Here are the latest poems for my 26 poem challenge to cover 26 different species found at Navasola in Southern Spain. These particular wild flowers are now fading as their time for flowering is over and a new wave of wild spring flowers have arrived. In nature so much seems transient but all the flowers have been waiting and preparing for their moments of glory all through the year or longer. They have been in long preparation to ensure their species survive.
And so I have a rather religious or spiritual link for them all. Some inspiration comes from the candle like shapes as in Jewish tradition and symbols for the creation story and the very special day of rest. The common names of some of the flowers provide links to God and the bible too. All these flowers are such incredibly evolved species in their own right and show the wonder of nature or God’s creation.
Comments on the ‘form’ of poetry I am trying to create are at the end.
4. Tassel Hyacinth
You capture light with blue
Radiating calm, candles curved
Upward to a lost God
We searched for in dark places
You found in your seed’s desire.
5. Star of Bethlehem
Each pointed point prepares
The Way from birth to Heaven
White beauty shines bright
A flower’s time is but a breath
Of hope above our Earth.
6. Solomon’s Seal
Did all on earth agree
To learn the ways of the wise
Praise the life of Spring
With heads hung low
Close to the living earth?
7. The Wild Peony
I wrote about you once
Your wild genes, your pink beauty,
Ready to receive
So many into your pollen filled heart
There is nectar for all.
8. The Palmate Anenome
Once I drew your curves
To find my hesitant lines
Gave me silent joy.
Your flower held high
By stronger forces than I could ever know.
The form of these poems is a mix of haiku extended into my own 26 word form. I begin with the pattern of haiku of 17 syllables or words and then put in the extra to make up 26 words. Although short it still takes time for the poem to evolve and to be a tribute to each flower as well as any other meaning.
I have been thinking about different approaches to writing poetry and in particular as to what makes a poem and what also makes a good poem, and when is a poem finished. I wished to go back and change some words on the last poem haiku at the end, I wanted the more evocative kiss rather than love .
How do poems make us feel something differently, a new perspective perhaps is important, a new way of looking at our world, and for me ‘The sound must echo the sense’ from TS Eliot. I like a lyrical feel but think I must try a different approach soon and some humour! Well, TS Eliot ranged from The Four Quartets to Cats.
If you wish to sponsor me in this challenge here is the link.
Here is poem no 3 of my charity challenge and with thanks and links to Dverse poets that inspired my poetry path and gave knowledge of many different forms of poetry. The prompt is open link night but will be interesting as there is the idea to share about our lives and what we may depend on in this crisis. There is also a beautiful Mary Oliver poem on their post. Their link is below.
This is my attempt at a haibun. A Japanese form of descriptive prose ending with a haiku. My format for my challenge is 26 lines. Please don’t count! There were 26 in pages. Word press changes too much for me when writing lines! It describes my conservation dilemmas and good fortune to be outside in our woodland home where we are both well but the sadness of others loss is real and close. Stay safe, protect your health workers and protect the natural world so much depends on.
Haibun Prose Poem In Honour of Hawthorn Trees on whose lives so much depends.
The hawthorn tree stands near our Navasola house. It is rooted within the granite rocks of a ridge along the eastern valley slopes and must be decades old, young in comparison to the century old chestnuts and olives but wild and has freely chosen its niche. I once sat beneath it, in its shade to meditate. I heard a slight fluttering and dared to leave the peace inside to look out and see a tiny mother wren and her even tinier young spaced outa along a branch. My stillness and her quietness crossed a gap. I was in her home. The hawthorn tree is a special tree for it profits many. It may defend itself with sharp thorns but for hundreds of others it protects and nourishes while it propagates itself.
