#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 15 – Ms. Blackbird

Feathers of leaf drop, plain and inconspicuous:

you won’t see her until she darts, stone-skipping steps,

across the path and on, on

into the grass. Shape distinct now against the green,

her partner still outshines her in his black evening jacket,

tangerine beak lifted in lively chortle-song.

Often, his bold appearance

is what gives her away – rarely are they far apart;

a tiff or two won’t separate them for long.

While he entertains the gardeners, watchers, afternoon ramblers

with his dashing looks,

she hurries about, a curious rain of leaves and twigs

misting the inches above her head.

Her search for morsels is never-ending.

Unafraid is she of getting close

if it means a beakful of worms might be claimed.

Fuel for creating her latest architectural project,

this year’s nest. You may find it one day,

long after its time.

How many broods were raised in it, you might wonder.

How many indeed?

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

#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)

Uncategorized

12 Plants of Christmas!

Hi everyone! I thought I’d do something a little different from my usual ramblings, so here’s a list of plants associated with Christmas/Winter Solstice. Some are used specifically for decoration, others are used for cooking, and some are used for both. I’ve also made some notes on either the traditions behind each plant, or how they’re used now. Enjoy!

Holly – A very hardy shrub, holly is the sacred plant of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, who was celebrated around Winter Solstice time. As Christianity took over, the use of holly as decoration was adopted from the older festival.

Ivy – A climbing (and potentially invasive if left uncontrolled) evergreen, ivy was used initially by pagans to decorate their homes in winter due to its rich green tones that brim full of life. Due to its ability to latch on to almost anything, it often represents faithfulness, friendship and loving relationships. It was apparently banned by the church at one point though because of its shade loving nature, which gave it associations with shady (no pun intended) or inappropriate behaviour.

Mistletoe – Partly a parasitic plant, as it takes nutrients from whatever it’s growing on. Apparently, druids believed it to bring luck and ward off evil spirits if hung around the home, and in Norse mythology, it is a symbol of love and friendship. In more modern times, having mistletoe around at Christmas comes from the idea of bringing something living into the home at a time when most plants die down. As mistletoe produces berries in winter, and those berries contain seeds that in turn become new plants, kissing underneath it became a sort of good luck act for couples wanting to have children.

Norway Spruce – Native to Northern Europe, it’s one of the most popular trees grown for Christmas. However, its popularity in the UK is fairly recent (compared to some other trees that are often used), and came about because of Prince Albert, who introduced the German tradition of decorating them with candles. As thanks for aid given to Norway during WW2, the Norwegian capital, Oslo, gifts large specimen trees to the cities of Edinburgh, London and Washington DC each Christmas, where they are displayed in each city’s largest square.

Poinsettia – Native to central America, poinsettias are actually a type of shrub, and their signature red ‘flowers’ are in fact leaves that change colour in response to lower light conditions. The real flower is tiny and clustered in the centre of the red leaves. These plants are associated with Christmas because of an old Mexican legend about a poor girl who had no gift to present to baby Jesus, so she gathered a bouquet of weeds instead, which then turned into bright red flowers. (Fun fact: you can keep poinsettias going long after the festive period as a year round houseplant, though you need to trim off the top bracts first as the flowering stems often die down once they’re spent. Once this is done, the growth reverts to the plant’s usual deep, lush green. It is possible to get them to change colour again, but it takes some investment. I’ve left mine green, and I think it’s just as lovely that way, and it’s gone woody too, so reminds me of a mini tree.)

Orange – Now quite affordable, oranges were once luxury fruits, and one of the stories as to why they’re traditionally put in Christmas stockings is down to a tale about old Saint Nicholas himself. It says that one day, Saint Nick, who was a somewhat wealthy and generous bishop, heard of a widower with three daughters struggling to make ends meet. So Nick snuck into their house and left gold coins in stockings left to dry by the fire, meaning that the girls had dowry money and could get married. Due to their initial rarity, oranges were used to represent the gold coins.

