Mother Earth: A poem and thoughts for Mother’s Day UK and Coronavirus

yellow marguerites in sunny south facing real rock garden

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.

Tulips in pots

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.

Spring flowering jasmine, very hardy under drought conditions and green all year.

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.

Lilac with pearls and house and solar panels in background.

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.

The wild peonies are out early along the track leading to our finca.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Each other

And maybe even you

Mother.

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

To honour

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.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/18/tip-of-the-iceberg-is-our-destruction-of-nature-responsible-for-covid-19-aoe?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“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.

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February Fun, Fotos, and Short Walks.

It has been a busy February and so I am glad of the extra day in the shortest month when winter can turn to spring here in Andalucia. The photos below are from our short local walk with Lotti the tibetan terrier. This joins the main sendero/footpath from Castano del Robleda to La Pena and Alajar. At the beginning of the month it is very wintry and all those autumn leaves featured in my Autumn walks post have blown onto the red sandy ground. But it is now so much wetter and the green moss is alive and well after its summer’s rest. Nature is resilient and adapts to many changes and with so many problems facing our planet I would like to focus on that determination to keep on trying and surviving.

 

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We have also enjoyed more walks around our own little valley but with a caveat to avoid falling into badger holes. We have discovered quite a few and also their very clearly marked latrines, carefully excavated to fit their poo. Sorry, I missed taking a picture of that.

 

Winter is also the time for visitors. Some who want to get in from the cold. Our dear old car is a favourite habitat for wood mice nests. We were waiting for the mother to return to rescue her naked, fairly new born babies before we could go shopping. They may even have been with us on previous trips.

 

Other visitors came and not expecting warmth as we have a much colder climate than their home in Portugal. We went to discover our frontier town which we have only ever driven through on the road to and from Seville. However, our day walking around the town of Higuera was full of welcome sunshine and blue skies. There were also lots of storks nesting too and of course the ones with the highest status on the church steeple. Higuera would have been full of people on the 5th of January for their most famous processions for the Three Kings celebrations. Hence the statues and a lovely avenue of orange trees. Higuera is 200m lower than where we are in Fuenteheridos. It was warmer and the Viburnums tinus and carpenters bees were out and about. See featured image.

Another favourite short walk is by the now closed Aracena campsite and source of the great river Odiel. We went on a Sunday when all the families were out for picnics but the walk by the river and  old cork trees was fairly quiet and full of birds but all quite artful and not easy to identify. The rocks by the stream were quite amazing in the sunlight and the old tree with some life at the top.

We have also visited Donana again and I will devote a whole post to that but it was again a marvellous day full of storks, flamingos, a very large flock of coots and some spoonbills that I finally managed to photograph.

The last day of February, when it is the 28th is a holiday for all in Andalucia. It becomes a long weekend a puente, bridge. Our local town was full of visitors and some posh cars. This seemed to be an attraction for photographs too. So there is one of me with my favourite car, Jud, now 24 years old and still going strong over our rough rocky track.

I think I might have to take the view that the old car has done much better on carbon emissions than these new ones. We didn’t stay too long to check whether these were electric but they were certainly worth a lot of money and on show. We bought our local bread and went back to our quiet woodland.

Near the town of Cortelezor there is a very rough road and we didn’t see many cars along this one. We wanted to find the river valley where we had walked along some years ago.In a very small area just by this picnic place we discovered some botanical wonders.

The tiny wild daffodil tops the bill among the heathers. But the rock formations were astounding in the background. There was a thorny acacia, a narrow leaved ash, the stripy leaves of thistles to be and a flower we have yet to fully identify. PS And now we have! Anchusa undulata.

And below the wild hoop daffodils; Narcissus triandrus and this mediterranean mystery. We have scoured the book but no match yet. Yes, Anchusa undulata, alkanet is Anchusa azurea.

