September is one of my favourite months now I no longer have to return to the classroom. This September in the UK has been a mix of sun and some showers but has given us an ‘Indian Summer’. At Navasola it is always pleasant as the August heat begins to drop and there are more opportunities for long walks and on September 8th the local villages all have processions for the Romeria to the Pena where La Reina De Los Angeles has a small chapel and the famous Spanish renaissance man, Arias Montano had his hermitage.
So why coddiwomple? Well, I have just been to Dorset where some years ago, thanks to DVERSE poets there was a prompt to use unusual words and I was on my way to Dorset and wrote a poem with this word! If you coddiwomple you travel in a purposeful manner but in a vague direction. I think that year my friend who lives in Dorset and I just drove around the country lanes with no care as to where. Everywhere has some interest, some history, the rolling hills of Thomas Hardy or odd place names like Piddle or Tolpuddle where there the beginnings of the labour Unions took seed because of the tragedy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. We coddiwompled around this historic house and gardens below and I wwill have to add the name later.
But Coddiwompling is hard to do when walking about the countryside. Is there not a fear of getting lost in the woods. I actually did once, in the woods with my trusty golden retriever not far from Thomas Hardy’s cottage. It was a bit scary.
However, a favourite place for us to coddiwomple is the beautiful city of Lisbon. We love to wander there and discover old streets, new squares, and some of the wanderings of Fernando Pessoa, the very famous Portuguese writer and poet. And once we flew from Lisbon to the Azores and coddiwompled by car around the island. It was really small enough not to miss anything except the tops of volcanic mountains because of the clouds.
So this is a coddiwomple blog. There is a purpose but there’s a lot of wandering and an odd collection of photos from the past. One of my favourite coddiwompling places is Kew Gardens in London as my membership card helps and you feel free to just wander whatever the season unlike the tourists. And the purpose? Joy but also supporting the work of Kew with botanic gardens all around the world.
Let us know where you like to coddiwomple. Perhaps it is a place you can wander and wonder with a purpose but without any care. I love hearing from you all so it would be good to know your favourite coddiwompling place.
Why blog? I find for me this August many words run through my head but then disappear as I face the empty page. So I take some time to read other posts. I feel caught between the ‘Silent Sunday’ posts and the ‘ Wordless Wednesdays’. I gather some inspiration from Annika Perry writing about Sally J Cronin’s publications. There is such a supportive network of writers and Sally’s Smorgasbjord is worth savouring for the sheer variety it presents. I wander around Opher’s World and find his books rocking and rolling away to the sounds of Roy Harper and others. We also share some thoughts on the state of our nation and how current events are affecting us. Another nature blog reflects on the dilemma of mosquitos and flies. There is the side of nature that most certainly wants our blood and so how do we naturalists cope with a desire to destroy when we want to save nature from destruction. Thank you fellow bloggers for your insights and keeping me going.
Today I spent the day gardening or as with many of my posts clearing the undesirable elements. Bracken in Spain and here it is the nettles that sting me and are taking up too much space. If they had only kept to behind the little fir tree and not stung me as they reached out to conquer the grass patch. Nettles are so important for butterflies and I am sure many will lay their eggs on these plants too. This year there was a tremendous range of moths. Some beautiful brimstones died together as a pair trapped within the house. Hopefully they had laid their eggs but not on the nettles I cleared today. ( Not all!)
As I garden I feel guilt and understand how privileged my life has been. No, certainly no silver spoon and I have worked hard and never liked to associate the word privilege with working folk. But my thoughts turn to those suffering in Afghanistan and my memories of being in Kabul. An Afghani woman of my age would have lived through too many war torn years and false promises but their stories often show so much dignity and resilience.
In 1974 I was a young woman on the overland trail to India. I had worked and earnt the money to go but I knew I was privileged to be able to travel in this way. Although I valued travelling and experiencing different cultures I was unaware of many aspects of the history and politics. It was only a few years later when I returned to India to live and study there that I learnt so much more.
One of my hopes was that within my lifetime Afghanistan would achieve stability and become a more peaceful place where women could be safe and prosper with education, work and contribute to helping their country. The challenges ahead with the pandemic and climate change need this.
When we first arrived in Afghanistan across the border from Iran, not too far from the holy city of Mashad we asked for the train station. I can still hear the voice ‘ There are no trains in Afghanistan.’ My memory fails me on how we got from the border to Herat but we didn’t have to walk and we did have a pleasant time in Herat. We were able to walk around the outskirts of the Blue Mosque and admire the tile art. Our next challenge was getting the local bus to Kabul. It was too long and not advisable to try the northern route so we travelled via Kandahar. The bus was full of not only people but chickens and goats. Although crowded it was a fascinating journey as people and animals got on and off.