Rosemary – This perennial herb is used for so any things that it’d take a long time to list them all, but I’m sure most of you know it as a seasoning. It’s also long been used in winter decorating, and is now grown in shrub form as a small, potted Christmas tree. Historically, Roman priests used it as incense, and in other cultures, it was said to ward off evil spirits. It was also sometimes burned in the homes of people who had died from illness, as well as being placed on coffins before the graves were filled in.

Pear – Why was the partridge in a pear tree? (Or in any tree, for that matter, as they usually nest on the ground.) Well, I couldn’t find the answer, but pear trees, particularly wild pears, are said to represent good health and future happiness. Their fruit has also long been associated with the female form due to its curvy nature, so is often used in art and symbolism to represent femininity and fruitfulness.

Mint – This humble plant is used in a variety of foods during Christmas, from mint sauce to candy canes, and has many older uses, too – like being used to treat upset stomachs and being scattered around the home as a deodoriser. As it grows fast and spreads everywhere if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to get hold of. (It also grows well indoors too, though it can attract aphids.) Mint gets its name from Greek mythology, in which a nymph named Minthe tried to seek the attention of Hades, but Persephone grew jealous and turned her into a plant.

Brussels Sprouts – These small balls of green are often present at Christmas dinners, and seem to be the object of extreme distaste, particularly with younger family members. It’s also interesting that there’s not much in the way of records as to when or why sprouts were introduced into Christmas festivities, though food historians suspect the Victorians had something to do with it. The general thought appears to be that they’re easily grown during wintertime and produce good crops, therefore making them readily available during the season. (My personal thought on sprouts is that they’re edible as long as they’re covered in gravy and cranberry sauce. But they’re not my favourite vegetable by a long shot.)

Sage – Often used alongside onion as stuffing for the Christmas roast, sage is a very aromatic herb with interesting blue/purple flowers. Long before its use as a seasoning, it was grown for its medicinal properties, and indeed, its name comes from the Latin word ‘salvare’, meaning to heal or save. It has been used all over the world to treat a variety of ailments, and to protect against spells. (It’s also quite easy to grow, too!)

Cranberry – Commonly used as a condiment for Christmas dinner and also a popular winter fragrance, the wild cranberry is native to America, and was a popular source of food, drink and medicine for many Native Americans. However, the cranberry vine wasn’t commercially grown until the early 1800s, though once it was, its popularity steadily grew, and in 1940, its use as a sauce/jelly was born.  

So, there you are, 12 plants of Christmas. If you’d like to know what research sources I used for anything in particular or want further reading, just let me know in the comments. (I was going to leave a list of links here, but WordPress decided to auto-embed them and it messed up the rest of the post.)

Wild Ivy (Hedera Helix)

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 8 – A Flash of Colour in the Trees

Snap shot: bushy tail, red fur

floating between branches.

Limbs outstretched, eyes fixed on its destination.

Real time gives a delicate touch down, then a quick scurry up the trunk.

But wait;

something watches.

Freeze.                 Flatten.

Not here. Not here.

Danger passes, a flip in stance

and on the go again.

Another leap – this time a blunder. Almost.

Instinct twists its body, course correction,

advanced calculations performed in a glimpse of a second.

Safe landing

and a pawful of berries as the reward.

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!

(This one might be a bit shorter than normal — my laptop broke a few days ago, so I had to borrow my partner’s, which doesn’t have my drafts on it, thus I didn’t have as much time for polishing.)

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 7 – Echoes of Wild

Their bodies were found in forests,

in fields, in rivers.

On roads, under windows, behind fireplaces,

in open water butts.

Their horrors were embroidered,

woes collected on their fur, feathers, skin:

Our nest sites vanished.

They bricked them up.

Metal demons in the fields

killed our chicks.

My kin and I were poisoned

by pellets put out for our prey.