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And for extra measure and for the extra day we have been to the Cheese Festival in Portugal, about an hour or so from the Sierra. We missed the rain here and my vegan attempts were sorely tested. However, there is an important rural economy here based on quality produced cheeses and I do think there needs to be a focus on supporting small farmers, traditional food and farming. Here is a photo of one of the local Alentejo choirs which UNESCO recognise as part of our world heritage. The singing was deep and powerful from the male choirs but there are mixed voice choirs and female ones too.

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Isle De France rare breed.

I hope this post brings you some of the vitality of nature and rural life here in this part of Andalucia and the Alentejo and can help revive and restore us as we go through tough times.

A Biodiversity Birthday. 6 years of Navasolanature! Looking back and Looking Forward.

The New Year is well under way and I can only wish that there will be hope and happiness for us all and wisdom for those in power who can make the changes our struggling world needs. January is  named after the Roman God Janus, a god with two heads. One head looks back at the past year and the other to the future. So I have decided to look back at my photos showing some of the biodiversity at Navasola and close surrounding woodlands. January is also my blogging birthday and I am now celebrating 6 years of celebrating biodiversity! My tag line began as ‘ nature needs nurture’.  And it certainly needs this now more than ever.

Buff the buff tailed bumblebee, a character in my novel.

I thought of writing  a children’s story about all the animals that come to tea near our house or sometimes into it. I was inspired by the huge grasshopper on the old wet teabags in our kitchen, although at the time it gave me quite a shock. However, I have not fully finished it for a January deadline. Of course, the main inspiration is Judith Kerr, who recently died and the ‘The Tiger who came to Tea’. Writing for children is not easy and I admire fellow blogger Annika Perry with her beautifully illustrated story ‘Oscar’s Quest’. (See links at end of this post.) My first two photos are of two of the main characters in my novel. My novel is about the journey of some animals from our woodland to the distant North.  I am still struggling to revise it after advice on point of view and writing for young adults. I now feel it is very timely as so many young people are now so concerned and more aware of the threats to biodiversity and the effects of climate change for us all. However, I have added and updated and divided the novel into two and hope to find some interest in publishing it this year.

Abe Apio the bee eater character in my novel.

 

With our return to Navasola I am pleased to hear so much bird song and calls in the evening. It is also very wet underfoot and such a change from even two months ago. Water levels have risen and there is some water in the well now but we will have to monitor closely.

Hoopoe visiting Navasola in Autumn

My decision for 2020 is to try and cut my own carbon emissions. This is going to be very difficult because of our need to travel between family and our home here. Here, in Spain with our solar power we can almost live carbon free for electricity and hot water. But our first flight has cost me a quarter of a tonne in carbon emissions. I am going to try and write about this as a new journey this year. My desire to do this and inform myself more is because of the tragic loss of wild species and habitats and climate changes makes this life threatening for so many creatures and for our grandchildren’s future.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the acting executive secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, has implored governments to ensure 2020 is not just another “year of conferences” on the ongoing ecological destruction of the planet, urging countries to take definitive action on deforestation, pollution and the climate crisis.’ ( The Guardian’)

So for January I have also thought about diet and signed up to Veganuary. Over the past 40 years I have been vegetarian and pescatarian. However vegan is difficult for me as I love my cup of tea with milk. I also love yogurt and some cheese. I will try and post more on that and have got a freezer full of my chestnut harvest recipes. Once upon a time the little fellow below was eaten as a delicacy in the province of Extremadura. This species was on the verge  of extinction. This one turned up on our porch for his own tea.

Ocellated or Jewelled lizard

Travelling by car will also be a difficult one for my carbon reduction journey. We really need a car when living in the Spanish countryside so hopefully we will try and keep mileage down. As yet we can’t afford a new car, electric or hybrid. However, hybrids are the top selling cars in Spain at the moment. There is more political will here too as the new government has appointed a Vice President to be in charge of environmental issues and transition to a greener economy. Let’s also hope that the Doñana wetlands can be well looked after.  I posted on this last year and the issues over water management. I also think it is important to visit these areas and to try and encourage ecotourism so habitats can be saved and considered important throughout the world.  Am not sure that eco minded people should cut down on eco minded tourism. There are many difficult calls.

