29 February – An extra day

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

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

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

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

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

29 February - An extra day

28 February – Smart growth

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

27 February – Redecorating plans

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

27 February - Redecorating plans

26 February – Afternoon hike

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

27 February - Afternoon hike

25 February – A twit twoo who’s who

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

25 February - A twit twoo who's who

24 February – Spring is advancing

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

24 February - Spring is advancing

23 February – Stealth attack

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

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

23 February - Stealth attack 1

22 February – Precocious

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

22 February - Precocious

21 February – Camera shy

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

21 February - Camera shy

20 February – Winter’s best

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

19 February – House hunting

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

19 February - House hunting

18 February – The first crocus

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

17 February – Hidden below

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

16 February – Nocturnal empathy

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

15 February – Taking the waters

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

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

14 February – You wooed me with catkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 February - You wooed me with catkins

13 February – Dawning

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

12 February – Singing in the rain

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

11 February – Living in hope

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

11 February - Living in hope

9 February – Cold cure

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

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

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

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

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

8 February – The returning

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

8 February - The returning

7 February – Puddle play

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

5 February – Snow sculpting

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

4 February – My side of it

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 February – Blank canvas

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

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

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

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

2 February – First responders

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

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

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

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

1 February – Foraging

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