Time is being spent for me between the inside and outside of this virus ridden spring. Outside I follow the wild boar paths and become like the wild bison clearing a greater space. I hope the destruction I create will make way for the more vulnerable species that need more light, or that’s my plan, like my fire plan. I clear away a lot of life in hope of more. But I always leave the young hawthorn trees that break out amid a stranglehold of bramble and undergrowth of viburnum that becomes impenetrable canopy with woven strands of sarsaparilla. Dead bramble poles still reach up surrounding their young with protective thorns. Not much can enter, not much can grow here. My desire to protect the hawthorn seems to combine some vague awareness of its fairy connections to other worlds. In fairy and folklore, I later read it is sacred and if cut down, there will be some price to pay. So much depends on a hawthorn tree. So many species.
I was scrambling up the rocky path in a tired bramble scratched frenzy and a spiky branch was in my way, in my face, on my path. I was about to chop. I stared, not recognising the blossom heavy branch, each flower packed with deep vibrant pink.
This was the first time ever I saw so close the hawthorn flower, with its anther caps on, waiting for the right time to dust the insects, blow the pollen to the wind, and then look worn out, brown and wispy thin.
Storm clouds dark spring skies
My eyes caress your burst buds
Pink lips love propose.
This link shows some close up photography of hawthorns and was the closest I got to understanding what may be happening with those sexy lipped anthers. Hawthorns are also known for herbal remedies that improve the functioning of the heart!
The other link is for anyone who would like to sponsor me writing 26 poems for a well known nature charity, the RSPB. All charities are struggling with loss of income now so this is a small way I am encouraging myself and others to help. I also hope my poems can inspire and inform about 26 of our species here at Navasola.
The poem of William Carlos Williams that begins with ‘ So much depends’ comes sadly to my mind this week. I discovered it first in a wonderful book called ‘ Love That Dog’ by Sharon Creech. A beautifully simple book for young and old about poetry and loss with the young boy finally being able to express happier feelings and memories of a loved dog. I have also just finished listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, a long but well worth the listen or read. ‘So much depends.’..is quoted and used by one of the characters who also becomes a poet and doctor studying disease outbreaks after growing up in the Congo. She bears witness to the struggle of ordinary people there to survive in a country being exploited by outside interests and also suffers her own tragic loss.
So much has happened within a few months that is life changing for so many and for a close friend. We will have to learn to live within an uncertain world as many already do in parts of Africa, give support to each other and ensure we look after the natural world on whose healthy state we depend.
This poem was written about the same time as the blackbird poem and for my charity challenge of 26 poems. Each verse is 26 words! Please don’t count them. I have several times. The illustration is by another good friend and neighbour who is a a botanist, naturalist and was a conservation specialist in a previous life in Africa and many other parts of the world. Thank you to Nick Clarke for allowing me to use your drawing. Here in the Sierra there are many wood mice, with slightly larger ears than the house mouse. But similar enough if they come in the house or as some of my close friends and followers know even take a car ride.
A Wood Mouse Mother; so much depends on where you make your nest.
You come so close to us.
You leave your trail of our
Chestnuts, quickly nibbled,
But really, yours.
As these are from your woods
You make your nest within our car,
Well under the bonnet.
You leave your naked new born
Deep within the engine fold
For just a minute.
While you forage
Your nurtured nest has gone.
Just a space under the tree.
Will you know to wait
Within the bramble bush
For our return?
If you would like to help me sponsor the restoration of nature through the RSPB here is the link and on the previous post on the blackbird.
Here is the first poem of my challenge of 26 poems about the nature we see in our Navasola valley. It is about the common blackbird, Turdus merula, or Mirlo, in Spanish. A bird which sometimes perhaps we take for granted. And certainly the female is taken for granted with her duller but mottled brown plumage, but she is the one who makes the nests. Turdus, too, doesn’t seem the right word but means the family of thrushes and merle is harder to trace, meaning the blackbird but also merle can mean mottled and gives the names for Merle and Muriel.
However, to listen to their song and see them getting their daily ‘bread’ reminds me of the hymn sung as a child ‘Blackbird has spoken’, the Beatles ‘Blackbird’ and Wallace Stevens 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. Trevor’s idea was for me to do poems of 26 lines. I am also going to include poems of 26 words as I feel some brevity and levity might help too.
