#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 16 – Jelly Ears

Jelly-like ears cluster on trees,

livening up dying lower branches.

The latest fashion, you might think.

Beech, sycamore, ash – they all wear them,

but elder sports the most.

Legend has it

that for elder, the ears represent Judas’s tormented soul.

But perhaps the hardwood simply delights

in listening to the varied sounds of its woodland home

and so wished to collect more of them;

those reddish-brown kidney beans,

with their translucent undersides wrinkled into veins,

clinging to bark like folded ribbon.

Ruffle-tastic.

When the frosts arrive, they freeze solid,

becoming sugared sweeties in an elaborate window display.

Then, as they thaw, their cells jump into action

and off they go:

growing, growing, as if the pause button

had never been hit.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise money for the RSPB . To find out more about the project and how to donate, please visit my Just Giving page here.

Sharing is also much appreciated, as I’m trying to raise as much awareness of our local wildlife as possible. The more people who appreciate nature, the more likely it can be successfully protected.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 14 – Winged Meetings

The field is a mix of green and grey-white;

the sign of gulls holding parliament

in their silent, watching way –

aside, of course, from latecomers

who announce themselves without shame,

wanting the whole neighbourhood to know

they’ve finally arrived.

These hardy birds don’t turn a feather

at the drizzle, droplets running down their wings and backs

just like the ones hitting our umbrella and bouncing off to soak

into the already sodden, boggish ground.

We speculate over their intent,

curious to see if they’ll partake in five-a-side,

or if the goalposts they’re huddling round

serve some other purpose.

Safe beneath a patch of leafless shrubbery,

three pigeons look on –

a stereotype of grandmothers cooing

about the sullen youth of today.

Above, the lone crow taking a moment’s rest

suddenly finds his peace disrupted

by a flood of hyperactive starlings.

Looping and twisting, the effortless mimics settle

 on his very tree, and the one next to it,

clouding the area with constant chatter.

Grudgingly, he mooches away,

only to receive backup seconds later

from a quartet of jackdaws,

ready to bounce the riff-raff along.

Below, the gulls’ meeting remains at a standstill.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise money for the RSPB . To find out more about the project and how to donate, please visit my Just Giving page here.

Sharing is also much appreciated, as I’m trying to raise as much awareness of our local wildlife as possible. The more people who appreciate nature, the more likely it can be successfully protected.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 13 – Underfoot

Soil has often stained my hands and feet.

But unlike the residue left after holding sticky buns

or picking up used teabags after they’ve rolled off the spoon

and splatted to the floor,

it doesn’t make them feel unclean.

Yet repeatedly, I hear it called dirt.

Or mud.

Such a dull, heavy sound.

Undesirable, wash it off quick.

Barely a thought for what it actually is, or does, or harbours:

Miners. Millers. Munchers.

Decomposition prize-winners, aeration champions, turnover challengers never beaten.

And the fruit of these creatures’ toils

is that this common, brown mix –

yes, this loamy, bouncy, often fudge-like earth –

can refuel itself and chug along

supporting life.

Not lightly does soil

wear the crown of Natural Carbon Sink,

gulping down each course with

the tantrums of rivers

so everything can be still, held in place, secured.

Yet lately its hunger has soured,

its minute workers fatigued and growing scarce.

Hit with pesticides, bad land management and neglect,

every day a sliver more

of its vitality blows away in the breeze.

But we can drip feed it, nurture it,

with innovation and determination

so that maybe, perhaps, possibly,

it’ll rebuild its underground cities and again burst

with diversity and good health.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise money for the RSPB . To find out more about the project and how to donate, please visit my Just Giving page here.

Sharing is also much appreciated, as I’m trying to raise as much awareness of our local wildlife as possible. The more people who appreciate nature, the more likely it can be successfully protected.

The RSPB is also running the Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of this month, which you can also do in parks if you don’t have a garden. The aim is to collect data on garden birds to analyse their numbers to see if particular species have declined or recovered since last year’s survey. It only takes an hour, so if you have chance, please do check out the details here.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 11 – Secret Societies

In our hardened grey habitat, it’s easy

to paint everything the same.

Unknowingly masking

the creeping green

and zesty feathers

shadowing over our shoulders.

Plugging our noses against

the rising scent of decaying leaves

gathered on kerbsides

and stray tufts of grass.

