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Spring has sprung… or has it started?

While Spring officially started at the beginning of the month back home in Ireland, in Spain we are still in the middle of winter, with the next season only set to start in another month on the 21st of March.



the walls of Pamplona dusted with snow

It is, I admit, the height of skiing season, but even here, the daffodils are shooting up and will soon burst buds, the crocuses in the parks are spotting the grass, and I even saw a few daisy and dandelions the other day. The trees are mostly still bare, but showers of catkins have popped out on a few.


my daughter gathering snow for a snowball fight before it melts

Mostly, though, you can just smell it. The air is different. Despite the snow that we had last week, there’s a feeling of spring that even humans living in a city still experience.

Spring is here, as far as I am concerned.

And summer isn’t far behind. For I saw the bats take their first flight of the year and it reminded me of a poem I wrote last year on the subject of signs of summer, more than spring. It’s perhaps a little premature to be thinking about butterflies and bees, but since I haven’t posted a poem in a while, here it is.


Signs of Summer


There are many signs of summer coming, here,

Starting perhaps with cuckoo calls and swallow sighting

And the return of the swifts, or

The first flight of the bats at twilight,

The scent of honeysuckle through open balconies and

The abundance of butterflies on the garden lavender,

Some are specific to Spain, like closing the blinds

Against sunlight to keep the house cool, and

Sleeping with the windows open all night

Pouring water to fill the swimming pool and others

Seen only in this city: setting up the tombola,

Putting the fences around the flowers in the park

In preparation for the festivals and digging up

The road to get it ready for the running of the bulls,

And lastly, putting up with the stench of piss

Upon opening up the street door every morning.


The Drought Breaks


The Rains Return


The sky weeps;

Bent low,

Hills soak to refill rills.

Upon the porch, we sit still.


The rain – snow in the high ground – has finally returned to much of Spain, bringing some relief to the drought we’ve been experiencing this year.

The spring that supplies our village in the Valdorba is still flowing at a trickle, though. It will take much more rain to raise the water table and refill the reservoirs.


the spring last week above, the same spring in September below…








But everyone has been happy to see the rain, despite the need for umbrellas instead of sunglasses.

This is a photo of one of the beaches in San Sebastian, aka Donostia, taken when I was there last week.


I sat on the beach and wrote this poem.


Donostia, December 2017


On the breakwater, as tide rises,

Shielding eyes to see gleaming mountain

Snowmelt trickle by.



We shouldn’t be able to see the mountain from the beach at this time of year, for the blanket of cloud that normally shrouds the city.

But what is normal anymore?


Anyway, I wrote a few poems that afternoon. It reminded me of another poem I wrote a few weeks ago, which describes a little of why I’ve written so little recently, and posted less.

But maybe we’ll get back to normal sometime soon…


Words Come Forth


They say our words won’t be kept down;

They bubble up, under pressure, like lava

Pushing through a fissure,

Bursting forth if they can’t flow.


But instead, they are drawn

Under empty sky,

Sucked out by silence,

Pulled forth by the vacuum

Of open space,

Giving them a place to emerge

Timidly into tranquilly

Like deer from the thicket at twilight.



Spring Dusk, a poem

Spring Dusk


The last song of the thrush before nightfall,

The final swings through the sky before swifts eventually settle:

The ensuing silence – if you can find it – as dusk sinks in

And pink clouds vanish into black.


These call out, loud as swift screams

To all who have ears:

Open the windows, shut off everything else,


Watch the darkness descend and catch the bats first flight;

You are alive now, but might not last the night.




Five Minutes from a Hectic Schedule

Five Minutes in Spring


Five minutes on a park bench

To catch sight of birds other than doves,


A walk along a tree-lined street

Instead of screen-staring upon a bus,


A pause between passing engines to

Actually hear the blackbird,


Lingering by a flowing fountain

To listen to the lovely gurgle,


A long gaze upon a hillside

Growing shades of green for grazing,


A halt, a hesitation, to inhale the

Heady horse chestnut scents;


Five minutes in spring, just five,

To remind us this here is life.



It’s been a busy few weeks here in Pamplona.

I’ve my children’s book, Peter and the Little People out today!  You can get it here...

As well as that, I’ve a novella under the name JD Martins, One Night in Boston, out tomorrow!     You can get that here…

What with promoting these and my other books, and preparing a blogtour for One Night in Boston, as well as normal life stuff like end of school year, taking care of the kids and having a baptism, I’ve not had time to do much reading or writing, or getting a chunk of time to get out in the mountains.

But it’s vital to take just a few minutes as spring spins past to appreciate why we’re here, to pause to see just how fast life is flying by. Then get back to the kids and exam correcting, and the edits of the book you swore would be done by Christmas…







An Absence in the Fields

A colourful afternoon in the countryside.

Northern Spain, April 24th, and though breezy, a bright and sunny day.

Spring seems to have come early after a very mild winter.

But there’s something missing….


The oil seed rape is in full flower.


The barley heads are already up, and the wind is sending waves through it.



Thyme splashed pink along the banks and slopes between fields



The orchids are blooming.


Back in Pamplona, the lilacs are out already.

But there were no bees.

No Butterflies, on any of all these flowers.