This poem was begun on the 26 th April when so many should have been running the London Marathon and raising money for many charities, and hence the 2.6 charity challenge. On the same day my friend the artist Ruth Koenigsberger was finishing her painting, Japanese style, of a blackbird among the blossom of a tree in her orchard. I am grateful to her for allowing me to show it with the poem.
I hope this makes a good start to my own poetry marathon. Details of the fundraising links are at the end of the post. For me I feel that although as a human species we need to nurture each other now more than ever, I am also concerned that we must have the nurturing of a much damaged natural world at the heart of our recovery. So I am supporting the conservation work of the RSPB and the International Bird Life.
Blackbird Painted in the Light of Spring
As I look out from locked down listening
To varied voices in a ‘Poisonwood’ mission,
A blackbird struts, brightening my being,
Familiar feathers focus my attention.
Once they came to our London family home
Finding fallen apples, with fieldfares too.
To find them there with so much ground to roam
Relieved despair: I ask do they still visit there?
Here, under the shade of the cork tree leaves
Among wild red peas, where grass and clover clash,
Blackbirds group together search for grubs and seeds.
Disturbed by watching eyes, to trees they dash.
Within the ivy wrangled oak, shaded in with bark black hues
Away from all those human folk, a blackbird calls
So each now knows.
Be safe, beware, find a better place,
Like deep within the thicket or the bramble bush,
Where fears are easier to face, where there is not such need to rush.
The blackbird beckons us to look anew, consider too, they have a view.
A poem and a piece of art, a valley and a hill apart
Take shape with feathery fine lines and painted plumes.
The hope of Spring within a blossoming heart.
A song, new words reach out to friends in far off rooms.
Our splendid isolation has included not having any internet connections for long sessions throughout April. It now seems a bit better so am hoping this is an opportunity to post and also catch up with you all across the world in these strange and difficult times. I hope and pray all is well and will be well but know that we all may be affected in some way at some point by knowing someone whose life is deeply affected and changed by this pandemic. Much support and care is going to be needed for each other and the natural world we do depend on.
The rain here is blessing us with water if not wifi. The mobile phone company call the problems ‘atmospheric’ meaning I guess, it is again those powers beyond human control.
Here are some photos of our walks around Navasola.
We have taken this time as an opportunity to rediscover some of the wilder parts of the finca. It has often seemed like an adventure and I have been to areas I have never seen before. We tried to follow some of the boundary stone walls too and found ourself clambering over some of the stones the wild boar have knocked down. Boars know no borders too. Last week we saw a small group, yearlings probably, going about like a teenage gang, from my sanctuary window. At first it was interesting to watch them, scratching backs against the rocks, snouting around by the path. Then one crossed the patch by some of my roses and some wild gum cistus and lupins I have been nurturing. I opened the window and hollered before even thinking of picking up the camera! They shot off so I hope they know to steer clear of ‘my’ rock garden. To be fair till now this area has always been left unploughed by the boar. Too much human smell.
Walking anywhere at the moment there are some lovely wild peonies. These are not bothered by boar activitity and as we do not plough or clean the fields intensively there are more and more peonies each year. They are known as the queen of herbs and do make a fantastic and natural display. The insects also love them. Another of my favourites is the yellow palmate Anenome and again there are often pollinators within and other insects that seem to half eat the petals into ragged shapes. I have never seen one completely destroyed and they are very delicate looking flowers. It is hard to get a good photo of all the flowers in a patch. The yellows are winning out at the moment with the yellow rock rose or cistus,halimium trifolium, the Spanish broom, gorse and another yellow plant that likes the drier ground by the studio hill.
The studio is an old container that the previous owner installed for her sculpture work. It is on the south west side of the valley and is a warm and light place to work in in the winter. The old house used to be very dark and gloomy. However, the studio, as it is metal, is a hot box for when the temperatures rise. This area has lots of different wild flowers, some tiny white ones, tall asphodels and there is always a lot of bramble, sarsaparilla and some stunted fig trees. Last year we discovered the orebanche and a very tall but pale type of orchid.
