,
sweet intoxication is mine,
all at once, delicately hushed, in the garden,
posh hand creams and candles fill my mind.
I wonder if I’ll ever find myself
rewilded quite nearly enough
for nature’s purest pleasures
to stop reminding me of man-made stuff.
It’s a beautiful, layered sensation,
all that luxury echoing round,
but it leaves me quietly curious
can true honeysuckle highs still be found?

23 June - Honeysuckle high

21 June – Tree toes

The river path by us
winds narrow and gnarly,
so watch your step
as well as the wild –
especially where,
among silt and stone,
tree toes cross the path
like splayed little crow claws,
moving at wood stretching slow
towards – not beside – the water.
For I can’t help but think,
even mighty oaks wince
when careless booted walkers
tread and trample on their feet!

20 June – Elderflower breeze

Headed towards the river path
through a field of unremarkable grass,
I am on my way to somewhere
when here transcends just route to pass.
One step I’m not paying any attention,
the next stops me as if at destination,
compelled to pause,
to better drink the scent
of summer cordial
fizzing in the air.
Moving forward it fades,
as quickly as it arrested,
just like the sudden felt enchantment
of beautiful new ideas,
fragrances whispering “write me”,
lost to the wind if not caught.

19 June – Vole island

If strength is in numbers,
today I learned
Britain doesn’t belong to us,
but to the tiny field voles
who live beneath the grass.
Many millions of mini mammals,
an army of blackberry hunters,
mining underground networks,
predating kings and conquerors.
I wonder what they make of us
giant ground shakers above?
I wonder if Victorious Voletannia
is our island’s true nation state?

18 June – Summer storm symphony

The performance starts
two days late,
but oh, when it comes,
it astounds.
Tumultuous timpani rolls open,
then the plucking of rain begins;
each staccato strike bouncing high
from every newly made instrument
with echoing, ringing springs.
Now the wind roars in,
the gutters squeak,
and hail smacks the windows hard.
And here inside,
we listen in awe
to virtuoso weather
as constant crescendo
serenades the valley
and drowns out all domesticity.

18 June - Summer storm symphony

17 June – Petal heart

A serendipitous moment,
when something in nature
mirrors another, familiar shape
and all at once
takes on all its meaning and metaphors.
This time it’s a forgotten fragment,
just a piece of discarded rose,
easy to miss in bank-side bramble,
but plucked out in triumph by you.
“It’s a perfect heart!” you say,
and I think to myself as you hold it –
this is like my heart, petal,
cup it gently, but safely secure
for it’s a fleeting, fragile-edged thing,
more flower than flame after all.
Cherish its lingering fragrance,
keep company with its translucent beauty,
I trust you with it completely
for as long as its bloom remains.

17 June - Petal heart

16 June – Barn owl addict

The first time I saw one for real,
it perched on my shoulder.
I was transfixed.
Enraptured.
So proud.
The photo still projects
that inner moment out
and makes me smile
a mirror image back
to my smaller self
some three decades on.
It felt so wild,
I remember the thrill,
even though now
I know the same engineered touch as tame.
But all the more special,
my history here,
when I come less close,
but seem more close,
in those wondrous moments
of chance encounter.
A penetrating stare,
a back garden pass,
a maybe glimpse in the field.
Low flight in moor’s dusk light
as I drive by in twilight,
soft landing on ruined tree.
I’ll never see them enough
to get over their singular rush
every time they grace my world.

Artwork by Barbarah Macnish

15 June – Swallow lake

The scene is set,
the light is dipped,
this evening’s show
is eagerly sought.
I take to my bench,
it’s about to commence,
the stage is wide with
white crested blue…

Flick, flick, dive,
flick, flip, glide,
leap, turn and dare-devil drop.
Flick, flick, dart,
flick, flip, pass,
loop, stretch and somersault rise.

Who choreographs
this wild wind dance
to secret, silent score?
Their seemingly effortless dramatics
in synchronised floating acrobatics
deserve a standing ovation.
The near misses,
the close crosses,
the warp, the weft, the scatter.
The duets,
the trios,
the whole troupe in full flow,
the joy, the high jinx, the wonder.
From premiere in May
to September’s curtain call day,
you’ll find me here, sat in awe.
Lingering to watch,
night after night,
this dazzling aerial ballet.

15 June - Swallow lake

14 June – Gooseberry gift

It’s the zing of childhood glee
in pure nostalgic taste.
Last year’s shared crop
was eaten like candy
and candied to jams
of deep purple red
and frog spawn green.
But this year,
this year the gift has grown.
It’s smaller for now
but rooted and rising…
a tantalising taste
of what’s to come –
an old fashioned sweet shop
on my own back lawn!
Already now, a leafy hand opens,
offering me its enticing treat,
the first, fine, plump little gooseberry,
a glorious, gorgeous gobstopper fruit.

14 June - Gooseberry gift

13 June – Breakfast on the move

I think I’d get indigestion
if I ate my muesli while swinging
rapidly,
dramatically,
always
to
and fro.
But the bird on my neighbours’ feeder
is an extreme sport kind of eater.
He munches unperturbed,
seemingly undisturbed,
as if it causes him no commotion
to be flung in ocean like motion.
But I suppose if you’re already good
at drilling your head into wood,
your view of a breakfast swing
is a much more causal thing.
So rock on woody, rock on,
enjoy your fly-through brunch,
I’ll see you again for peekaboo
round the silver birch over lunch.

12 June – Lupin lazuli

Newly planted,
there’s no hint yet
of tall tiered colour
and carousels of bright, bold bonnets.
But long before ruby-red carmine,
nestled among the still-green,
a perfectly centred aqua jewel
– sun-polished to reflect sky’s blue –
turns a humble multi-pointed leaf-star
to a fleeting new shape of flower power
before silently, secretly, stealing full away.