In Kabul the bazaar area was where all the tourist hotels were. We wanted to travel to Bamian and see the giant buddhas and I am sure our Lonely Planet guide recommended this. It was early November and getting very cold. We were warned that if we went to Bamian and it snowed we might have to stay the winter there as the passes become inaccesible. We decided against this and spent the next few days wandering around Kabul.
I do not remembering seeing many women except those in beautiful blue burqas. This was strange to me then. In Turkey women did not wear headscarves as ordered by Attaturk who was trying to modernise the country. In Syria and Iran women would wear headscarves and we only saw black burqas in the holy city of Mashad.
My travelling friend was an animal lover and had rescued a horse in the UK. For some reason we visited the zoo on one of our outings but all I can remember were two sorry looking Afghan hounds we wanted to rescue. I wonder now if they were from the time of the royal family and the rule of the King. Afghanistan had become a republic but from what I now know governance was poor and there had been severe droughts in some areas.
Well, this is really a shaggy dog story. not a political and historical sortie into what has kept going so wrong in Afghanistan. On our return to our room my friend spotted a puppy. We had a major argument about this.
‘ We can’t travel with a dog, What about….its food? Rabies? Snoopy and Dogs not Allowed ‘
My dog owning knowledge and reasoning was to no avail. She was determined. It was cute but many people seeing us with the dog would comment on how big it would get. And it still needed rabies papers to get across the border into Pakistan. So with all papers in order from an Afghani vet we travelled on quickly with this male puppy. Or so we thought until the Delhi vet informed us of mistaken gender identification. Kab from Kabul was a girl. He also told us an expression ‘The dog is our Atman.’ ‘ The dog is our soul.’
Kab visited many places in Pakistan and India and that is a story I began some years ago from the point of view of the dog but never finished it.
As for getting too big, she didn’t and was more a sheepdog size. Looking at one of the recent pictures of Pen Farthing and the dogs he has rescued in Kabul there was one that looked like Kab but different colours. Although like a Tibetan mastiff I think these are a Himalayan type sheepdog so considerably smaller.
I hope Pen Farthing’s Afghan staff can continue their work and that more people can be trained in animal welfare. We sometimes overlook the importance of this but in rural societies access to good health care for the animals can make the difference. Travelling with a dog gave us an insight into the provision of veterinary health care in India.
‘ The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’ Mahatma Gandhi
I think now the greatness of a nation and its moral progress will be judged by how the climate and ecological crisis is managed and human rights with equality of opportunity are supported around the whole world.
In solidarity with the people and animals of Afghanistan.
My art classes with Ruth have been a wonderful opportunity to work under the guidance of a friend who is an artist I admire and such a good teacher. We are a small group and although I missed 8 months by being in the UK I was welcomed back in. The previous post shows two of my attempts at reflections. I find myself so absorbed and mindful while trying to draw or paint. And so much is about light and shade with different tones. I find it useful for my writing too as contrasts and perspective are needed. We went to Alajar in the photos below to attempt some perspective with great views.
So where have I got to with the novel I keep hinting about and have shown some of Ruth’s illustrations in poems from last years blog. Well, the problem has been perspective. I wrote an animal story with a journey narrative which imagined some animals common in this area, the Sierra Aracena having to go on an extraordinary quest to find new ways to adapt and survive. I wanted this to be very true to the nature of wild animals and reflect on the amazing biodiversity around us. But I did not want talking animals and this story was not for younger children. I thought 9 to 99 would be the readership. Well, that was a big mistake with publishers these days. It’s now focused on being Young Adult/Crossover.
My next big mistake was perspective. I went for 3rd person Omniscient as I suppose I am a reader of novels from long ago. With some editorial input I began to change the perspective to be from the point of view of each of the animals on the journey. Not easy as there are four; a rather timid weasel and a determined black kite journey together. They must find the strikingly handsome bee-eater who has no mate so decides to fly north with the rather regal buff tailed bumble bee who is struggling with the rising temperatures in the wild valley of a southern European Sierra.
The novel follows their experiences, the variety of animals they meet and the dangers they face. But there was a suggestion I also bring in a human story and so there is another perspective now. A young woman in her late teens who also has many challenges to face. However she regains her strength from the knowledge of nature she learnt from her grandmother.