Along this stretch of the valley side are lots of rocks and tall pines. It is not an easy to cultivate area and is now how we like it. Quite wild. There is a badgers den within the rocks and a dangerous drop and caves here where possibly other creatures live too. Above this rocky recess are the pines that have grown very tall but there is also a lot of madroño, viburnum and the tough wiry and thorny sarsaparilla. Some of it is like a jungle with hanging vines of vicious thorny strands. There are also some stands of oak. At Navasola there are several types of oak; mirbeck, faginea, and pyreneus. There are also cork oak and holm oak. This stand is the quercus faginea or lusitania, Portuguese oak.
I have also been clearing some paths on the other side of the valley, Navasola East. Here I can now walk above the old era, the place for threshing grain, and through a very rocky olive grove. Here the olives have been planted many years ago but are very majestic and mossy, with amazing trunks. And hiding holes. We have just discovered a wild bee hive at the base of one. It is all very green and mossy on the rocks and the stone walls have lots of different ferns.
Further down towards a Navasola East there is the pond we worked hard on restoring last year. The wild boar had managed to wallow too hard in it and put their tusks into the lining. Now they aren’t allowed in! There are plenty of other places for them to find water and wallow. Our prize animals at the moment are the two Iberian water frogs we have spotted. More on these in a later post as I will devote a poem to them. It’s there in the picture, camouflaged with its thin green,reed like stripe down its back.
I am going to try and complete a challenge for one of the wildlife charities. In the U.K. This is called the 2.6 challenge instead of the London Marathon which usually raises a lot of money for many different charities.It was supposed to take place on April 26th and of course couldn’t. Charities are suffering from lack of funding now and not able to undertake some of the work needed. 26 or 2.6 is the magic number. So instead of running round our finca, which is difficult anyway I am going to try and write 26 poems on the different species that live around Navasola. There will be a Just Giving link to sponsor me if anyone wishes for the RSPB and Birdlife International. So hopefully my internet will work well as I will post 26 lines or words for each poem!
Just setting myself up so I have to get this done!
I have few words this month and although I hope for everyone to be safe and well I know that there is much worry and suffering for so many. Our life here goes on much the same but without the social contact and nature trips like this one from February. We set out on our annual pilgrimage to Donana wetlands where we hope to see great flocks of flamingos. One of our favourite places en route is by the bird sanctuary of Canada de los Pajaros. Many storks gather and nest here. So we stopped to see storks flying high together in a very bright blue sky, nesting in the pines, and making their wonderful bill clapping sounds.
After being quite stork struck I wandered up the path. There was bird poo all over the prickly pear, so I looked up. There were lot of large stork nests. I saw a bird move so got the camera on it. I thought it might have been a young stork or egret. The first photo told me very little but the next few meant that I had got on camera the birds that had eluded me last year.
Yes, indeed, the beak gives it all away and I finally got some good photos of a spoonbill.
Hope this may have made you wonder a little bit about nature and the amazing diversity of birds and beaks. For everyone lisening and looking more at the wonderful birdlife around us. Lets cherish the birds and keep them safe too with good conservation of the habitats they need.
Rushing to update now as this all ran ahead of me and published with a mind of its own. More on Donana and explorations around Finca Navasola next time. Love to all.
Today I wake to a brighter morning. A few days of heavy rain have helped stock up our well. For this we are totally dependent on Mother Nature or Mother Earth. Do we have two mothers or are they one? Nature supports life in our home the Earth. The sun coming out means our solar panels may give enough power to run the washing machine. We need sun and rain and usually we are blessed with both here in the Sierra Aracena, but as many of my long standing readers know, we have had our water levels run low last summer.
All the news is overwhelming so we have decided to turn the wifi off until breakfast. We may now be stuck here for months. We are in a good place, almost splendid isolation. We are beginning to feel it is not just risky but irresponsible to try and travel back to the UK. In Spain, everyone is confined to their homes and there are strict measures for only going out for essential activity. To stay at home means taking little risk of getting infected with Covid 19 but it also means helping the health services at a time of overwhelming numbers of patients. The health workers know they can save many who need oxygen if the virus does its worst and attacks too much lung tissue. They need time to prepare, patients may need a long time on ventilators. We are told in the U.K. that choices may need to be made as there are so few intensive care beds to maintain life support.
