31 October – Arachnid invasion

Have you noticed, as the nights draw in,
an arachnid invasion also begins?
It’s the same every year, around this time,
spiders boldly proclaiming ”your house is also mine”.
I thought invitations worked the other way,
that the owners decided who was welcome to stay.
But at least eight legged friends don’t frighten me any more,
at least not the little ones, not like they did before.
I used to scream for rescue from any creeping long leg,
crying out for my dad to clear up every spider mess!
Now I have grown adept at sharing the same space
without cowering in the corner or shouting down the place.
Good job, as they’re clearly making themselves at home,
and I have next to no control over where they choose to roam.
Oh well, the more the merrier, isn’t that what everyone says?
Though I don’t suppose they’re referring to prolonged arachnid stays!

31 October - Arachnid invasion

30 October – Field trip

Trudging the high ridged furrows,
hoping we’ve found the right track,
eyes down on uneven ground,
trusting it matches the map.
When suddenly our boot vibrations
unwittingly disturb a scrape,
a Jackrabbit-in-the-box leaps up
and hares across the field at pace.
We watch its bounding beauty,
marvelling at wild sprinting grace,
a little, long-eared cheetah
winning the British land-speed race.
Its form gleams bright in the low light,
its movements are sure and bold.
In every sense, for me,
this mammal claims the gold.
The field is transformed to film set,
the hike elevated to legend,
what a moment ago was chore,
I wish would never come to an end.
I will the hare to stay with us
but of course he is bent on retreat,
and the cause of constant freedom
that is hard-wired into his feet.

30 October - Field trip

29 October – Living room gauntlet

The wasp in my lounge is drunk on sleep
and careers into everything with force, at speed.
First it’s the ceiling, then it’s the beams,
what is it imagining in its dreams?
It dive bombs and bounces off almost everything;
I am frightened for its life, but also by its sting.
It’s hard to relax when a weaponised beast
keeps falling from the roof and disturbing the peace.
Eventually it crawls into a crevice to rest,
such a relief, I don’t know which of us was more stressed!

29 October - Living room gauntlet

28 October – Golden sands

Down at the beech beach,
the leaf-sand glows
beyond the reach of the path,
where nobody goes.
I long to vault the wall
and explore this secret stretch,
to curl my toes round golden crunch,
along the river’s edge.
But where no feet have ventured,
the shining remains like virgin snow,
a glimmering colour cover,
gilding the humble browns below.
So I’ll stand considering perfection
for as long as it can last,
committing the beech beach to memory,
where its landscape lives on in the past.

28 October - Golden sands

27 October – Nature’s circus

If a creature harnesses honeysuckle to use as its trapeze,
and swings and leaps with elegance and long practiced ease,
you’d think I’d be eager to celebrate its flair,
and announce its prowess with a wild word fanfare.
But the truth is, this creature, for all of its cunning
is classed in a species that we’re constantly shunning.
We say we want to cultivate wildlife-friendly spaces
but the fact is our welcome isn’t open to all races.
And so it seems my poems baulk at serenading rats,
downplaying their aerial antics, despite the impressive facts.

27 October - Nature's circus

26 October – Faulty alarm clock

Don’t rely on my local rooster
for your early morning alarm call,
unless you have no intention
of keeping any appointments at all.
He can hardly be bothered to crow
until at least half past eleven,
I can only presume he’s still sleeping
when he’d be most useful at seven.
I call him the teenage cockerel
for his lie-ins last legendarily long,
and when he does deign to cock-a-doodle,
it’s a reluctant, embarrassed type of song.
Perhaps he’ll grow into his calling,
piercing the dawn with his squawking cries,
then of course I’ll regret my complaints
and despairingly roll my eyes.
I’ll wish for the halcyon days
when the village could snooze on in peace.
Alas! The bird never wins –
there’s no conquering my caprice.

26 October - Faulty alarm clock

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

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.