The next hurdle I hit as a writer was this emphasis on SHOW do not TELL. The idea is to be filmic and show like a camera each scene and the emotions. I was able to do this more in the animal narrative as I tended to be descriptive but I found it harder with the human character. However, the point is this technique is supposed to be better at involving the reader and creating empathy with the characters. My main aim is to create feelings of empathy for wild nature.
I am encouraged by some experts in the publishing arena; one who said she would follow Comadrito, the tiny weasel. So here is a short excerpt from the opening…….
A shadow crossed over the rock. Comadrito’s tail twitched and he was alerted to being fully in the present. The warmth of the rock soothed his paws. This was where he was supposed to wait. Ears heard birds but then all went quiet. He should move, but he felt safe with his paws stuck to the old rock.
Comadrito’s whiskers sensed dangerous movements in the air. His instincts told him to withdraw into the abandoned rabbit burrow. Another shadow passed over the old hollow tree. His camouflage on the rock was of deep brown on green and grey. Within a whisker tingling it was too late. Great claws gripped around his slender body. The firmness of the boulder under his paws became the emptiness of air.
Comadrito’s eyes could not take in his sudden change of view. He was being lifted high into the spaces of the sky where the birds flew. His point of view was changing and his eyes struggled to focus—the world below him grew smaller until the great trees looked like small bushes. He was used to close contact with the undergrowth. He was used to the glossy, smooth leaves of low-growing trees and bushes that would brush against his coat, and the madroño tree with its strawberry red berries and white flowers on overhanging branches, glinting and dazzling his eyes against the brightness of a deep blue sky.
A BIG thank you for reading and any thoughts on this and the process of writing a novel are welcome. This has been taking up so much of my writing time but there is now the possibility of an Independent publishing house so I am hoping my nature saga or odyssey might finally take flight!
Opher’s World and in particular his book Ebola in the Garden of Eden
Annika Perry and all her writing advice and her wonderful short stories
Smorgasbord for all the work they do supporting writers
Dverse Poets for helping my poetic instincts
And all you other bloggers who keep following me closely. It inspires me to write and share so much and I love to read all your different journeys.
I hope the baby bird that hitched a ride in our favourite car is glad to be back in the woodland at our finca. In my dash to the village before shops shut at two pm I did not think to check to see whether I was transporting animals. On arriving at the village, locking the door and then thinking a bird was trying to get in the car I suddenly realised this fledgling robin was actually inside! I couldn’t release it so far from its territory so I drove all the way back . While the baby robin checked the mirrors I managed to be the obliging chauffeur and open the door for it. I hope it is glad to be back in our finca woodland and the parents have found it. For those loyal readers of my blog they may remember the different animals that visit us and the odd ones that like to take a car ride to the village with us.
Well, we are glad to be back too. It seems a long time but almost no time too. A year lost in many ways but significant with a death and a birth and a lot of reflection and writing work. All was well with the house and the land was enjoying growth spurts from all the rain. Our faithful car got us back from Portugal and gently pushed up the boughs of the young oak that was arching low over the track.
Thankfully the house and garden had been well looked after through the drought of last summer to the heavy frosts of January. We even had some garden flowers to greet us and a plethora of wild ones. The storm called Barbara the Borrasca had brought down some of the very old branches of the chestnuts but no trees fell. A lot of work had been done since then and we had some fantastic looking wood piles. Many of the chestnuts here in this region are ‘millenarios’ and are also protected. But it was the worst storm many around these parts had ever witnessed and there was a lot of damage to trees.
So we have been busy through the month of June with strimming back a bit, sorting out the irrigation and some post Brexit formalities and residency cards to be updated. The most difficult will be over driving licences as we may now have to take the Spanish driving test. Small mercies the multiple choice theory can be in both languages and is tricky and certainly tests reading ability. Another challenge is all the grass pollen, olive pollen and chestnut flowers. Mask wearing is a bonus I had never thought of before for when I work outside!
This year I could see a lot of the tiny olive flowers so I am hoping for lots of olives in the Autumn. This has also been a bumper year for plums and we even have a good crop of apples on a tree that never produce much. All of this is without any of our work. The actual vegetable garden was laid to rest but the trees with perhaps a really cold spell and then lots of rain have responded well. The trip to the village was for’ vinagre y azucar’ for chutney and jam making. And the vinagre was shelved with the vino. I searched and then had to ask.
