Yet more ancient trees

But after this I’ll stop. I promise.

Ancient trees aren’t simply defined. That cherry tree I showed you last week, was impossibly, possibly uniquely old at four hundred years. A yew can soldier on for several thousand years. Oaks can march on for a thousand years, though six to eight hundred is more usual. Sweet chestnut? Seven hundred. Lime trees? Three to four hundred. Beech trees? Maybe three hundred – longer if coppiced. Here’s the life-cycle of a tree condensed into two images.

The parkland at Studley Royal is rich in ancient examples of all of them. It’s been a protected space and a deer park for centuries. and as such, it has its own historical curiosities. You can find trees with small square holes in the trunk. It used to be believed that as the trunks of trees gradually become hollowed out, it made sense to fish out the resultant debris, and suitable holes were cut. The practice has long been discredited, and now the holes are scarring over and gradually closing up.

Further proof that trees know what’s what, and we don’t necessarily. See this lime tree and its massive bough? If you could walk round it, you’d see that this branch is cuboid in shape. Any builder will tell you that this shape is far better at load bearing than a cylindrical one. Did the earliest builders learn this important lesson from lime trees?

And some trees can actually ‘walk’ albeit slowly, as part of the root may die off, and stronger root systems further away may haul the whole trunk a small distance. It does take rather a long time though.

Here’s a small gallery of the trees we met on our walk last week:

A mighty oak tree’s last gasp.

Let’s finish off with a haiku celebrating these elderly, magnificent trees.

Venerable trees -
trunk and bark wrangled by time
tell ancient stories.

A multi-tasking post, with elements for Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome #113, Becky’s Walking Squares, and Rebecca’s November Poetry Challenge

It’s a worm’s life

Recently, I’ve started to follow a few poetry blogs, and last week, David of The Skeptic’s Kaddish, accepted a challenge: to write a Quatern.

A what? This …

Not just any old quatern however. This one has to contain the word ‘quiet’. I thought I’d have a go too. It happens that this fits quite nicely into my self-imposed challenge, set as I looked yet again at my geological map of Great Britain. What’s it like for worms? Some of them contend with sandy soil, others heavy clay. Some soil is chalky, some loamy, and what must soil up in the old coalfields be like? Or that thin acid soil of the moorlands?

I’ve written a gaggle of poems about worms, each one living in a different kind of soil: I obviously don’t get out enough. Each poem uses a different verse form. So why not sum the whole worm thing up in a quatern?

Quiet - can you hear a sound? 
The barley rustles in the breeze.
A buzzard mewls, the crows confer,
The rabbits waken. Dusk descends.

Below the ground it’s different though -
Quiet - can you hear a sound?
There are no noises from the worms
who turn the earth, eat leaves and chaff.

Their world of darkness is not ours.
They churn the soil by night and day.
Quiet - can you hear a sound
as worms keep soil in rude good health?

There’s life above, there’s life below -
each dependent on the other.
Do not dismiss the lowly worm:
quiet - can you hear a sound?

Music for Monks?

A concert in the cellarium of Fountains Abbey last Saturday.

Pitch black, cold.

The singers gather,

muffled up.

Sing loudly, like long-gone monks -

conquering the dark.

And to lower the tone, that’s the scene once the audience had departed.

For Bren’s Mid-Week Monochrome.


	

The North Wind doth Blow?

Have you noticed? For all we’ve been focussed on day-to-day weather recently, it’s the temperature we’ve talked about, here in Europe at any rate (‘Phew it’s too hot!’), and the lack of rain (‘Oooh, my poor garden!). I realised, only the other day, that wind has been in short supply. No summer breezes, no brisk gusts, no sudden squalls.

Then Rebecca’s Monthly Poetry Challenge dropped into my in-box. She wants us to write about wind, employing the literary device of anaphora. No, I didn’t know what that was either. You can read about it here.

I could have snuck in and offered the rhyme that my children were brought up on.

When the wind is in the east,
’tis neither good for man nor beast;
When the wind is in the north,
the skillful fisher goes not forth;
When the wind is in the south,
it blows the bait in the fishes’ mouth;
When the wind is in the west,
then ’tis at the very best.

But that would be cheating.

So here we are …

This is wind: softly susurrating.
This is wind: sweetly sighing.
This is wind: breezily billowing.
This also is wind: galloping gustily;
roaring and raging; shrieking and storming -
destructive; disastrous.
Here today.  Gone tomorrow.
This is wind.

And it turns out that wind is not after all an endangered species.  Yesterday was properly windy, for the first time in weeks.

Nature’s Serving Suggestions

As a young child, I was sometimes woken up when it was barely light, to go off with my mother mushrooming on the decommissioned RAF airfield near our house. Blackberrying was for late summer, always, and rosehips for autumn, when the entire village school would spend afternoons gathering rosehips for Delrosa to turn into rosehip syrup (‘Whaddya mean, slave labour? The best pickers got a tin badge to keep!’). Later, in France, we added wild asparagus, wild cherries, mushrooms, walnuts, chestnuts and sloes to our Free Food bonanza. It’s made me a seasonal eater. I love it when the seasons announce that we have a different food to add to our diet, for a few weeks only. Fresh peas straight from the pod! The newest and smallest potatoes! Discovery apples in August! And in winter, these same foods, bottled and preserved give us a different pleasure – a memory of summer, but presented in a comforting, warming way: plum jam to spread on toast after a brisk winter walk; walnuts stirred into the soon-to-be steamed Christmas pudding; a nip of sloe gin on the coldest of days.

Nature’s had a habit of giving us the right foods for the right season. It’s a modern idea to expect strawberries in November. asparagus in September. All that anticipation, all that enjoyment of a food made special, distinctive by its very limited season has gone. If we listen, we can hear Nature telling us to get back in touch with the way things always used to be. Then we can get rid of all those unnecessary Air Miles too.

