At Christmas time we are reminded of Christmases past and those that are no longer with us. It has been a hard year for a lot of us and we lost my Mother-in-Law (Rosemary Hutt) due to a Lymphoma in late November. Both these Mums in my (Sally’s) life were inspiring ladies and both had a love of wildlife they have passed on to me. Rosemary was involved with Cumbria Wildlife Trust from 1978 and was Chair of the Cumbria West Coast local group and volunteered on their committees. She also walked every week with the local Holiday Fellowship group, leading many walks and kept the participants informed of passing wildlife.
I am fortunate in having Mum’s blog to look back on and here is a poem she wrote post Christmas in December 2013 for Fraser our now nearly 19 year old son and gives us hope of the spring to come soon which this year will hopefully bring us a vaccine and respite from out curtailed activities:
Festivals – been and gone, gifts unwrapped, eaten, broken. The year has turned,
resolutions made, hunkered down til Spring has sprung Pray it’s not too long.
Hope not long deferred: today seen on roadside bank first buds of primrose.
(c) Vivienne Blake 27 December 2013
This year, when we haven’t been able to travel, I have walked/run every morning with our Cocker Spaniel Oscar looking out for the emerging wildlife. I have posted photos of my daily exploits to facebook to cheer up those that haven’t been able to get out themselves. The flowers have just kept going through December and every time I see them I think of Rosemary and how she always carried a notebook to record what she saw in flower. I try and record things with photos!
1st December was Mum’s (aka VivinFrance’s) birthday and this week is also National Tree Week. In honour of both events we paid a visit to Viv’s Wood on Sunday to plant a Rowan (aka Mountain Ash) tree that we rescued from an inappropriate location in our garden. It has been in a pot for a while and it was time it was planted out. To protect it from deer grazing we have surrounded it with a natural barrier of willow and birch thinnings from elsewhere in the wood.
A couple of months ago Duncan dug a small pond to add a bit of variety of habitats.
For Mother’s Day – a poem from Mum’s ‘Old Poetry from OU Courses’ file:
I was sixteen, the grans were 72.
Now I’m 72 and the grans long gone
but their party was something else.
Aunts and Great Aunts,
Uncles and cousins galore
specially my favourite, red-haired John.
The tables were groaning
with ham and chicken, and trifle with cream,
wine too, for a treat:
post-rationing food, the height of de luxe.
There were posh frocks and frillies,
and Dad wore his tux.
Grandad sang his party piece:
a plaintive Alice Blue Gown.
Uncle Bob sang Bless this House
and Aunty Win played Chopin.
Gran was tiddly, she did a knees-up
just like Mother Brown.
My sister and I sang London Pride
which brought the house down.
And for Jock (currently in lock-down in Notre Dame de Cenilly, Normandy) here is a photo of a leaf bud on the apple tree we bought for him for his 80th Birthday that we had to plant in our garden!
Duncan and I visited Viv’s Wood on Saturday to put up the sign Duncan had made from a piece of fallen oak from the wood. The branch had come off in gales last winter and dropped into the stream. Split and smoothed, the wood’s name was hand carved into the surface of the rough plank. The uprights were pieces of birch from the wood, only the screws were brought in.
The new sign
Oscar and the new sign
We hadn’t been for a while and so had a wander around to check everything was OK and take out a few of the birch trees that are crowding the newer oaks and smothering the heather. We will burn these in our wood stove when they are seasoned. A fallen nest box was also put back up ready for the spring.
In light of the eventual use of the wood that we took away this poem from Mum seemed appropriate…
Kindling – a friendly word
for the start of warmth.
Splinters, shavings, chips of oak,
chopped sticks and kindred twigs
then serious timber a handspan thick.
The catalyst, a fizz of sulphur,
prelude to our atavistic pleasure in
spits, sparks and flames,
now quietly glowing cinders.
There are daisies in the lawn
and a dandelion or two,
primroses and celandines
stand out here and there
violets just peeping through.
Catkins on the hazel boughs
still hide their rosy flower
but it won’t be long
before a cheer
salutes the thaumaturge
who shows us Spring is almost here.
(c) Viv Blake 21 Feb 2015
Mum wrote this poem for her 6-Word-Saturday post – the six words being ‘There are Daisies in the Lawn’. Thaumaturge means maker of magic, miracle bringer. Mum liked to use unusual words and had been alerted to this word from Dictionary.com‘s word of the day a few days before she wrote this poem.