This time of year it is good to see the swifts establishing their nests and future generations over the village of Castano de Robledo. Here there are the common swifts but fortunately more common are the rare Pallid swifts. There may also be rock thrushes and crag martins. The church that was never finished provides good homes and the even the older church. These homes were saved for the swifts by a sharp ecologist living in the village who found out that all of the bird holes were to be concreted up because the pigeons were causing so much damage. His knowledge helped inform the local town hall and the pigeon sized holes were made into swift sized ones. The swift community here is thriving and wonderful to watch and with the extra sunset views which are so beautiful from this spot in the village.
As for other animal life. We had a visiting cat again that we fed and it returned a favour by killing a young lizard on the porch and not even hungry enough to eat it. These cats know how to get round us humans and we respond and often give them unfair advantage over wild animals. This cat is very similar to the one that turned up last year. There is no castration control here or inclination to. These siamese crosses do like human company unlike the previous much more feral cats that have passed by. Wildlife would be helped and cats if there could be more concern over cat numbers and welfare.
And at last I am back with my art group which Ruth Koenigsberger whose art work I often show leads. There’s a lot of catching up to do. I was more busy with poetry while editing the novel last year and a publisher is looking at the first part now.
So with the art topic being water and reflections I will leave you with our visit to El Puente del Charco not far from here. This time it was peaceful but the last time we went we were graced by the presence of a Spanish stag party. It was a pre nuptial and very friendly as we were offered jamon and beer but lots of loud music too. It is good to be surrounded by the Sierra Aracena and the spirit of the Spanish people here.
Here’s hoping everyone can get back to some normal contact and visits to be with friends and family. With love from us all here at Navasola.
We return to our flat in Portugal. There seems to be some normality but with fewer people and more masks. We walk the boardwalk of Cabanas and add more steps in the light and warmth of a southern sky. The house martins’ first families are almost fledged under balconies where they are allowed to nest. From our balcony I watch them dart and swoop around the Judas tree which once again is betrayed by the chopping of strong limbs and so gives home to fewer insects to feed the hungry young birds, I hear the sounds of the old man’s chickens and watch him water his vegetables. But for how long as the traditional portuguese house with its large garden is now for sale. Yet another building plot to be and at what price.
We walk our favourite walk by the old fortress where the umbrella pines bow over and the old mulberry tree sheds a few half ripe berries. The goldfinches are still there but we do not see the hoopoes or the little owl. The path now closed for public access allows the rabbits to dart by. But the dogs and the people have moved below to the sand flats of the lagoon.Here we see no waders such as greenshanks, red ones, sanderlings, plovers and curlew. A large and lonesome cattle egret stalks some fish.
Along the beach grows sea purslane with its thin tough leaves lined with tiny lilac flowers. I wonder how it sees the sea, feels the sea when the tide rolls in to lap close by. By the sea purslane is the samphire and higher up the beach is the shimmering white of the lygos in the cooling Atlantic breeze.
Myriads of fiddler crabs dart on the wet sands and into the bushes of samphire. Some so tiny but also there are some large ones with rather bleached white singular claws waving to one another and warning of our presence as they finally slip below the sand as we approach. Further along the beach there is the other path to the cliff also considered private and where we used to walk. The prickly pears are in flower and the bees are tempted to invade and somehow avoid the large and tiny prickle of needles. The European swallows like to live here and nest somewhere within or by the sandy cliff.
Above the normal tide mark are some strange squidgy looking shapes of a deep purple colour. This being is not of the earthy land but perhaps from the bottom of the sea. Ants are investigating one and a fiddler crab darts out and seems to claw it but then either sensing us or some inky poison it withdraws suddenly. Turning the splodge over we see some tiny feet like protuberances. This one is hardly alive in the heat.There are others nearby. One moves and seems more slug like as it turns and tries to move towards the far off water. Will it make it? Can we help? There is a sense of helplessness at the distance to cover. Why didn’t we walk out with a bucket? Would that action help or hinder the natural cycle? Other purple sea slugs are more buried in the sand, waiting for the sea to return if it reaches this far again, and soon.
I feel the Portuguese sense of ‘saudade’ for what is lost. We wait and wait for the boat to come home, for the tide to turn. We sense the changes in the wind.
All feels far away
Like the young summer swallows
In need of new homes
The photographs show the house martins not the swallows but they too have a long journey to their African homelands and on their return here have to build up their mud nests again. And below are the birds seen one February. I wonder where they go in May when it is usually much busier here. As the lockdowns unlock slowly I hope there will be changes for a healthier planet and we can be closer to the places and people we love to see. All the best from Portugal now the border is open between Andalucia and the Algarve.