This week’s Tanka Tuesday asks us to write on the theme of Lessons from Nature. I’ve chosen the Shadorma form to illustrate what I’ve just been talking about. Mirabelles by the way are rarely seen in the shops. They’re small plums, yellow or rosy pink.

So …





And Nature said …

Summer Travel: it’s worth it in the end

This is turning into a Sunday Thing. Experimenting with different types of poetry. But with added photos. Always with added photos. This week, as my contribution to Tanka Tuesday‘s task – to write a 4-11 (the clue is in the name: 11 lines of 4 syllables each – last line repeats the first) I thought I’d focus on summer travel.

Summer travel

was always fun.

But now passport

control (Brexit!);

Covid control;

train strikes and queues;

airport queuing – 

make journeys long

and so irksome.

Worth it though – for

summer travel

And to prove that travel’s always worth it, here’s my photo gallery. There’s just one problem. Most of these photos were taken in January, in February, in March … you get the idea – any month but August …

… Should have travelled by elephant …?

Temple elephant, Thanjavur

PS – the header photo was taken at l’Albufera, near Valencia, Spain.

The sea, the sibilant sea

It’s August, and what says ‘summer holidays’ more potently than the seaside? Well, nothing could drag me there when it’s all crowded beaches, kiss-me-quick hats and donkey rides. But off-season, there’s nowhere better. A walk along the sand, beachcombing, inspecting rock pools, and most of all, looking out far to the distant horizon, watching ships as they travel back and forth, imagining the seashore as a gateway to journeys extending beyond that horizon …

So when Rebecca of Fake Flamenco challenged us to write a haibun for this month’s Poetry Challenge, and asked us to take ‘door’ in its widest sense as our subject, I thought I knew what I’d explore.

But what’s a haibun? I hear you ask. This: ‘Contemporary practice of haibun composition in English is continually evolving. Generally, a haibun consists of one or more paragraphs of prose written in a concise, imagistic haikai style, and one or more haiku.’ Wikipedia

The sea, the sea

A susurration of waves: oscillating, softly slapping and surging across crushed seashells on the sandy shingle: soothing; sibilant. Sucking, settling, restoring.  Saluting the shoreline in a ceaseless cycle.  A portal to distant islands and continents beyond the horizon.

Waves advance

greet the sandy shingled shore

Quite unceasingly.

I’m going to be quite cheeky here. Sammi, over at Sammi Scribbles, has a fun weekend challenge in which she invites us to write 28 words – neither more nor fewer – prompted by the word sibilance. So let’s pinch part of what I wrote for Rebecca:

A susurration of waves: oscillating, softly slapping and surging across crushed seashells on the sandy shingle: soothing; sibilant. Sucking, settling, restoring.  Saluting the shoreline in a ceaseless cycle.‘  

The Longest Day – One Month Gone ..

For the last month, I’ve sometimes been a bit grumpy in the evening. It’s the same every year. The longest day comes … and then goes. And inexorably, the days get shorter and I’m reminded that winter’s on its way. I enjoy the season: the gaunt skeletal outlines of trees, the chill in the air. But I really don’t like the short days and the endlessly long nights that come with winter.

So when this week’s #Tanka Tuesday issued the challenge to write a syllabic poem entitled The Longest Day, I knew exactly what to write about, and chose to use the nonet form: a nine-line poem, that goes from 9 syllables in the first line, down to one in the last line.

The Longest Day

The longest day is one month past and

each day is shorter than the last, 

as now the nights grow longer

and winter edges in.

It’s dismal knowing

summer’s going.

Sunny days

almost …

gone.

For Debbie’s Six Word Saturday, and

Colleen’s Word Craft Poetry.

St. Pancras Station: where England and Europe meet

My favourite station in the UK is Saint Pancras International. It’s a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture and must be England’s most elegant place from which to start a journey. It was opened in 1862, and one of its glories is its immense single span iron roof , designed by William Barlow. That wonderful facade, which includes the Midland Hotel, was designed by Gilbert Scott, and this is what you’ll see as you approach, and then wander among all the fairly up-market shops which line the concourse these days. It’s such a treat just to wander round admiring the structure, listening to travellers chatting in French as they accustom themselves to their English surroundings. Here’s a little gallery to give you as taste of the handsome brickwork, the charming attention to detail.

What a shock, then, to find yourself suddenly facing this statue, The Meeting Place. some 9 metres high. Designed by Paul Day and unveiled in 2007, it’s intended to encapsulate the romance of travel.

This weekend’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge invites us to use a photo of this work as a prompt for a piece of Ekphrastic Poetry (if this is a new one on you, as it was to me, you’ll find out what it is if if you follow the link). For the challenge, it has to be in syllabic form, so I chose Prime Verse. And I think my feelings about this work may be clear…

Saint Pancras and the lovers.

A magnificent

Victorian masterpiece.

Elegant springboard of a thousand journeys –

Saint Pancras Station.

What greets you here?

A schmaltzy piece of kitsch:

a statue of two lovers who embrace

as they meet once more.

A crude mawkish piece, whose presence I abhor.

The featured image is by Daniela Paola Alchapar via Unsplash.

Galloping Years

Blame Peter. He’s the one who drew my attention to Sammi Cox and her writing prompts. And when his own post, prompted by Sammi, dropped into my in box, I thought I should have a go too. This is the prompt:

Why 46 words? Just to make life difficult I suppose. But here we go …

The Galloping Years

You’d think each year was just a year

Each one lasting twelve whole months.

And yet as I get old and grey, those weeks and months

Revolve, gain speed and pass before me faster than before.

Slow down! Don’t hurry me through my last remaining years.