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Last Dance

            The Dance of the Gnats

In slanting sunlight along hedges warmed

Hordes of gnats amass in glittering swarms

Like plumes of dust thrust up

From the ground burst open, abounding,

In an ultimate race to lay eggs ere autumn:

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A bountiful sign summer rests on last legs,

Yet, at least, as the flourishing knots

Feed the gathering flocks of swallows

Ere their exodus, fill lizards left lying on

Stone even cooling, fatten bats come twilight,

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An indication our Earth brims, still:

Life resides, ready to thrive when we let it.

While they fly I will delight

In the dance as long as lasts this light.

Autumn has finally arrived, with a storm, some rain and wind and now chilly foggy mornings. And very happy we are to see it, and the flies dying as they should to be born again next spring…

September Still acts like Autumn after all

We have finally got some decent days of rain – and who’d have thought we’d be saying such words even a couple of decades ago?

September has returned, and the swimming pools have closed – an important part of the end of summer even in this cooler part of Spain.

So here’s a short poem inspired by the last dip a couple of weeks ago…

These clouds didn’t produce any wanted rain, but a few days later we got some good wet days to soak the soil, and the heat has gone from afternoon.

            September Again

Chill seeps through skin and up 

Legs creating a repelling shiver

Shaken off at last, reluctant leap,

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Sweeping sweat away in one

Stroking refreshing lengths of

The clear water, vibrant, energized,

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Once out, heat resting upon

The village becomes welcome again.

Soaking afternoon sun

Seems summer holds yet

Tight to the terrain. Still

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Leaves left lying upon pool tiles

Tell a different tale:

September has returned;

Trees not dry of drought turn,

Blackberries shrivelled on brambles

Sloes fallen from thorns, walnuts

Weakly cling to limp twigs;

Chestnut spikes lie scattered

On forest floor, surprisingly, as if

We’d somehow forgotten 

Autumn would come, and

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Somewhat disconcerting,

At first, as evening chill envelops – 

Our inertia preferring to ignore it.

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Yet, when jumpers dug out of drawers,

We’ll embrace the breeze:

As bracing as this latest bathe.

Here the trees yet green, flowers yet in bloom, though bracken has been harvested in some of those fields for winter and chestnuts (small this year) are on the forest floor.

  Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

            Drought Triggers Fall like Frost

This river valley is not so dry, but up above the shallower scree slopes are dropping those leaves down.

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The forest climbs either side of the valley

Up from the river gulley, glinting pools and 

Protruding rocks, grey against green,

Except where steeply narrows, now

Auburn, gold and orange like autumn 

Came in August as trees let their leaves 

Fall on the shallow soil rather than farther 

Toil for little gain under the strain 

Of such a fiery glare all summer long.

It’s for the Kids!

            Saving the Next Generation

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Wherein comes the urge to chastise

Children chasing chaffinches, ducks;

Picking wildflowers for bunches just 

To steep in water and later pour it out?

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These innocent actions seem almost 

Painful for some of us to see, since 

It seems every seedling, even insect, is 

Particularly precious in this sinking era.

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Now we need to encourage kids to 

Lie down on a lawn, plucking daisies

As they please, ripping leaves and 

Flicking petals to the breeze, immersed

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In the verdure that surrounds us. Thus

They will in turn appreciate the wonder

Of these tiny treasures of orchids, clover,

Cornflowers as especially as do we mourners.

Getting close to the Geology of Ireland in the Dargle

I’ve been offline to a certain extent so far this summer. But I’ve been outside a lot, enjoying the nature left to us, as you can see from these photos ( I don’t publish anyone’s face in this blog), and with my kids in Ireland.

On our way to the Sally Gap. Saw a sika hind into the bargain!

But I have republished Peter and the Little People, and it’s out in paperback!

It’s for the Kids!

Of course, anyone of any age can enjoy it, so go ahead and pick up a copy. It’s perfect for reading aloud, too.

Like everything we do, it’s for the kids who will have to visit places much changed and degraded unless we stop what we’re doing.

I don’t let my kids pick some wildflowers, like orchids, but then the local roads authority or the farmers come along and strim or spray the ditches and hedgerows…

The view from Killiney Hill might be slightly different towards Shankill in the future if we’re not pro-active to prevent it.