The photos were taken by me in the last few days in Northumberland as I like to hunt for signs of spring at this time of year.
Mum would have like today’s date as it is palindromic – 02/02/2020.
I ran a craft competition on behalf of the group Crafty Reivers at the Stamfordham Village Fayre yesterday . We were short on entries from the public so I entered my Mum’s last quilt. The quilt won the people’s vote! We asked people visiting to vote for their favourite by putting tokens in a bowl.
Small patch of wilderness in the Hutt’s garden (c) Sally Hutt 16 June 2019
a wilderness of concrete
no home for wild life
Bird heaven would be
of meadows and native trees
with wild on the side
Wild flowers by lane
to bridge across river –
Deserted island –
wild retreat for breeding ducks
safe from marauders.
Peep around the bend
to watch wild creatures living
as they’re meant to do.
How far we’ve fallen
from the natural way of life
into urban wild –
how can we bear
this unstable urban life
we have created?
(c) Vivienne Blake 2 July 2013
Mum described this as a group of Haiku and were written in response to a wordle which is a cloud of words. Mum loved the weekly challenge of writing poems based on a cloud of words provided on the Sunday Whirl blog. This was her response to Wordle 115 – the latest Wordle on the blog is number 409 from the 23 June 2019.
A Threnody is defined by wikkipedia as ‘a wailing ode, song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person’. Here is hoping that wilderness is still very much alive and we can all help stop its destruction. We leave 2 patches of our lawn to grow wild over the summer and are encouraging native flowers such as Pignut, Ox-eye daisy and Betony to thrive there.
This is technically the last day of #30DaysWild but I missed 3 days so owe you at least 3 wild related poems but I have also enjoyed the prompt to read through old posts and find things to post in the box of Mum’s writings that I have inherited so will endeavour to keep posting her poems.
raucous throats plead.
A mother swoops to feed the brood.
Soon satisfied at first,
the intervals grow shorter.
Weary parents toil in shifts
to quell the unrelenting cheeping.
Downy plumage covers scrawny skin
as jostling rivalry shrinks
nursery to prison cell.
The feeblest infant, losing
out to stronger brothers,
plummets to untimely end
between the jaws of pouncing cat.
One intrepid fledgling, hardier than most,
mounts the twiggy Everest to stand in awe,
cast wide-eyed gaze on earth and sky.
Swithering, interminable pause of doubt,
before primeval instinct sends him fluttering
uneasily until, with growing confidence,
he soars in exultation.
(c) Vivienne Blake
Another poem typed up form the ‘old bits and bobs’ file. I really can’t find this one on the blog already! Sally
How do trees make poetry of beauty the epitome
of overweening dignity
exemplar of such alchemy
turn brown to green so gaudily
and green to gold so carelessly
yield habitats resplendently
grow strong timber generously
to build our houses sensibly
fuel our fires renewably
absorb nuisance gas ingeniously
shade our gardens usefully
grow delicious fruit in diversity
give swarming life big-heartedly?
Oh! How I love those trees.
(c) Vivienne Blake
Apologies for this late post for yesterday. This poem comes from the box I have of Mum’s writings. It comes from a file that starts with submissions from her Open University writing courses so it is probably an early poem. The group of poems it comes from is just labelled ‘Old bits and bobs – mostly submitted’. Submitted for what, I don’t know. The photograph was taken in Viv’s Wood, a wood bought with my inheritance, on what would have been her birthday last year.
The North Tyne, Bellingham (c) Sally Hutt 27 June 2019
A sturdy small girl
stomps down the pavement in a paddy,
crosses the field at speed
to launch herself with aplomb into the dinghy.
Rocking wildly she picks up an oar
to propel the boat upstream
by paddling over the stern.
Her fluid strokes are expert,
outrace the chase by angry parent,
She steers skilfully,
leans across the current towards open terrain
on the far side of the river. Escape, freedom.
Countless small creatures scent blood,
descend on tender skin for a meal.
Hot itching inflames her temper,
fuels an about turn in search of respite,
calamine lotion and a soothing touch
from mother, jovial now that the wanderer’s returned.
(c) Vivienne Blake 1 June 2014
Mum wrote this about her wild and free childhood on the Thames. I thought about this poem as I walked along the North Tyne at lunchtime today. Sally
A bee is seen, then another, then another
on the bushes at the top of the steps.
into bunches of currants.