I wrote a poem 10 years ago to this day to celebrate the wedding and life of my mother and father. Yes, it was the royal wedding of William and Kate and it was also the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death. I wanted to celebrate their lives as ordinary, but extraordinary working people. It was also quite hard to have a special remembrance on that day as there was so much wedding joy and fervour. The poem came to me and is for Dverse poets too who always inspire me.
I remembered the wedding of my mother and father in 1946. With all the hope of post war and darkness turning to light. Which maybe it did for some but gradually as there were some tough years in the 50s. My parents’ desire was to be able to move forward and have a family and so they did. My mother talked about her wartime experiences but my father spoke very little. He was a quiet man. They lived with little money to spare but we happily went on holidays camping all around England, Scotland, Cornwall, Wales and finally over the channel to Germany ( West, then) and the former Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary and France. Although there may be problems there has been a lot of reconciliation and there is more hope for cooperation.
This April 2021 we welcome three babies to three special families that we know. Lets hope we will all cooperate for the world all the young ones deserve.
A friend posted about what makes you proud of your country as she did not feel proud. I responded with the way my parents helped me love my country by being connected to people, places and nature but to be also aware of the wrongs done. Love does not need pride but honesty.
April 29th 2011
On this very special wedding day of Kate and Will
Where hope and joy draw in the crowds
I cannot help but feel so strangely still
As I remember 10 years ago to this day
The day you finally had to go from me.
But on this very special day
Another wedding comes to mind
Your wedding day when you were yours
And yours was George
In love through years of fear
The darkest hours of war
Calm, confident without your parents near
You made your vows to George forever.
June 1st 1947, another frugal time,
And if the knot was not of the sacred kind
Your true love echoed through my growing years
No rows were seemingly heard,
As you and Dad in worked hard without a word.
In closeness and in love without the tears
Worked for the common good.
You met dancing at the palais.
You met again and were serenaded,
His warmth and voice,
Accordion to entertain with,
Through those long dark, blackout hours.
You waited till the war was ended.
Your hope was for a world mended.
You lived in peace for the common good
With friends and family to surround you
Cycling away for your honeymoon
To the hills and vales near Ifracombe.
You made me love the countryside.
Leading on Harley D for Sunday rides
With Stan and Muriel to Polesden Lacey
West Wittering for breakfast by the sea
Riding the bike through wind and rain
Putting up the tent with its old A frame.
Nights alone when children came
And George went off to Drury Lane
But you were never one to complain
You lived your life through love and pain
You lived your life adventurously
You walked through life most cheerfully.
I was teaching at the time and all my classes had a go at love and hope poems. We had a day off for the wedding so I felt I should write a poem too. Perhaps it helped me get back into my own creativity as the study of major poets could be overwhelming. We were studying at A level the likes of TS Eliot and Chaucer! If we look at their different poems with April as the focus we gain different perspectives for this most changeable month. It has also been a very changeable month for those suffering from the pandemic. Some countries emerging from a tough lockdown and others suddenly hit hard with more tragic deaths. It is also a very difficult month for breeding birds and other creatures. The weather can change from icy to heat and back with deadly consequences.
‘April is the cruellest month’ is the first line of T S Eliot’s The Waste Land. But it is clipped and should be*
‘April is the cruellest month for breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
And we finally come to the end of the sentence meaning with a full stop and some enigmatic use of enjambement or run on lines. T S Eliot’s poem is a powerful reflection of a society broken by war and religion. When studying this poem at a much younger age I was told it was about the feelings of alienation in modern society. A society just over 100 years ago. But TS Eliot also knew his Chaucer and the welcome refresh of April showers
‘Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote’
Droughts in March in Chaucer’s time? In the UK April has been one of the driest and I think warmest in this part of Europe. Just now we have been blessed with some rain but certainly April has been changeable as there was snow at the beginning and lots of cold frosty mornings.
If you have written any April poems do comment and give me a link or ping back and I will visit and look at the ways we have all been reflecting on April 2021. Or write one as if being caught between the softness of Chaucer’s April and the harshness of TS Eliot’s Waste Land. Change I feel is key to both and to April. Or just the mix of memory and desire.
Down by the Navasola well and blessed with water in April, ready for the dry drought months ahead.