The news this summer is of course pretty depressing, with the IPCC pretty much saying we’re in big trouble unless our so-called leaders act like we need them to…

So have a read of Peter and the Little People, and then help your children write some letters to the Taoiseacht or whoever supposedly leads your government telling them they’ll have a place in history – good or bad is up to them.

Late Rains

            Late April Rains

The rain makes everything all right,

Like blessed water flowing over lips.

Birds sing sweeter as if assured

Life will hang on in for spring,

As insects emerge from dry refuge

To delight in the damp leaves.

Eardrums encounter drips gently

Caress the mind into peaceful ease:

Merged in memories of seasons spent

Naïve as nestlings of summers to come.

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It’s a rainy day today, which reminded me of a poem I wrote a month or so ago, about how the rain is welcome when the land is parched. At least in imagination it staves off the drought to come and we live a little longer.

Missing things before they’re gone

            The Lilacs Have Already Faded

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We wait as children for Christmas, 

The bursting forth of buds, spread of

Poppies along bearding barley fields;

Delighting in drifting aspen down.

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But if we perchance glance away 

During spring’s apotheosis we find

The lilacs have already faded, and

Summer swiftly advances unto autumn.

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Just as a blink allows the bastards

Take flame and machine to the trees,

Scraping drains in absence of rain,

Leaving shoots shorn dead as winter.

I wrote this last week when I was in my garden, seeing that the patch I didn’t mow the week before now sported a lovely little orchid.

But the lilac I had planted just beyond had lost its one flowerhead, having faded to brown already in the space from one weekend to the next.

And I thought of how quickly the spring passes, as usually, even when we vow not to miss it. It’s too short, even when its only summer on its way, we all know where summer leads….

Then I saw while on a cycle what the local roads authority had done, in May, to the hedges and scrub alongside the roads around the village – gone along with who knows what machinery and razed everything down to the ground. Of course, if they discovered plastic rubbish under that bush, they left that there.

The brown should be brambles and other scrub. Even the poplars got shorn, as if we’re expecting double-decker buses to come along this road…

What kind of mindset allows this to happen? Where are the leaders?

Any pretence that this was done to aid vehicle passage is demonstrably false given the destruction of vegetation many metres on the far side of the safety barrier on the road.

The locals just shrugged it off. It seems they think all this can be infinitely replaced, not that it’s a last bastion of such beauty.

The trees upon the slope on the left help slow down erosion. There used to be more underneath them.

Is it not possible to see that we are losing things before they’re lost, or are we doomed to miss only what we have completely exterminated?

if you can see the black plastic, then whoever cut this down to the stumps should have seen it too, and should have done the right thing.

The village in the north of Spain is not the only place where such destruction takes place, of course. Just last week a huge swath of Killarney National Park was burned by negligence or intentional malice.

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On the other hand, I just finished reading Anne Frank’s diary for the second time, after about a 35 year gap… and I was struck by her passages about Nature.

Just like many during the lockdowns we went through, Anne realised that joy and peace can come from looking at the sky and the trees. Of course, even at thirteen and fourteen, Anne Frank was a very self-aware person compared to most around her, even then, never mind now.

I took snaps of the paragraphs. She wonders if her confinement indoors so long has made her so “mad about Nature” which is probably true to some extent, just as it was for many others. But she sees it as a medicine, “which can be shared by rich and poor alike,” and “the one thing for which there is no substitute.”

I’ve never tried valerian or bromide, but next time you feel shit, try looking at the sky. I recommend it, too.
This was a book I recommended to my students as soon as went into lockdown last year. Things changed for them, but how much did they change? I wonder.

Let that last like of the upper paragraph sink in. This was said 60 years ago, before the shit started to hit the fan ecologically. Have we absorbed that information yet?

My question is whether that last line has sunk into our collective consciousness, or it is just that we can’t fathom our existence without Nature – even it if is out there, waiting for when we want it, after we’re released from prison, or our confinement, or we fancy a walk away from our computers? Until it isn’t.

And can we act as if something is lost before it actually is, giving us the chance to save it at the last minute.

Because we’re down to the last minute.