Rain swells the currants
and sunshine brings colour.
Human hands disrobe the branches,
leaving a few here and there for the birds.
Stalks removed, the fruit is steamed
with an apple or two and a lemon
until the juices run.
Siphoned into another pan,
measured and sugar added,
boiled hard to setting point, and skimmed,
poured into jars, and sealed.
Labelled Gelée de Cassis,
I gloat at the shelves full of clear gleaming colour
and sweetness to give us goodness
through the long cold days of winter.
So many years since
last I saw this place,
place of my birth and hers.
Six long years to grow –
grow and gather my adult strength.
From a great height I found her
Now I must woo her –
dance the sky dance again and again,
Flipping my wings to roll over and over
from high to low in a graceful stoop.
I hope she’s watching.
What’s that above me,
that swoops fast towards me,
big and rapacious,
more than my match?
but I am determined
in love to be strong.
roll over and over
falling fast, I struggle to stop,
extricate from the knot.
Shake free triumphant,
resume the skydance.
Now I am ready,
ready to mate.
father my brood,
hunt their food,
fight off intruders,
guide the next generation
on their long way.
(c) Vivienne Blake 12 June 2014
We were lucky to see a sea eagle around a nest on a trip to the island of Hoy, Orkney in May this year. No photos as it was a very distant view – follow the link above to see more about the eagles at ‘The Dwarfie Stone’.Last year was the first time sea-eagles had nested on Hoy for 145 years. Sally
It’s Be Kind to Worms Year
to stop the earth being spoiled
by large swathes of monoculture,
heavy machinery ploughing deep,
too much building covering the earth
compacting the dirt, impacting
the habitat of good bacteria
who exist to keep our soil
fertile and aereated for food.
I could go on at length,
but you get the idea:
BE KIND TO WORMS
long worms, wriggly worms
worms that go squish if you squeeze them,
but don’t make two new worms if you do.
I heart lumbricus terrestris.
Taxonomy a peculiar science – Uncontrollable by mowing, Pilosella aurantiaca, to use its scientific name,
is considered worldwide a noxious weed –
seen as mundane and unromantic,
but by its common name of fox and cubs
we’re charmed by the semantic.
(c) Vivienne Blake 20 June 2014
I was looking through facebook memories for today and there was an exchange of comments on a photo of fox and cubs (aka orange hawkbit) from our garden that Mum had posted. I found this poem in the comments and just last week I took a photo of the same plant in the area of our front lawn we are leaving wild for wild flowers. Seemed the perfect poem to share today. It is a plant that has escaped from gardens into the wild. Sally
O this great beloved world and all the creatures in it
how we do mistreat our fragile home
by covering it with concrete, brick and tarmac,
abandoning the sane and healthy farming
of our forbears, planting, raising cattle,
caring for the soil that gives us life
using hands and sturdy horses,
replacing living workers with machines –
juggernauts compress the earth beyond safe limits;
earth, habitat of man and linnet.
Rivers and little streams with hidden cresses,
poisoned with nitrate run-off
collapsing bankside dwelling of martin and vole;
filling gravel bed with the detritus of infamy:
beer cans and lethal plastic packaging –
trivial trash that violates, transgresses
laws of nature designed for our protection.
Lead weights of selfish anglers kill the swans.
Such travesty. This feeble poem expresses
our anger, which may, just may, be what refreshes
our consciences. The sky overhead night and day
provokes reflection on the state of man –
what we have done to cause climatic change,
send thither sunshine and pleasant weather,
provoke extremes; wash away soil with floods;
tornados, hurricanes betray
our security and that of every creature.
Do we blame the work of God omnipotent?
Who made the universe and all that’s in it?
Great mistake of our naiveté:
‘tis ignorance and greed that cause decay.
And the stars will keep on shining overhead
when we learn from errors, co-operate
with our environment, using, not abusing;
inspire diversity: in place of monoculture
heal the land with fauna, flexi-grazing,
rotation of crops and go ahead
nature’s way. It will take time and effort
to redress the balance of our actions
so that we no longer live in dread
of devastation, live simple lives instead.
(c) Vivienne Blake May 24, 2013
Having missed posting a poem yesterday I have found an epic poem for today that I think addresses the current Climate Emergency very well. Sally