For the sake of all these species and for the future we must ensure a greener and different kind of economy that will secure a world that protects and restores.

Link to Annika Perry’s blog and her new book.

Introducing Oskar!

Autumn Walks in the Sierra Aracena

Autumn in the Sierra Aracena is a must.The autumn colours start with the poplar trees by the rivers, the fruit trees and finally all the chestnut orchards bring those northern forest changes to the southern part of Spain in our mountains. By the end of November the chestnut harvest is over and this year it has been poor due to a longer drought than usual. We have also just managed with our well but only about 100 litres a day coming up from the water table.We took a brief respite in Portugal to use a washing machine. We didn’t dare risk the amount of water our machine takes even though our solar power makes for a carbon neutral wash. Without water it is very difficult to be comfortable. I could have walked a kilometre to the local village where the springs are still flowing in Fuenteheridos as many women in other countries have to walk long distances. The Castano village spring was still dry too.

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Autumn brings a lot of business as local farmers collect their chestnuts, tourists come to visit and enjoy walks and foraging. The foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms often creates disputes because most of the land in the Natural Park of the Sierra Aracena is privately owned and farmers need the income from their chestnuts but key footpaths are open. Some tourists come in coach loads to see the change of leaves against the bright blue skies. But thankfully it has been cloudier and some rain has fallen. Those of us who live there cannot complain as the rain is desperately needed. So for once I have had almost three months of grey skies with my time in the UK and now back at Navasola.

Organic growers’ market at the Matronal campsite between Fuenteheridos and Castano del Robledo.

Autumn also brings the harvest of other fruits such as quince which must be cooked. I cook it whole and then cut it up and add half sugar to the amount to make the famous membrillo paste. It is delicious with the hard mature cheeses of the Sierra. Below are some other fruit in a friend’s orchard; persimmon or caqui in Spanish. These need to be eaten when very overripe.

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Persimmons in Ruth’s orchard.

I have also spent a lot of time peeling and preparing chestnuts for rissoles and stews.I have a love hate relationship with these amazingly difficult nuts, their harsh husks which spike you, their outer shell which goes quite tough if not knifed into when fresh from the ground, and the awful tannin bitter inner coat which refuses to be removed.

Here are photos from one of our favourite walks above the village of Castano, especially in the evening in order to capture the setting sun. Just before the village of Castano from the road there is a large green structure and a path starts from there. Following along the path from the village you can also reach this track. These are some of the views as the sun came out making it a glorious golden walk.

Lotte my favourite Tibetan terrier at the start of the track
Views of the village of Castano del Robledo

Chestnuts are the planted orchard trees here but robles are the oaks and there are a few different kinds that grow wild here as well as the Cork Oak and Holm Oak. I was delighted to find theresagreen’s post on Chestnut trees. Its very detailed and informative about the whole years cycle. Here is the link but I might try and reblog too. https://theresagreen.me/2019/12/06/sweet-chestnut/

There’s always an old chestnut. In middle of path.
Cork trees
Rocky stone walls typical of the Sierra Aracena
A new oak forest growing.

The walk along this track or sendero from Castano del Robledo finally ends up at La Pena, a rocky outcrop overlooking the Sierra village of Alajar.Here in the renaissance times Arias Montano had a sanctuary and place of learning.Today there is the church hermitage of ‘The Queen of the Angels’ and this is where the romeria in September ends too. All the local villages walk, ride horses, or are pulled in fancy carts by horses or tractors to honour the most important saint of the Sierra. It is a magical place with tremendous views and from there you can walk the path to Castano. There are not many circular walks in the Sierra as the public paths were the old camino reals, or royal paths from village to village for trade. Perhaps the King came that way once.

La Pena, Alajar, Sierra Aracena

I have voted in the British Election, with a heavy heart as I could not vote Green as my party stood down in my northern hill town constituency. There is a weariness of the spirit but there is so much at stake. Even though there was finally a climate leaders debate on TV the ideas of a Green New Deal have not been publicised much by the media or dare I say the Labour Party.