Our ears blocked to the coo of pigeons

strutting around our feet

as they wear their street-cool metallic hoods.

Yes, it’s become a mantra

that the urban world is one

in which nature would never

wish to enter.

Yet the beady eyes nestling

in overgrown bushes by driveways,

the scaled, vibrating wings

sheltering within garden sheds,

all the webbed feet

hopping into various paddling pools

(long since forgotten and swollen with rain)

quietly, quietly

whisper:

we’re here, we’re here, we’re here.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise money for the RSPB . To find out more about the project and how to donate, please visit my Just Giving page here.

Sharing is also much appreciated, as I’m trying to raise as much awareness of our local wildlife as possible. The more people who appreciate nature, the more likely it can be successfully protected.

(Apologies if this one gets posted oddly, my Internet has been disrupted so I had to make do with posting this via my phone)

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 10 – Living Grave

So many times, I’ve walked past. Seeing but not seeing.

For this giant’s footprint, this decayed and blackened skeleton

has long scuttled from my attention. But now I                  pause.

Vague architecture

ripples into sense:

Steps morph into centuries-old roots basking on the soil’s surface,

the ankle-high wall surrounding a stump-table

melts into remains

of an even larger trunk, worn smooth by time’s fingers.

Five of me could stand inside and still not knock elbows.

I bet

it was Lord of Trees once,

before disease or the elements or man

finally beat it down.

And though the realisation

that I’m hovering within its bones strikes hard,

I don’t mourn for long.

How can I

when this humble grave teams with life?

Fungi, lichen, moss –

they decorate its bark like the echoes of new growth.

Climbers and creepers seek its grain, grasping

it like a helping hand, a boost of support

for their own roots.

And here I am, connected to it all,

part of the quiet bustle that takes place despite winter’s clutch.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 5 – Night Walking

Sounds of the road niggle at our backs,

shaking the illusion that we’re in the wild.

But I can ignore it, for a time.

Tonight, eagerness fills me:

We’re out after dark! What creatures will we see?

New torch in hand, I creep along,

ears honed to each whisper of leaves,

each disjointed splash

from the regular gurgling of the stream alongside us.

Light swings to the area; I temporarily summon the sun.

Feathered ferns sprawl from the ground, young maples at their sides.

Bramble, ivy, a fallen oak with spindly fingers of fresh growth.

And everywhere, single strands of glossy spider silk

stretching up, up,

like Rapunzel’s hair if she were given a sudden electric shock.

Too thirsty to care that our heads are turned its way,

a rat breaks through the foliage to sip its fill.

Yet aside from that, nothing else ventures near.

Nothing calls. Nothing chitters.

Have we walked into a void?

Is the fog, inching in so quietly,

dampening the area’s breath?

Or is the traffic hum, with its heart-thudding sirens,

too much for all but the boldest to come?

My fingers stiffen in the cold, clutched around the torch handle.

Massaging them awake, the light shifts position

and momentarily decorates my vision with spots.

I click the thing off.

Ink moves in around us. The night sighs

and spills with life.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 3 – Encounter along Connie’s Way

Scamper.

What was that?

Grey flash in the brambles – ghost

of a swift-pawed scavenger

foraging by the river.

Hold a beat.

                Hush now.

Gently. Gently.

Torch level, breath misting.

Then: bright eyes, whiskers all a twitch,

pink toes resting on the base of a tree

while nose lifts upwards, hopeful for tangy whiffs.

No luck here.

Faces us; What you looking at?

Gone.

Rope-tail the last thing we see

disappear.

This poem is part of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry project to raise funds for UK wildlife charity RSPB and to encourage an appreciation for nature. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it (including reblogging) and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild.

Poetry

All the lives around us #WorldAnimalDay

They’re in the grass, the soil, the peat

They make their residence in lakes and trees.

Some scurry underfoot

Or soar above heads

Wriggle on bellies or stand on legs.

Some have been confused for mythical creatures —

Unicorns, sirens — because of their features.

They’re all around us, every day.

Some even share our homes and encourage us to play.

But whether they’re family or wild through and through,

When they’re mistreated, driven out, abandoned

We can make a difference

By helping them rebuild their lives anew.