Apologies for combining this with Dverse’s open link night but in reference to their post on the Spanish Poetry form Seguidilla this fits my style of writing this poem and just happens to combine with Earthweal’s theme of ‘The Animal Gaze. There is also a really inspiring Rilke poem about this theme in the post and as always inspiring links to poets and poems on Dverse.
I first wrote this poem for my friend’s art exhibition in our local village in the Sierra Aracena. When I wrote it I wanted the nature of the poem to be easy to read and in a certain Spanish style with short line lengths. I also wanted it to honour the wonderful and expressive art of my friend Ruth Koenigsberger. I have featured a lot of her art in previous poetry posts like the Blackbird Singing at the Start of Spring.
Ruth was trying to capture the wild animals in her wonderful garden and orchard. The exhibition was titled ‘La Vida en La Huerta’ The Life of the Orchard. Huerta is a combination of vegetable garden, orchard, some fields that many people living in a village would own as a smallish plot and mostly organic and wildlife friendly except for the need to keep the ploughing boar out.
I once looked into the eyes of a wild mother boar. I was behind my ‘boar proof fence’ in my huerta. I later read that boar are quite short sighted. That might have been why she stared for so long but finally ran off gathering up her stripey young ones. I stood very still and did hope that the fence would be strong enough but she wasn’t trapped and could easily run off as is the main thing I find most wild animals do.
I think Earthweal’s post so important. There is so much ‘knowing’ in the look of so many wild animals. And I love the idea of the whales looking deep within us. I have seen whales too in the Azores but they have not seen me or they have but certainly did not meet me eye to eye. That must be so special.
Another friend translated the poem into Spanish and tried to make it sound ‘poetic’ in the flow of the Spanish language. I am delighted to learn from Dverse about the Spanish form Seguidilla and somehow wonder at my attempt then was possibly based on reading Spanish poems in this sort of form. My poem is of course not a Seguidilla but free verse in what I hoped was a Spanish style. I was very heartened by many comments from local people on how much they identified with the poem. We all talked about the animals that had looked into our eyes and for many it was the array of lizards, geckos, salamanders but also birds too.
Spoonbill looking down at me from one of my trips with Ruth to Donana Wetlands.
Wild hoops of rarest daffodils defy a different death
A peacock butterfly with wounded wing
Spread out to bathe upon a post
Did it feel the bite upon its wing?
Which hungry bird has lost its meal?
Burnished buzz of black on florets of pink.
Black cap birds peck at rotting fruit
Crag martins search for homes in holy walls.
All push back Winters’ cold short days
As Spring begins its hot embrace
And rain falls further and further away.
In that other place.
I have written this poem and chosen some of our February sightings around Fuenteheridos in the Sierra Aracena, Southern Spain. The mountains are around 500 to 600m above sea level and winters can be cold. The area has reasonable biodiversity and I hope it will add to the spirit of Earthweal’s aims to help us all connect more with nature.
Earthweal is a poetry forum dedicated to global witness of the Earth’s changing climate and its effect on daily life. Here is a place to report that news in the language of the dream, that we may more deeply appreciate the magnitude of those events. It is intended as a place for all related emotions—love and rage, grief and hope, myth and magic, laughter and ghost whistles—and belongs to the entire community of Earth as mediated by its human advocates.
Sarah Conner invites us to write seasonal poems and the first is inspired by Imbolc in February.
‘*Today, I want to think about * Imbolc. Traditionally celebrated at the start of February, Imbolc is a festival of new life and new beginnings. The name derives from “in the belly” — the first stirrings of life, seeds starting to sprout.’
I am also linking this to Dverse who as a bunch of great poets and their Mr Linky inspired me to play around and write poems publicly! And to Lillian who is hosting the OLN. I hope she and all of you can meet up soon with your families. A big Spanish Abrazos Fuerte to all.
It is 7 years from when I first started this blog, January 2014 and as it is the last day of January I am looking back and wondering how to go forward.
7 years ago I gave the blog the catch line ‘nature needs nurture’. I was both amazed by my new experiences of living in the Sierra Aracena in Southern Spain and dismayed by how much was being lost. My wonderful discoveries of the vast biodiversity of Mediterranean regions kept me busy with key wild flower books and local bird books. My eyes and mind felt opened with a sense of wonder at this incredible range of life.
I have tried to record my experiences with photography and words. I found being ‘just botanical’ didn’t seem to attract a readership. I hope I have managed to add in the personal as it has been a personal journey for me but I have not always added in the nitty gritty of daily life and relationships and the strain when you live at a distance from family. These Covid times certainly emphasised that and the dilemma of no easy and quick return to be with family.
