31 May – Biophilia

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

31 May - Biophilia

30 May – In an English country garden

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

30 May - In an English country garden

28 May – Newborns

I – Nettle nest

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

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

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

II – Taboo joy

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

27 May Dusk chorus

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

27 May - Dusk chorus

26 May – Under the Flower Moon

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

25 May – Old haunts

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

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

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

25 May - Old haunts

24 May – Townies

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

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

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

24 May - Townies

23 May – Secret staircase

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

22 May – Shh!

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

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

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

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

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

21 May – Nine new neighbours

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

20 May – Weather teller

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

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

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

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

19 May – Store-cupboard scents

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

18 May – Perspective

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

17 May – Alone on Brimham Moor

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

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

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

16 May – Quartering

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

15 May – The lost library

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

14 May – On the wing

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

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

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

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

14 May - On the wing

13 May – Time weaves spells

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

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

12 May – Airbnb

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 May – Tricksy trees

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

10 May – Cold front cold shoulder

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

9 May – The bluebell manifesto

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

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

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

9 May - Bluebell manifesto

8 May – Forest bathing

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

7 May – Treasure hunt

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

5 May – The demon in the conservatory

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

4 May – Wisteria hysteria

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

3 May – Breakfast in the woods

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

2 May – The great exchange

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

1 May - The great exchange