I love that all the political parties are announcing planting tree programmes but my mantra for the New Year will be

‘ We need forests not just trees so keep our forests and make more please.’
‘It takes lots of trees of different ages to make a forest.’

I am struggling without a good wifi connection and also if there are any hints about keeping the blog going without using too many gigabytes as I am running out again on my current plan. I think I need to reduce photo size. However I hope everyone will have a very happy festive time and I am hoping my next post will be more about the animals that have visited Navasola in the past year!

Will also try and link this with Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and encourage her to leave the sea and come to our mountains. We are only about 2 to 3 hours drive from Tavira, Portugal.
Jo’s Monday walk

Green October

October has been another busy month back in the UK. I decided to attend The Green Party Conference and see if politics can be done differently. I enjoyed attending policy making for Food and Farming. This was a learning curve and along with the discussions about the Green Party’s policy group there was an opportunity to listen to a spokesman from the National Farmers Union. The farmers are aware of the challenges they face and not just from Brexit. Some farms are experiencing lack of water while others not far away are in flooded areas and excess rainwater was being pumped into the sea. The NFU have committed to zero carbon by 2040 in their industry and have the means to do so by sequestering carbon with more hedgerows, trees and other methods. They have a plan.

Another interesting speaker on farming was Sue Pritchard, an organic farmer near Hereford and chair of a RSA report on farming today which involved discussions from a wide range of people in different communities.https://www.thersa.org/action-and-research/rsa-projects/public-services-and-communities-folder/food-farming-and-countryside-commission

The conference plenary sessions were well organised but slow in some areas but most of the main changes to policies and new policies were quickly voted on. I felt that evidence based planning was important. All policies are voted on by all Green Party members who attend the two main conferences.

There was discussion on how to address the climate emergency and the need to reduce emissions by earlier dates than 2050. Many young Greens want 2025 but most Green Party planning has looked at how to practically achieve this by 2030. And even with this there are still ‘gaps’ which need to be addressed. At least the Green Party has plans and an understanding of the complexity of this and the need for all levels of government to be leading the way. I think they do try to do politics differently with a lot more democratic involvement of all members and striving for keeping kindness at the heart of debate and differences of opinion.

I was in London, my home town when Extinction Rebellion were protesting and I went to see what was going on. This group has created a major shift in awareness as to the urgency needed to address the climate crisis. In Spring they brought central London to a bemused standstill. David Attenborough , our nonagenarian also was broadcasting about the drastic changes affecting nature because of human activity. This, along with Greta Thunberg and the school climate actions has created a new awareness that these issues must be addressed now.

In a recent poll conducted by clientearth it seems that the environment will be important in how people will vote in a general election. ‘Of those polled (54%) said climate change would affect how they would vote, with the proportion rising to 74% for under-25s. The poll also showed support for fossil fuel divestment, with 60% of people thinking banks and financial institutions should ditch investments in coal, oil and gas.’

Extinction Rebellion want the government to tell the truth about the effects of carbon emissions, declare a climate emergency and create citizens assemblies to find local ways forward to create the actions needed. I went into London on the Tuesday and there were less crowds than the Monday but still a carnival atmosphere with determined intent and roads closed around Westminster. Their methods may at times be criticised but I do wonder who we will finally criticise the most if we just drift on with our ‘same old’ ways of running our lives.

 

  • A creative ploy by Extinction Rebellion. Each tree has an MPs name on it and you could ring them and invite them down to collect their present!

I decided to look more carefully at reducing my own carbon emissions. There are many websites about this and often are carbon offsetting ones. However, I had got the open university free course on this so will try their calculator and look at this more carefully on another post.
It certainly will not be easy. Although I could claim my woodland which is allowed to be rather wild, green and vibrant could offset our flights home. One tree in its lifetime may capture 40 tonnes of carbon. We have over 200 trees and lots of wild growth too and birdsong.