The growing understanding of how our natural world is at such a dangerous point has made me think and read more about climate and economic factors. One of my interests because of living in a rural community has been the delicate balance between how we farm and the possibility to be environmentally kind. There is much more discussion and action for those who own land to become stewards for nature. However, at our farm or finca we do not have to worry about finances in the same way as younger people and those without a supplementary income. There is no money in really farming our chestnuts, although we try and collect them each year. It is a back breaking task and not possible for just me. With paid help and about 200 chestnut trees we have never earnt more than 300 or so euros. It is true we could diversify and also be more self sufficient and would be so if younger. How do we go forward with our woodland home while under the shadow of no longer being European citizens, health and virus issues and climate changes.
In 2020 Borrassca Barbara arrived as one of the strongest storms in years. The ancient chestnuts had branches torn from them all over the area. This also affected the chestnut harvest and many did not get any income from their chestnuts in a year where it would have been so welcome. There is a lot of ‘healing’ work to be done with the trees but also the longer and hotter droughts affect the size of the chestnuts too. My plan is to have a mosaic of different areas to help with the biodiversity of plants and pollinators and in the hope this will help the birds too. Our pond has also kept enough water in it over the long summer months but we have at times topped it up from our underground water.
Our enjoyment of our woodland finca and the area is in the wild flora and fauna and I hope to go forward with more writing about this and being involved in more local conservation issues. The wildfires nearby brought this home to many people in our area. Eucalyptus and other pine plantations spread fires more quickly than native cork and holm oak forests.
Looking abroad now there is so much more scope for hope especially if the Biden administration can manage the climate crisis well. Unfortunately I hope that they will also handle all the ‘denial’ and misinformation with careful skill. I think I wrote when Trump came into power that the way we look after our planet should be a cross political party effort. I have closely followed American sites like Eco Watch and seen the many environmental protections for both wildlife and human societies stripped away . Well, with shamans entering the heart of democracy and ‘using’ the antlers of a dead beast I hope that many more may see into the heart of our existential crisis; a disconnect with nature and a disconnect with how we perceive what is right action in the 21st century.
7 years on and there seems to be a growing movement to protect the world we live in. I hope that we will be able to put the restoration of nature, wild and biodiverse places at the centre of all our actions. We have to hold our democratic governments to account as they are the best we have and they must act in the interests of future planet worth living on for all.
In David Attenborough’s recent book ‘ A Life on Our Planet’ he presents his witness statement to the importance of biodiversity as the heart of maintaining stable climactic conditions. Restoring nature and conserving biodiversity to create optimum conditions can help mitigate effects of climate change.
He uses some facts at the beginning of each year he remembers
1960 World population 3 billion, Carbon in atmosphere 315 parts per million, Remaining wilderness 62 per cent
2020 World population 7.8 billion, Carbon 415 parts per million, Remaining wilderness 35 per cent
One point about biodiversity importance Attenborough noted was how whales create the conditions for an abundance of sea life. There is a delicate balance that we started destroying very early on in our economies of free enterprise. His book is full of the warning signs which were apparent from the 1960s and the repeated failures to act. But Attenborough has a two visions for the future, one where there will be a poor outcome for all species, including ourselves and another where we may just turn the tide and will be able to maintain a planet with a more stable climate conducive to all life. Restoring nature is at the heart of this.
January 2020 ( I celebrated biodiversity with my photos so not all taken in January!)
And for 2021
Snow arrives as a first in all of our 8 years of living at Navasola
Below is about the importance of woodland in Spain for both economic activity and biodiversity.
Summary – In Spain the woodland coverage is the third largest in Europe with 18 million of hectares and sheltering over 6oo different species.
En España, la superficie forestal (es decir, lo que estrictamente no es agrícola ni urbano) ocupa 26,28 millones de hectáreas, lo que supone el 52 % del territorio nacional. Su superficie arbolada aumenta con una tasa anual de 2,19 %. Después de Suecia y Finlandia, España es el tercer país de Europa con mayor superficie forestal arbolada (en torno a 18 millones de hectáreas).
Según el avance del Informe de la situación de los bosques y el sector forestal en España (ISFE 2017), en nuestro país apenas existen bosques primarios (no intervenidos) debido a actividad humana sobre el territorio durante siglos.
