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