by Eithne Cullen
The theme for this week’s extra pages is A Sense Of Nature and it’s really appropriate for the times we find ourselves in.
Firstly, with our false feeling of being imprisoned, we can look out and marvel at how nature goes on despite governments, a virus and the imposition of restrictions. Bulbs transformed into tulips and daffodils for us to encounter on our daily walks. Trees came into leaf and blossomed as we walked under them. Bluebell woods have been and gone in the weeks we’ve been inside. Geese have already produced goslings and are out and about on paths and lake shores; the coots in our park showed off their little ones this week.
We’ve been fascinated by a friend sharing film from inside a nesting box, with greedy chicks making the blue tit parents rush about; feeding and cleaning up after them.
Nature is marching ahead in all her glory.
This anonymous quotation: “Stop every now and then. Just stop and enjoy. Take a deep breath. Relax and take in the abundance of life,” gives us some good advice about making the most of the opportunities there for us.
Secondly, many people are telling us they smell the scents of nature more clearly with reduced traffic and pollution. Hayfever sufferers can attest to that. On my walks, I’ll stop to look for the wild garlic I can smell, or investigate which blossom is so sweetly-scented today. The absence of traffic noise allows us to hear birdsong more clearly, too.
And everyone’s finding more pleasure in their gardens, balconies, window boxes… even the patches of earth around the trees in the streets are sown with flowers for us to enjoy.
It is easy to finds poems and prose celebrating nature. Nature has always inspired writing of all sorts. Looking at my own poetry, I came across a poem describing the meeting between the natural and human worlds. I wrote it about Lloyd Park, Walthamstow. It’s a favourite place of mine and has lovely associations with William Morris, who lived there; he’s celebrated in the William Morris Gallery at the park entrance.
Reflections Of Perfection
This is the place where William Morris lived,
and posed for photos in its walled park;
it fills with vibrant life when the sun shines.
Daffodils shrink and tulips stride out in their place,
heads heavy, colourful orbs of pink and white.
Coppiced beech in symmetry among roses.
A ribbon of water rushes past the path,
and stirs and swirls with movement of the birds,
deft ducks buoyed upon its rippling surface.
Children run and swing, spinning to dizzying heights;
skate through half-pipes and steer bikes over ramps.
Prams and buggies glide along the paths,
the youngsters tearing on to have some fun,
voices rising in cheery, trilling chatter,
at the adventure waiting round the bend.
Beautiful objects grace the Water House,
reflections of perfection in its grounds.
Writer Patsy Collins has shared some thoughts about her garden. She’s also sent lovely pictures so we can see why it inspires her to write.
My garden is always a source of happiness and inspiration to me. Sometimes the inspiration is direct; many of my characters are keen gardeners. I’ve published four collections, each with a dozen plant or garden-related short stories, and my novels all contain flowers or gardening scenes to some degree. My garden inspires me indirectly too. If I get stuck on a plot point, I go into the garden and the answer will come to me. Of course, the fact that it’s impossible to write with a trowel in my hand may have something to do with it!
The entire garden is grown without the use of chemicals, but the most natural area is the mini-meadow. It was once a lawn, so is the heart of the garden, both in terms of location and the way it’s so full of life. There are the plants, of course, squeezed in anywhere there’s almost enough room. Then there are bees, at least five different kinds. The variety of butterflies, moths and birds exceeds my ability to remember all the names. Caterpillars make cocoons in seedheads and spiders weave intricate webs which trap dew-like, diamond-encrusted dreamcatchers. Adult birds collect nesting material and grubs. Later, their fledgelings splash in the birdbath. At night, bats flit about, feasting on the many small insects the garden supports. From the first snowdrops through primroses, bluebells, campion, a profusion of daisies, cyclamen and crocus, there’s always something to make me smile – and get me writing!
I shared some writing from Frank Riverman in an earlier page and lots of people commented about how good it was. Frank has shared another piece with us, capturing a thoughtful and sensitive moment when considering his natural surroundings:
I’m sitting among the trees, essentially in undergrowth, hiding myself away on a bright sunny morning, so I can’t be seen from Hackney Marshes or the river path. The surrounding plants are dappled by sunlight and the leaves are moving in a gentle breeze. I can hear a blackbird singing among the brambles somewhere. Over to my right, I can hear workmen working on a new path, scraping their spades and loudly talking to each other. The blackbird moves closer, though I still can’t see it. The song becomes stronger, clearer, more melodious. The breeze strengthens slightly, the trees whispering. This is something that fascinates me. The moment of being, of experiencing, before analysis, before thought. Being here. Now. This involves being able to see both the microscopic and macroscopic, being aware of what is happening up close and what is happening in the wider space. Zooming between the ants crawling among the twigs at my feet and the sky stretching over me. Being aware of the universe beyond that. Seeing it all at exactly the same time. In the same moment.
Frank has a Facebook page where he shares his writing: Riverman Writing.
Our editor, Madeleine White, has also been inspired by what she’s seen on her morning runs in the last few weeks. She’s shared some of her poems with us. Interestingly, she’s written a poem called Reflections. Part of her ‘I Ran Out’ series, it shows how the pandemic is affecting our lives and has made us all a little more reflective.
Connect with Madeleine on Twitter and Instagram: @madeleinefwhite
And finally, remember the words of the poet Tagore: “The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
Do keep sending your inspired work to Write On! magazine, to our showcase or to the competitions which are still open till September.
Stop every now and then. Just stop and enjoy. Take a deep breath. Relax and take in the abundance of life.