#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

Conversation With A Flower – Week 39 #52weeksofnaturepoetry

Oh, purple, pouting flower

towering over me,

won’t you tell how you got your name?

Through tales of gifting socks and gloves

to heavy-pawed foxes

(thereby lessening the chance of them alerting prey).

Are they true?

These legends, these yarns?

Who can say, curious one?

I have flowered and perished

and flowered again

many times.

Any tales about my past

may contain slices of truth,

or none.

Surely you must know

of one that’s factual?

Come on, share.

Please.

Have you heard of dead men’s bells?

No?

An alternative term spoken in some parts,

spun from whispers

discussing my aptitude for raising the fallen

and souring the living.

You’re a wild thing, then?

Doing what you will

with any who trample your roots?

Nay, it’s simpler than that.

If a failing heart and high blood pressure

lay among a person’s troubles,

ingesting the right dosage

of my leafy makeup

can send the reaper scarpering from their door.

Nip too much, however,

and even the healthiest of souls

might find themselves snoozing

with the worms.

And other creatures?

What do they think of you?

Ask the carder bees.

Watch them kiss each tubular set of lips

and run off with pockets full of brilliant powder.

Listen as their buzzing wings proclaim

not all riches are jingling coins,

and I am a mine of treasures.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. 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!

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 26 – Weeds Indeed!

Minute purples, tiny blues, pins of white,

heads of bursting yellow.

Forget them, forget them not:

Wildflowers.

(Or the name you give them – weeds.)

Growing freely alongside the grass

of your untrimmed lawns, fields, verges;

these vibrant native nuggets pop

up each spring.

Cuckooflowers, dog violets, daisies,

primroses, cornflowers, cowslips;

hundreds more!

You call them unwanted, unnecessary, untidy.

But, what if, instead,

you were to think, ‘What a feast for wildlife!

Which species will my patch of green attract

if I let these lovely plants be?’

A tiny section of dandelions,

left to grow full manes,

can feed a myriad of insects:

our tiny heroes who pollinate crops

and break down waste,

meticulous workers pumping life

right up to your front door.

Surely that’s cause to leave

the weedkiller alone this year?

(Or better, discard it, safely, altogether.)

So, spare a thought to that patch of colour

you didn’t plant.

For all flowers are worthy;

all play a part.

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, social 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

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 23 – Old Timers

In return for appreciation of its rays, the sun

bestows cloaks on everything it touches.  Swishy

cuts of darkness, lengthening or shortening

depending on the gift giver’s fancy.

But what of those it rarely touches, beings

which get only the sparsest sprinklings of gold, or

are shunned by it altogether, existing within

those cloaked spaces?

Are they ever considered by anyone?

Patches of green everywhere,

ranging from

vast and feathered ferns

to mosses and liverworts

with minute leaves and ruffles,

often wet to the touch and covered in curious

craters and mini umbrellas

rising like antennae.

All of them survivors

making the most

of their surroundings;

reproducing via spores,

not seeds or pups.

They’ve endured for eons, needing to evolve little

compared to many species.

So, exactly how much thought do we give these primitive old timers?

Barely any

unless

they’re messing with the neatness

of our preciously manicured gardens.

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 22 – Chattering

Some say

trees speak to each other,

whispering pasts and presents our kind cannot comprehend.

These tales were woven as folklore, myth

but

keen minds have been at work

to research, ponder, analyse.

Their findings? Remarkable things.

If a tree is starved, its neighbours sense its desperation

and pass along nutrients to sustain it.

Their network of doing so is a curious one – fungus, they employ.

A phone line

of fungus which latches on to roots

and connects them to others.

In return,

a small percentage of sugar food must be paid.

Typical service charge.

Warnings can be given, too.

Of drought, pests, disease.

With the time

these messages bring, the collective

can change its behaviour.

Each sapling, each grandparent,

altering, slightly, to protect themselves.

In China, a bright green flower –

picked often for its herbal properties –

grew tired of the picking.

Plucked at again and again.

So it bloomed duller, then duller still,

until it matched its surroundings.

Hidden, protected

from eager hands.

Aerial footage, sped up

enough for us to discern the goings on,

shows a forest’s movement.

How each tree sways, branches linking

then parting,

trunks leaning first this way, then that.

Not unlike brain activity,

synapses pulsing with signals,

leaves drifting between.

Watching this slow progression, I wonder

if Tolkien was on to something.

Maybe trees and other plants can talk, but,

like Entish,

the delivery of their words is not

for the impatient.

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 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 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 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!

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 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.)