#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 24 – Sky Dancer

The poem below is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

Sky Dancer

Snagging the updraft, she glides high.

No fuss, no theatrics.

Just drive.

Her next meal awaits below, somewhere unseen for the moment.

Not for long.

With due perspective, she’ll pinpoint her catch.

In a quiet spot, she might be able to leap from perch

to extract a tasty morsel,

yet close to ground, disturbances always threaten.          

Other predators, rowdy humans, her own hunters –

the ones who claim she kills their game

as if she is playing as they do

rather than being fuelled by pure survival instinct.

When she rides the air, deep eyes alive,

everything becomes clear.

Nothing can hide.

She’s looking for her main course,

no mere snack this time.

Her mate circles close, nothing yet for him.

His luck is his own.

Her skills deliver: mottled brown fur, a speck to our eyes.

A prize for her.

Talons poised, she bullet-dives.

Faster than an arrow meeting its target, near soundless

and every bit as deadly.

For her prey, that is.

Snatched in a blink, life extinguished by her grip

and several nips from her beak.

Devoured quickly.

Precious energy not easily gained.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 21 – Something About Leaves

The way they poke up from the ground, peeping moles at first, growing braver every day until all at once, it seems, they spring out full force, declaring, ‘I’m here!’

Sometimes, they arrive swaddled within themselves, and day by day they unwrap a new section – like a long game of pass the parcel with only one piece of wrapping – and the prize is all their delicate veins and bobbles finally getting chance to stretch.

Then we have those that simply step out from another through the thinnest of slits: ‘Door’s open, here I go. Bit of a squeeze, but I can manage…there!’

Pop. One new leaf.

Of course, we mustn’t exclude the coiled fronds which roll open in yo-yo fashion.  Chlorophyll-rich tongues lapping at the sun or arching gently over the moist soil of riverbanks (or that shaded brick wall you’ve ignored forever).

Branches wave and shake, responding to the seasons. In a disco spread across months, this barely perceptible flailing culminates in the arrival of buds that push out green sails, ready to carry the plant on to its next stage.

Blossom!

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 20 – Ladybirds and Harlequins

A red pin rests on a board of greenery, tucked in so snug it can only be seen from a certain angle; by chance, that’s where I’m standing. The breeze rattles the branches as I stoop to identify:

Is it? Could it be?

Cherry wing casings, dark head, three black dots on either side, one split between. A true seven-spot!

Years have passed since I’ve seen any in person (though they peppered my childhood generously), and yes, perhaps I’ve been particularly unlucky until now, for they are about. But often, they’re shunted aside by rowdy bullies, such as the non-native harlequins.

While just as striking, the harlequins guzzle and gulp down aphids all day long. Voracious eaters, they leave little to spare, and our humble ladybirds regularly find themselves wanting – and then where do they go?

I’ve heard they stay in bug hotels, grand establishments set up in wild gardens. Surrounded by local species; glorious bushes, trees, shrubs; these little havens sound delightful, the perfect places for a touch of respite.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 19 – Revival

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a sculpture,

each groove and knot moulded by careful hands,

texturising bark and smoothing nodes.

A representation of life, but not life itself.

But the truth is, not so long ago,

it would have danced with the wind,

green baubles flapping freely while

its long arms waved to the birds

and swallowed the sun.

Oh, how vibrant and rich it must have been once, before they came and hacked and hacked

and hacked.

Why this brutality, this disregard for natural form?

To make it safe, perhaps? Lessen the chance of falling limbs

onto fences and fancy cars?

Bricked-in and sawn like that, I often wonder:

Can it survive?

Will it survive?

Or will I spot its tired spirit one day, lingering outside its trunk,

circling in the hope of reviving itself

before finally giving up and drifting away?

And yet, reaching from old wounds and summoned by the seasons,

tell-tale spindly shoots appear: the newest of new growth.

It lives! It lives still,

though little care has come its way.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 18 – The Sea and its Tears

It’s hard to accurately describe the tugging rustle

of the tide dragging pebbles back

into its depths,

reaching with foamy fingers

that half-make you want to grip them and be carried away yourself.

Not quite shattering glass,

not quite a handful of cascading shells.

It’s distinctive, a cry of longing to stay

yet needing to go.

Indeed, it leaves tears behind,

transforming rocky crevices into miniature worlds.

Famous occupants include the armoured side-walkers.

Hunkered down, it’s easy to miss them;

their backs blend well with the stage.

Upset one with clumsy feet or hands, however, and you’ll know.

Then we have those with softer bodies, who like to switch things up by probing vacant shells,

bottle caps, concave pieces of this and that –

property surveying, we’d call it.

As for compulsive scavengers,

the prawns never seem to tire of that line of work,

skilfully avoiding the numbing flowers shaking their tassels

for a chance of collecting organic debris to feast on.

And all of them waiting, waiting,

to again be blanketed by the sea.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, ‘traditional’ fundraisers etc.) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#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 12 – Not So Grave

The stones are leaning, broken, face down. Grass hides the boundaries but also shelters little pockets of shoots. Snowdrops. Daffodils. Soon a clump of crocuses or two. Arthritic trees pop with new growth; tendrils sprouting straight from trunks, left to thrive and wild despite the careful manicuring of shrubs and hedges elsewhere on the plot. Buds collect on arms like dew, promising, teasing: soon, soon. Branches wave, collecting birdsong with the same enthusiasm as dry earth awaiting rain. The birds themselves are tiny, specks of brown-grey, black, yellow-green, and blue; mingling and chattering on, heedless of the slumbering residents grinning up at the daisies.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, sport-style fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our 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.

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

The Walking Tree

The tree gazed at the disappearing ground.

It couldn’t stay there,

its nourishment would be gone.

So it gathered up its roots into vast legs

and stumbled its way across the

evaporating forest

to an area of neat grassland,

digging down to plant itself beside

the hive of two-legged beings

who spilt their freshly poured coffee

and ran to their moving metal boxes

to get out of its wake.