So we will stay here as choice is also limited by the number of cancelled flights. Our planned return flight this coming week was cancelled and we booked another, which was cancelled. We have a home here, a beautiful woodland home. We are fortunate but we are worried about family and friends. Many are in the vulnerable categories, including our grown up children, for various reasons. But even if we got home the new social distancing means we cannot be with them.
I get up to go out for a few jobs, like digging in our green waste. The morning has become shrouded in half mist and light but the drops of rain on the flowers spur me to take some photos.
I get a message and some photos through on Whats App from home. It’s a wonderful gallery of photos of me with daughters and granddaughter. The tears flood into my eyes. As I recover, a poem comes to mind as I enjoy the varied flowers I have grown and those that are growing wild.
A Mother’s Day poem for Mother Nature
I walk out into the garden which you helped me create,
I fear for the flowers bashed down by the storm,
But the tulip stems stand firm.
Their flowers draped with drops.
The lilac florets fashion freshwater pearls
Even the freesias bent low to the ground
Still perfume the air.
Your hand in this is always there,
With the roses recovered from drought
But the first bud is bitten.
Something needs food,
And for us thought.
We must learn to share
Our creations with yours.
I turn to your wild children
And I am sorry.
The ones we have waged
War with, the weeds, the bees.
And we still destroy forests
Lungs for all,
And wild spaces
Of endless diversity.
We have forgotten
Your wise words
Told by our oldest tribes.
When we were young you gave us
the bison, the buffalo,
the deer, the boar, and more.
Wild grasses became
Our daily bread
Thankful for food.
But we grew too fast,
We pushed you away.
We knew more than you.
The forest trees you gifted us
We used in foolish ways.
Your wild animals we stole
For our own delights.
And now we begin to blame
And maybe even you
We thought we were kings
To do as we please.
Fly around like the birds
And just enjoy your earth.
Without pause for thought.
We were choking your lungs
You coughed, you spluttered
We ignored your pain.
Your first families we dismissed,
Not as clever as us.
Surely, we were the favourites.
We shoved your wild offspring
Into smaller and smaller spaces,
Reducing their numbers,
Killing the old, sometimes the young.
Felling their forests
Thinking only of our plans,
Our needs, our games.
Now we are confined
To small spaces
Wondering who will survive.
We will promise
You, our Mother Earth
To care for all your children
Lest we forget
So no one dies in vain.
I had been thinking about the way it was easy to blame this pandemic on the Chinese and the eating of wild animals from the wet market in Wuhan. I cannot condone this but perhaps we need to understand how many cultures have lived closely to wild places and in the past these habits may not have caused such harm as there may have seemed to be plentiful wildlife. Even the nursery rhyme suggests how much we used to eat wild birds ‘ four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie’.
However, over the last few hundred years our species has removed so much wild forest and habitats for other species from the earth and in doing so has restricted and restricted the movements of wild species, e.g. wolves can roam 100s of miles in a day. We have also contained wild species into more confined habitats as we continue to expand our influence on earth with cities, clearing land, farming, and still logging and mining in some of the remaining forests.
The article I read in the Guardian suggests another way of looking at this pandemic. If wild animals have to live in smaller and smaller spaces it is very likely they will transfer diseases more and across species and if humans continue because of old habits of killing these creatures it can cause new viruses to which humans may suffer terrible losses.
Will we learn from this or just go back to business as usual? Could we leave the wild forests alone, those that remain, and restore more land back to nature?
Keep well, keep safe and maybe it is time to reflect and share thoughts with others.
“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbour so many species of animals and plants – and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses,” David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote in the New York Times. “We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.”
As in Spain ” Stay at Home” In the UK Protect our health service and all those that work in it from the stress of dealing with vast numbers of patients needing oxygen and many needlessly dieing.