February means it’s Spring in some places

            They’re Only Daisies

Spring mildness brings blooming back

A splash of buttercups, daisies

And dandelions, and my

Heart soars to see these

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As if the summer burst forth 

In fullness of fuchsia, orchids,

Roses and hydrangea,

Even though they’re only daisies.

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Perhaps such sights would send

Soul soaring to much higher delight,

But little low pleasures enchant me

Easily, and I find myself exultant

To discover thus elation on a daily basis.

Well, we’ve survived the first month of 2021, which clearly hasn’t turned out as groovy as we’d hoped, so far.

I am patiently waiting, like the rest of the world, on a vaccine to be offered to me. I hope to get one before summer and be able to travel home to see folks.

Besides that, my life is pretty normal, apart from wearing masks all day.

School is still in session presidentially in Spain, and we’ve had few problems since we’re masking and gelling all the time.

My son’s swimming lessons restarted! other after school activities are going on without problems, too.

The bars were open at 30% occupancy, but are now only open for outside seating, but we can have a pincho on a Saturday afternoon with the kids now that the snow has melted and milder weather has returned.

I know it’s not spring here in Spain till the second half of March, but there are flowers out there, and I always stick to my Irish seasons anyway. Except for August. That’s still summer!

And I am feeling hopeful we won’t be kept inside during spring the way we were last year. Just a walk outside the city walls is all I ask.

I’ve written a fair few poems since Christmas, and I am slowly working through my WIP, Palu and the Pyramid Builders – last third of the manuscript, with 200k written so far.

I’ll be looking for beta readers in a year or two!

Meanwhile, I hope to post more poems this spring, and if you’re looking for a quick read, my novels are all still available for the time being, including my newest novella, The Logical Solution.

As Winter Comes

It comes for all of us.

But some of us are waiting. And we’re not going to be made to leave so easily.

And sometimes we can see the beauty in it all.

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            Winter Takes Grip of Us

Clouds fall, darker as they drop down upon the valley.

Night draws onwards, quick as winter wind, whistling

Along eaves, whipping at chattering apple leaves, 

Stripping trees, snapping stalks in the garden.

Bamboo poles that have supported peppers and 

Tomatoes all summer bend over, while the plants 

Are sapped of green, and shrivel even as ripening

Sole fruits dangle in the gusts. Only life remains 

It seems in hard cabbages and cauliflowers

Curled over to cover hearts from coming frosts.

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Still, we sit, after gleaning the garden for all that was

Tasty and tender, those last mouthfuls of summer

Not too damaged or dried up after stalks snapped,

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Refusing to leave even though no leaves are left, and

The night leaves us bereft of light: lingering outside

In twilight until winter takes the whole, sole

Sitters separated from the stalks that once sustained

Us, supported strongly, holding up only memories of

The sunshine that once suffused the blossoming apple

Grove, and unbent seedlings sprouted all around us.

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The allotment at dusk, Pamplona above with the last light of sunset. Pepper plants in the foreground, cardo – pig thistle and cabbages in the background before the tree. The peppers are frost damaged now.
The tomato plants, dead and shrivelled yet with a few fruits still edible held on. Pamplona cathedral is at the top right of the photo, silhouetted against the sky.

Enter September

 

The Subtlety of September’s Entrance

 

The bees don’t know it’s September;

They yet forage on the flowers before the porch

Under a sun shining on, strong as August.

 

Martins and swallows still flit for flies,

Gather on the lines, unready to leave;

Unconcerned the village is deserted,

Windows shuttered underneath their eaves.

 

None have truck with the times men impose,

Their clocks and dates; assigning names

To days that are every one the same.

 

Their seasons do not turn on a tick

So they stay on, as we sadly turn away.

 

 

Yes, the kids, and I, are back to school, back to Pamplona after summer spent mostly in the village….

And the above is my lament.

 

But at least the swallows and house martins had a good year, after a slow start where I was worried we’d have a big decrease over last year. There were plenty of flies around this year, though, (really annoying ones!) after a very mild winter that didn’t seem to kill many flies at all.

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A few hundred house martins and some swallows assembling on the lines above the village. 

 

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.

 

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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.

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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.