Reviews, Uncategorized

Non-fiction book review: Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty

A few weeks ago, my nan told me about a book written by an autistic teenager that recently won the Wainwright Prize (which is a UK award focusing on books about nature) and offered to buy me a copy. Naturally, having a great love of nature myself and also wanting to read more autistic voices, I said I’d love to read it. (Though, amusingly, the book is yellow, which is the one colour that is absolute sensory hell for me – an easy fix though, as I simply turned the dust cover inside out.)

The book is written in journal format and is compiled into sections based on the four seasons. It’s difficult to fully articulate my feelings on it, but I’ll try. (A warning, though: this is likely to be a long and rambling post detailing some of my own life experiences rather than just focusing on the book. I promise it will be relevant, though!)

Firstly, Dara’s writing is very evocative and poetic – I had serious writer envy on this one. He seems to have the ability to place you exactly in the situation he’s describing; every detail fed to you as if your own senses were picking it up. At least, that’s how it was for me – maybe it’s because the way my senses work are very similar to his, but judging by the amount of praise this book has had, I doubt it’s just that. This did, however, present something of a problem in that it was sometimes too much for me to handle. My head would be reeling after reading a section just like it does when I’m experiencing sensory overload. I was also a little intimidated at the beginning by the sheer knowledge he has; every species and sub-species mentioned is identified, which meant a lot of names to get my head around. I did get used to it once I got past the first quarter, but it took some time. But nature has been central to his entire life, so it makes sense that his knowledge is so vast.

Secondly, his passion leaks from every word, and while noting the intricacies and completely fascinating things, he also goes into detail about the very real threats to the world (I would say the natural world, but we are part of nature rather than separate from it): climate change, deforestation, hunting, pollution, just to name a few. Now, as mentioned above, nature is one of my loves too, and I’m very passionate about protecting it. But over the years, the apathy and unkindness of others has beaten down my willingness to express why it’s important to me. I used to share all the petitions I sign on my social media pages, but now only share a handful, and in 2013, I tried fundraising for a charity (Cool Earth – check them out if you can) by getting tattooed in the armpit, only to have very little response. Realising that I’d pretty much silenced myself without even knowing came as quite a shock. And I felt like I’d let myself and the environment down, that I wasn’t doing enough.

But I kept reading, and as Dara also documents his mental health, having experienced intense bullying at school because of his interests, I came to understand that the key to why I stopped was because my own mental health wasn’t good enough to handle such negativity. That, and I get so overwhelmed about how much of a crisis the world is in that I feel like I might be crushed by it.

However, I also came to realise that though I haven’t been as vocal as I would like, I’ve still continued doing things to try and bring about the changes I’d love to see. I still sign petitions, and when my finances allow, I donate to relevant charities. I also sneak bits into my books to generate awareness, like including several stories focusing on endangered animals and deforestation in my short story collection, When the Bard Came Visiting, and having characters interact with nature in quite profound ways. So, while I might have too much anxiety to go to a climate march (not that that would be a good idea during the current pandemic), or experience too much overwhelm to constantly share facts about how much the rainforests have been cut down or the oceans have been polluted by plastic and oil spills, I can continue to do the little things within my area of expertise. And if I spark even one person’s passion for the environment, then it’ll be worth it.

Now, back to the actual book.

Dara’s ability to reflect on his experiences is really what makes this book come together, and though at first it seems quite simple, it covers an awful lot of ground. As I mentioned above, he talks about mental health and bullying, and how it’s often quite hard for autistic people to express themselves. I know from my own experiences how difficult it is – the ideas are there in my head but refuse to come out in any intelligible way. He also splashes in bits of Irish and world mythology here and there, which creates yet another layer to what he’s reflecting on. I really loved reading those parts.

In short (after taking far, far too much space going over the ‘long’), this book is a beautiful exploration of our world and being part of a minority within it, and despite the mental turmoil it caused within me, left me with an awful lot of hope, too.

If, as I would urge, you decide to pick up a copy, you can get it here. I would also encourage you to check out his blog and Youtube channel too.

Poetry, Uncategorized

Overcrowded

The hourglass is set, sand fills the corners of my eyes.

Dust particles react to the sounds like fairies grouping around a newborn.

Swarming, the buzz can sometimes be unbearable

and all I want to do is wake up.

But no matter how hard I pinch or how sharp a pin I prick myself with

it doesn’t work,

because I’m already lucid.