11 June – Moss on my window

You’re right I should be protected,
it’s overdue time for some serious alarm,
but let me remind you I’m more easily adapted,
than fatally, finally harmed.
I’ll still find my ways of growing,
despite your UPVC,
I’ll break through your concrete with petals,
you’ll struggle to ever tame me.
You’ll find me when least expected,
asserting myself in new ways,
remember I was here before you,
I’ve weathered countless days.
I’m not suggesting complacent inaction,
but I am reminding you to hope,
my true present and potential future
are way beyond your scope!

10 June – Interfulgent walk

Dappled light plays on the path,
casting spots, shining shifting beams.
First a robin glows in the limelight,
now holly leaves gleam newly mossy-bright.
December reflections are conjured in June
with subtle tricks of light,
the now merging with yesterdays
and tomorrows as yet unknown.
The path’s such a threadbare metaphor,
light breaking through such a tired idea,
yet they’re inescapably, effervescently embodied
on a day, on a walk, like today’s.
I am moving through sunlight in shadow,
following hope as illumined green.
I am breathing the sweet scents of journey,
I am here and not where I have been.

9 June – Rescue mission

Double, double toil and trouble,
notice stagnant drain bubble.
Amphibious limbs stirring the stew
can’t leap out or break through
plastic pipe to find relief
from impending, final sleep,
till…
suddenly lowered in kindly stoop
a ladle comes, full size of the soup.
Deus ex machina! Not a moment to soon,
frog soars to safety on flying spoon.

8 June – Otter remembered

Seven seconds of moment if that
at eight fifty five one Wednesday evening.
Right time, right place, thank the neighbours,
he’s suddenly there, tucked right in close to the bank.
Twitching nose up, on high alert to whole river,
then gone in ripple of wiggle and shimmer.

6 June – Cloud parade

Striding over hills,
gliding over trees,
the carnival arrives
as we drink our morning tea.
Dragons in our vista,
giants tumbling by,
a magic, mystery pageant
in an English country sky.
Early morning adventures
while breakfasting in bed,
enacting wisest nonsense,
six impossibilities in my head.

5 June – Dunnock dance

She wiggles her wings
like fluttering eyelashes,
all at once playing coy and coquette.
He lindy-hops round
in eager reply,
to the rhythm of silent sound.
Choreography rehearsed again
the very next day
as if this were the right-on hip spot.
Dunnocks dance! Come on down!
Dazzle us dizzy with your lively jive!
Who says you’re just dull, drear brown?

4 June – Space invader

There’s no appointment in the diary.
But here he is on a Thursday morning,
marching across the top of my screen
demanding top spot on my task list.
I squint to better assess his identity,
but he comes from some tiny, alien outside world
and I have never seen his orange hue
or diminutive shape before.
He is clearly here on long distance reconnaissance,
a miniature discoverer bent on conquering Inside.
Nose close, I see him lift his tiny front legs to his face,
washing, or feeding, perhaps even waving,
who’s to say?
When I next look up from my words
he’s gone,
presumably finished with living room circumnavigation,
maybe he’s now bravely claiming the hall.

3 June – Rainy day

It’s back again,
pressing pause on life al fresco,
putting a dampener on
day three of thirty appointed wild.

Cats and dogs,
drizzle and mizzle –
we need the whole soggy symphony of words
to shower down
when we’re so often left bemoaning it
in fifty flinty tones of exasperated grey!

Drat that smudger of pictures,
the infamous drowner of parties.
Blast that endless wet-wiper-outer of best laid plans!

But today, instead, I grant it absolution;
re-name it simply, relief,
and secretly, gleefully cheer it on:
“rain, rain don’t go away
don’t wait until another day”

Go on, join the song…

Clap as it waters the garden!
Welcome the softening of hard, hard ground!
Enjoy it diluting mercury risen and remaining…
day after day,
in a most un-English way!

Cherish shutting the doors
and love living your inside life,
set free from the burning compulsion
to bask in every moment
of rare British sun.
Admit you share our natural, national condition –
you were actually also quite missing the rain!

3 July - Rainy day

2 June – Strawberry surprise

All is spring and going, growing gradual fruit…
till stop!
A sudden surprise shouts bright.
What’s this traffic light change among the leaves?
Two plump pioneers of summer gleam among the green,
scarlet beacons of a nearly season nigh.
And quickly June tastes like July;
zesty, sweet and juicy red ripe.
With one sight,
and just one irresistible,
little bite,
here comes all that flavour zinging and singing –
exploding the promise of picnics,
parties, schools-out and pimms,
of bunting and beaches,
and long-lingering evenings,
of lanterns, longing and lazy bliss.
Here it is all at once now,
all together in a rush now –
a choice premonition of holiday
boldly trespassing my everyday,
like the scent of next door’s barbecue
or a curlew’s call to the wild.

2 June - Strawberry surprise

1 June – Hello buttercup

Hello buttercup,
you deserve a closer look.
More than cheeky lawn invader
or nostalgic chin shine player,
you shimmer your own sheen’s song
in miniature canary splendour.
Now I really see you, little sun,
I notice your distinction
among your companions
as you scatter gladly among the grass
in an earthbound constellation.
Standing tall, petals splayed
fiercely wide and free,
you are a five limbed leaper
held still in perfect, extended lines.
Your head thrown back,
abandoned to the sky,
as if you had forgotten
you were meant to be
any sort of cup at all –
while each of your neighbours
huddles and cuddles her petals close,
holding back her own perhaps-dance
in reticent, secret possibility.