It might have been the cold breeze… but there was an apiary not far  (50 yards?) from that huge field of colza, and though I don’t like to get too close, I couldn’t see any commuting bees from that corner.

And it was disconcerting.






















Springtime, I think…



As the mild winter ends, we’re still getting some snow, which is a sting for the bees and their blossoms…

But a few signs make me think of things, and remind me embrace the environment.


Spring Should be Here.


The blackbird has deemed

It propitious this St. Pat’s

To screw the snow and sing.





Sometimes when the traffic signal stops us

Those sixty seconds

Bring the most serenity to our day.




Taking Time


Too often taking a few minutes

To scribble down some new words,

Staring at the screen and soaring

In our imagination, but not taking

Time to just sit and watch the world;

Interacting with the environment,

Embracing our ecology.




Praying for an Early Spring


Sitting in shirt sleeves

This late January afternoon,

Lettuce sprouts in greenhouse,

Bumblebees in almond blooms;

Annuals keep flowering and

Geraniums haven’t faded.

Newts and salamanders swim in pools

Wondering, too, if it isn’t too soon

Despite the lack of ice and instead

Should still slumber.


And though we’d love to see some snow,

It would be safer to let winter go

Unannounced, unpronounced, this year,

For fear it will freeze the very things

That would bring life to the spring.


geraniums in snow

This photo is from the week before, but one snowfall does not a winter make: the geraniums are still as colourful, the snow melted mostly that day, the sunny sky remained. The lettuces were fine; there are cheap strawberries in the supermarkets already. Unfortunately my phone camera didn’t work when I was trying to take a snap of the almond blossoms or the amphibians…




Haikus and other short poems.

Here are some more short poems and haikus that I said I’d post.
I will add them to the poetry page, too.

I haven’t posted recently becuase I’ve been away at home in Ireland, where I don’t get much of a chance to write, or read.
Mostly, I drink tea and beer and chat.
And that’s great.
Of course, afterwards it would be nice to be able to have a holiday alone and catch up on stuff. But summer with the children is on the cards, so only a few hours a day to myself and my pen will be my lot.
I will get a few poems and some chapters of my work in progress, done, though. I swear!


Early Snowdrop
Still Bows
To the braver bee


Cyclist careening down
Mountain, crouching under wind
Ignoring the sky.


Dark lawn lays an extensive frame
For a tiny dot of pink:
First brave daisy bursting forth
To herald the blooming March of spring.


April afternoon
Aspen seeds


Ignored, strangers sight excite –
Wife’s sleeping form,
Pulls powerfully, still.

Saved by Death

High on the corner of a Midwestern cornfield
A family cemetery stands firm, the last
Testament to a town wiped from memory,
Like the soil that once stood below it.

Spring Park, Pamplona

The hinds abide,
While the cockerels cry,
Drowned out by the peacocks.

deer abide


Narrow country road,
Hedgerow arches over,
Birdsong encloses.

The Birds of Summer

Swifts have disappeared,
Swallows are soon to follow;
Cuckoos long silent.


Crows’ calls
Open fields.

Sea Greeting

Surging up the sand,
Touching toes:
Gentle hello.

Original Sin

Maybe our sin was seeing
Shame in nakedness.

On a Hilltop

Across silent landscape
Reveal their source.

The End is Nigh

That feeling you get when you’re writing a novel and you finally get to the point where you can see your way out of the middle of the book and know there is an ending….

You’ve been trashing around the marsh that is the book’s middle for weeks and now, though you’re covered in mud and still have a slog through boot-sucking bog holes ahead, at least you know what direction you’re going, where the dry land is ahead, and that glimmer of hope you held for so long turns to confidence you’re not, in fact, going to sink into the middle of all this shit without even a story to show for it.

I got that today.

That means I deserve to start outlining the next project, right? Right? Oh…. oh well…

let me just get this boot back on…


Meanwhile, here are a couple of poems: one for easter, the other for spring. Yes, already distracted…


A Watcher on Calvary


A man named Barabbas was once heard sighing,

From an alley on the path to Calvary, upon spying

A raucous crowd, carrying crosses to the top, go by,

And saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”


Spring Unfolds


Lured, like a bee to the bloom,

The scent of narcissus arrests my senses,

Dancing swallows draw eye away

From swirling script, distracted by the act;

Evening singing wins me over,

Dawn chorus charms me from my slumber,

Calling cuckoos invade my concentration.


The flowering pulls me from my room;

Sucking from the soil such beauty,

So I wish to sit before them, soaking

All they display, watching every form unfold.





The Last Post and Photos




Solstice sunset

As I sign off for the year (sending laptop to the apple store and myself to pen and paper for recharging) I thought I’d post a poem written before the solstice and a few photos –  as sun set before the longest night and a bright first day of the new solar year. Sunny solstice day

Hope the end of the calender year and the start of the new one is good for all of you. Thanks for peeking at the posts now and then.


The Reason for the Season


It’s yet December but I seek the heat,

While ducks dabble beak at dead leaves,

Unaware of what comes after fat has burned.


Though I know another spring awaits,

Right now I know why there is Christmas,

As rain falls sadly through the naked trees;

We need to see a light to smile at,

To look forward to the darkest night.


The snow at least would illuminate.

sunset solstice