En cuanto a las especies que nos encontramos, el 55,5 % de la superficie forestal arbolada está ocupada por especies de frondosas, el 37 % por especies de coníferas y el 7,5 % restante está ocupado por masas mixtas.
Los bosques y otras formaciones vegetales en España constituyen un importante hábitat para la biodiversidad, ocupando el 68 % de la superficie terrestre protegida y albergando 615 especies silvestres bajo el régimen de protección especial (40,2 % de ellas son aves y 27,6 % son especies de flora).
I hope everyone is coping with our current surge of infections and very bleak January weather. And a big thank you to all who have followed me so loyally and with so many comments and interactions over the years. I think I will continue in some form and we still hope to have good enough health to live at Navasola for a few more years.
At the turning of 2019 to 2020 there was hope. For so many it has been a life changing year and with challenges for all of us. January 2020 was a milestone as my younger daughter turned 30 and celebrated in style with many friends. She was one of the lucky ones of her 1990 compatriots. Then in March, all changed and she was sent her shielding letter. In many ways she has been isolating since but with the good fortune of her wonderful partner and their dogs.
I was going to write a post about pre lockdown at Navasola. We had two very full months with our visit to the wetlands of Doñana and walks around our local villages.
My plan was to post on each of the villages of the Sierra Aracena. It was soon too eerie to do that and no walking outside was allowed under the very strict Spanish lockdown. I was fortunate to have acres to work in and clear new paths like a wild bison and and to have an indoor sanctuary for writing.
I was also ready to post about the art classes our friend Ruth Koenigsberger started for her friends. We were first learning about how to use light and shade. We went and sat by the marble rocks of a disused quarry. There were some worrying news items but at the time in Andalucia there were few cases and all seemed contained. Then it seemed sudden as we were all put into ‘confinamiento’. The photos are from the post I never posted at the time! We have been fortunate that Ruth has continued to share her skills with us and her latest paintings.
I worried about family in the UK. My older daughter was pregnant and a nurse. We talked and agreed how many close family and friends had health issues that made them more vulnerable to this virus. She came through a more anxious pregnancy than in normal times. We were blessed with a beautiful baby girl in October.
From March to May we followed from a distance a very personal and difficult encounter with this virus. My close friend’s husband became ill. At first perhaps, it was like a flu and shingles but it changed to terrible difficulty in breathing. He did not want to go into hospital but was encouraged to by all, including my older daughter who knew him well. We were relieved he was in the best place. He was helped with oxygen for his breathing and he never really lost consciousness but his lungs were severely damaged. Two weeks after his 70 th birthday on VE Day he passed from this life. This leaves that unfathomable loss of a close partner and soul mate for my friend but his work as a writer and academic, his astute wry understandings, friendship and warm hospitality are a loss to us all.
I found myself with very ‘tight’ finances and some loss of income. I reluctantly cancelled some charity giving. But in April I responded to the London Marathon Charities appeal. So instead of running 26 miles I decided to write 26 poems for Nature and fundraiser for the birds whose songs brought a lot of joy to folk in lockdown. I have been fortunate to have many fellow bloggers, friends and family contribute to this. I will keep the link open a bit longer as ever in hope of more contributions to the much needed restoration of our natural world. This challenge certainly kept me blogging and writing poetry when I was not fully minded to write much.
Ruth allowed me to use some of her paintings which also inspired poems. Nick and Trevor also gave much information on many of the plants and creatures around us in the Sierra.
As the year ends we can look back and we do miss seeing and being in close contact with all our friends. Perhaps we have made more phone calls and zoomed but we do look forward to hugs, bear hugs and lots of real reunions. Thank you all who follow me in the virtual world and for all your inspiring posts, photographs and creativity.
I have spent a long time trawling through photos and trying to save those on Whats App. I also looked at drafts on my blog and was surprised by many I forgot to post or it was well past the post it date. The memorial writing below comes from a draft post in 2015. It was about our Quaker wedding and the different perspectives on the Quaker ideas of Light, God and Love. I also listened to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi speak about light and love being increased within us when we expand our conscious mind by transcending in meditation. I was thinking about a more philosophical blog at the time and then started on writing a novel.
One close friend was absent from our wedding. She was a devout catholic who died from leukaemia within a week of her 60 th birthday. This was on her memorial card and I love the way it makes the connections between light and love. In a very divided and wounded world we hope to find ways to restoring health for all life through love and understanding our complex world. Enlightening ourselves. Or as Quakers say ‘holding each other in the light’.