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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our first butterflies to fly above us with love in the air were two large tortoisehells. Winging their way up into the clear Andalucian blue sky. Hopefully they will mate soon and lay eggs before the next cold and rainy spell is due. With the current news on such drastic decline in numbers of insects it was encouraging to see this particular butterfly. It seems in the UK this species is almost extinct. We are fortunate to live in an area where there is little use of pesticides on crops, the main one being the chestnut trees. However, with the constant fear of fire there is much spraying of roadside vegetation. There has also been much ‘cleaning’of surrounding land and so there will be little for pollinators and other insects to live off. Here they have the ivy along our perimeter wall and hopefully many wild flowers to come. The celandines are just out and although the viburnum is a little late this year, the buds are rosy and ready.
Another first for me to find was this salamander, known as a fire salamander. [Salamandra salamandra]. I was busy tidying up a wood pile and underneath was this creature. It seems they can live a long time and one in captivity lived for 50 years. The colours are warning signs of a poison named samadarin and it can have nasty effects. This may help its long life as any would be predators keep away from this rather slow moving creature. Salamanders are of interest to scientists as this substance can help skin problems but these amazing animals have the ability to regenerate their limbs and this process is being studied too. Here, this tiny creature which likes moist habitats under wood, mud and leaves was ready to burrow again and our encounter was deemed over.
We began the new year in a rather monstrous tall hotel with views over the eastern Algarve coastline and round to the bridge over the River Guadiana where lies our usual route back to our home in Spain. Here, we were delighted by crag martins who must have decided the hotel was a wonderful cliff face but perhaps not quite right for nesting.
Later, on our return to Navasola we made a visit to our local village Castano de Robledo for the Los Reyes, Three Kings festival. We came across more crag martins on the unfinished church now called the monument. This might make a more suitable nesting place but is usually the home of a large colony of swifts yet to arrive from their African wintering lands.
We also came across a flock of blackcaps and one was busy pecking away at a rotting persimmon, which is of course when they are at their sweetest!
With all the turmoil over Brexit and No Deal it is hard to look at the UK news. It is also hard to sometimes get the main news from the USA too. All seems so divisive and not dealing with reality. So today I was very encouraged to read through an alternative source, Eco Watch about a bipartisan vote in the U.S. on protecting public lands, wildlife and recreation areas.
Agreement across party lines on real issues.
There was also a very informative piece on the ideas of The New Green Deal and historical reference to Roosevelt’s New deal when faced with The Great Depression and the ecological catastrophe of soil erosion for farmers in the dust bowl. Perhaps the U.S.A can begin to lead the world on this as there is past experience but the current changes happening are far reaching and global.
From my understanding there seems to be more public awareness and concern for ecological collapse, wildlife conservation and the impact of the climate changing with more extreme weather across the whole world.
On Friday young people in the UK are joining in with the school strikes that have been held in other countries about the real threats posed by climate change.So many have concerns and hopefully their actions will bring about a positive response from government to listen and lead on these issues.
Cross party cooperation must be the key to dealing with the terrible environmental degradation and ‘unsustainability’ of our current economic system. A deal with the planet is going to be a tough one but the young are crying out for action, not words and certainly not denial.