But offsetting is not enough. We have to reduce to below  2 tonnes of carbon each.
The average European according to one source will emit about 8 to 10 tonnes of carbon a year. Flight frequency, mileage covered by vehicles, the kind of food we eat can increase or decrease our emissions.

As a vegetarian with little dairy this may save me almost 2 tonnes of carbon. A flight home of about 1000 km is about 0.5 tonnes. The train would be 0.09 tonnes of carbon. As I think I have said before the trains are so much more expensive. From 300 to 800 euros while a flight can easily be below 100 euros and the aviation industry benefits from fuel subsidies. Another problem area that we have little control over yet is how to heat our homes in a carbon friendly way.

How can this dramatic increase not cause many problems?

Change must happen but there is still so much silence and inaction. There are some things we can and must do ourselves and there are others that governments must work on and achieve global cooperation on.

The Guardian is committed to reporting the climate crisis and has many informative and well researched articles from all around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg says ‘ listen to the scientists’. It may be complex but the scientists, the Green Party and now British farmers know we will face too many difficult consequences if we don’t take the right actions now.

And for our natural world the crisis has been happening slowly but significantly with the combination of loss of habitat and climate change creating unpredictable and extreme weather conditions along with wildfires and flooding.

The State of Nature report 2019: loss of nature since 1970 ‘We need a strong new set of environmental laws to hold our governments and others to account and to set long-term and ambitious targets. Only a robust approach to environmental protections and law making can deliver this for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.’ From The National Trust

The Royal Society for Protection of Birds also comments and calls the 2019 report ‘a wake up call’.

Species and habitat protection, forests, wetlands, all will help as are natural ways of capturing carbon and maintaining a balanced ecosystem .

Who we put in charge will matter as there have been many wake up calls, many broken promises and little well informed and coordinated planning and action. And when in charge of our democracies they must be held to account.

September 20th Poem for the Young. No More Same Old.

There be whales out there. Vittoria our marine biologist guide

I enjoyed reading Lillian’s experiences and video of the whales off Cape Cod’ with her grandson. It reminded me of my first experience of seeing a whale, 20 years ago, in San Francisco Bay. It was also my first trip to the USA. I wrote a poem for Dverse on this 3 years ago with the prompt of ‘ a first ever experience. After that the next whale watching was in the middle of the Atlantic off the Azores.

Today is the 20th September 2019 and young people have asked adults to join them on demonstrations and strikes for climate action. There will be a UN summit and all the different nations have been asked to bring solutions. All I can offer today is a poem as if I were 20 today.

Same Old: Born in 1999

I am 20 years old, or older today.
So please don’t give me more of your
Same Old.

You tell me you first saw your first whale
20 years ago from today,
In San Francisco Bay.

You tell me you partied with
An 80 year old,
Californian dreamer.

You tell me you cried over
A library full of books and blood.
20 years ago
Columbine
Before you were mine.

So don’t give me
The Same Old
Weapons are MAD
But we must defend our dreams,
Whales are factory processed meat,
But all must be free to eat
Whatever they want.
We need the wood not the trees.

Because we DON’T.

I want to grow old with
Whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe and free
Above children with a future
And Elephants in Africa.

I do not want to grow old
In a world worn out by
Broken promises.
20 years ago
You saw a grey whale
In San Francisco.
20 years before that
You sung of the flowers.
Where have they all gone?

I do not want to dream
When I am old,
Of a past world where
Whales breached the waves
Wolves wandered in woods
Diverse birds flew in great flocks,
Elephants roamed in Africa.
Children unsafe without a future.

How long do you need,
To solve the suffering
You caused,
While dreaming,
Working yourself to the bone,
To give me
The Same Old
Future you said I deserved.

Take my hand
Before we both grow too weary.
Let’s bite the bullets.
Finish with the fumes.
Grow the forest.

So I can grow old
And watch with wonder,
My children’s children,
Wonder at whales in the waves,
Wolves in wild woods,
Birds flying safe across borders,
Elephants in Africa,
Children with a future.

 

 

For open link night, Dverse Poets http://www.dversepoets.com

Nature needs Nurture

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