We were hunters, keen eyes and talons always ready.

Yet we interfered with their ‘sport’ and became the hunted.

They cut off the pathways.

Forced us towards more dangerous routes.

They ordered a cull again, wished

to trim us down to size. Said we spread disease.

Bullets chased us through the trees.

Our feathers burst free as they struck.

Our mother was driven away by frenzied hounds,

leaving us to starve.

We had so few places to call home. So few.

We were once many. Now we are mere whispers,

morphing, slowly, into legend.

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!

[Edit] Here’s an article about how the RSPB are trying to improve farming practices to help wildlife: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/stories/hope-farm/

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 6 – Starlings

Morning. The sound of dustbin collections

and eager motorbikes.

Occasionally the fire alarm test

that startles me into hiding.

Parents taking their kids to school:

answering questions, making jokes, scolding.

But underneath it all, the unmistakable song comes.

A joyous layer punctuating the urban air with spirited notes.

Clustered, drawn out, mechanical, fluid.

Hard to describe,

yet easy to know

despite the borrowed snippets.

When I go to look, only the bricks of the flats opposite

greet me, occasionally with a gull stomping along

the roof tiles.

Even stretching my head out the window,

the vocal murmuration is too far away to spot.

A rooftop or two, as always.

The flocks around here are large, though.

On evening walks, where no towers block the view,

I catch a few minutes of their regular performance:

synchronised sky-swimming,

organised by a chaos of glossy, speckled plumage and direct beaks.

And my day is richer for it.

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!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

#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

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 4 – Layers

On the surface, she looked healthy.

But a gentle prod revealed the bruises underneath.

It was time to peel back the layers,

time to aerate the spiralling thoughts within.

Scarf wrapped tight and fingers gloved,

she trekked out into the crisp, late autumn air

leaving breath-ghouls behind her.

Down to the river, taking the quieter fork:

stray buddleias, some woody giants, others only pups,

lined the roadside. Escapees from fenced houses nestled by the bank.

Ivies stretched out to take her hands, while

nettles lifted their serrated leaves

to reveal the delicate white blooms hugging their stems.

Robin, that friendly chap, popped up

once the path diverted to the trees.

He tolerated her pleasantries, then both

went upon their way.

The air was fresh in her lungs now,

its sweetness already working the rot away.

Her strides grew more confident

as the song overhead bloomed;

blue tits and blackbirds adorning bare branches in place of leaves.

Closer to the river, coots eyed her, as did moorhens –

the ducks would have too, had they been awake.

Attempting to walk the same path as before,

she found the tide had all but swallowed it.

Try a new adventure, the water lapped, don’t look back.

About turning, chance caught her:

a snow-white egret, ankle deep in a puddle,

pausing for fan photos

before taking to branch, displaying its golden feet.

Delicate green erupted from the seeds of wild

within her heart,

evoking a rare feeling. Calm.

Her thoughts had settled.

Yes, that was definitely it. Calm.

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.

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 2 – Rambling along the cliffs

Our boots squelch, balance entirely dependent on

flapping arms and the promise of bird song up ahead.

Through the foliage below, silver and lapis

can be glimpsed.

Tide slapping the cliffs, spraying salty blisters.

They pop

just as the mud bubbles under us do.

Talons hover at eyeline; the huntress studies,

carefully, carefully. Dives.

Our attention is caught by

a rustling in the undergrowth

before we spot her ascent.

Beaked or whiskered, the noisemaker eludes our curious eyes.

Disappointed, we take

another step

and land in the view beyond:

green-gold-red and brown, flecked with neon lichen.

I whistle, attempting to mimic the motley of calls and responses

flitting from branch to branch.

Perhaps I can even entice the wind to tell me its secrets.

The trees join in, adding their groans and grumbles.

Great-grandparents chortling at mere youngsters.

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/reblogging and/or donating to the RSPB via my Just Giving page here.

Help keep wildlife wild.