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Showing posts from May, 2020

A POEM A DAY - CONFETTI

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I sometimes stop and really look at the nature around me, more often I take it for granted. When you actually look it is hard to believe the variety of flora and insect life visible in even a small area of landscape. On the hillsides overlooking the village spring flowers are still blooming after an unusual few months of frequent and gentle rain. It would be hard for an artist to imagine and paint the colours covering the land. 

A POEM A DAY - TOWARDS THE SEA

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This is the view this morning from the hillsides of El Carrascal, over the Vall de Pop towards the Mediterranean. It was a beautiful morning, full of birdsong, gentle sun before the heat built, wild flowers marking the path in shades of gold, purple blues and pinks. An exhilarating walk.

A POEM A DAY - TREE GREENS

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I was struck the other day by the wonderful palette of greens in the small patch of land by the spring at La Rompuda. In one small area there were pines, holm oak shrubs, abandoned olives, bright cherry, a fig tree and a camp corner where green reeds towered over my head like a cane jungle. 

A POEM A DAY - HADAS

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Herbal infusions are popular in Spain, many different kinds are sold in supermarkets and locals still make their own with herbs picked from the countryside. In my local area rosemary, thyme, chamomile and fennel grow wild. Thyme is recommended as an antiseptic and for use with coughs, colds and respiratory infections. It is also said to have a calming effect, bringing serenity and strength. Folklore calls thyme tea 'infusion de las hadas', as it said if you drink this and sleep on a fairy hill or in a fairy wood you will meet with the fairies and goblins or speak to them in your dreams. 

A POEM A DAY - LA ROMPUDA

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The spring of fresh water bursting out of the hillside at 'La Rompuda' has been a source of drinking water for the nearby village for centuries. During long, dry summers it has been known to slow to a trickle but I can not remember a year where it dried up completely. There are a number of Springs on 'El Carrascal' and people come from miles around to fill their car boots with water. 

A POEM A DAY - BEASTIE

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This beetle was scurrying so quickly to get into the shade that I was not able to get a well focused photograph. He looked like a tiny dinosaur, a relic from the past. I watched as the creature disappeared in the undergrowth. 

A POEM A DAY - MAGENTA

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I have been fascinated today reading about the colour magenta. We recognise this shade of pinky purple in nature, mainly in the beauty of numerous flowers but officially there is no such colour. Magenta can not be seen on the visible spectrum of light as it does not actually exist, only as a combination of equal amounts of blue and red light. I admit to finding this concept difficult as I can see it does exist so if you are interested I advise you to read more and meanwhile enjoy the amazing beauty we find in nature.

A POEM A DAY - CAT'S EYES

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This feral cat was so wary of people it was hard to catch her in a photograph. This one shows her defending her territory as we walked on and left her in peace. 

A POEM A DAY - ENCHANTED

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I came across this hidden, little patch of flowered green close to the dried river bed near my home. It looked like a perfect rock garden as if the succulents, grass, herbs and flowers had been planted around the rocks by an unseen hand. 

A POEM A DAY - SACRED GROVE

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This beautiful holm oak is in the centre of a hidden grove of trees, protected by smaller oaks and brambles. Entering the grove feels like walking into the rarefied atmosphere of a great Cathedral, a sacred space of stillness.  I feel calmed and renewed leaning on the strong trunk, looking upwards through the canopy to the sky. 

A POEM A DAY - WITH LOVE

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Today I am reminded of the importance of simple things and how this world health crisis is making us rethink what we really need in life. I am grateful for the unconditional love of my family and friends who make my life worth living.

A POEM A DAY - IN PRAISE OF BEES

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May 20th is  World Bee Day, when we are encouraged to acknowledge the important role bees and other insects play as pollinators. The date was chosen in commemoration of the birth of Anton Jansa, the pioneer of beekeeping who was born on May 20th 1734. At a time when bee populations are threatened world wide by the use of pesticides, changes in habitat, global warming and additional viral infections it is important to consider the vital role they play not only in the natural environment but as pollinators for our agricultural crops. We can all help in a small way by allowing the growth of plants like dandelions, often treated as weeds, flowers and bee friendly plants in our gardens, stopping the weekly cutting of lawns and not using chemical insecticides known to harm bees and other insects. 

A POEM A DAY - SNAKES OF OLD

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The hillsides in this area of the Marina Alta in Spain are all crisscrossed with narrow terraces, stone walls raised as the soil is cleared. They cling to the slopes and in many places are still planted with almonds, olives and grape vines. More are abandoned, especially those high up the hills with poor access. It is humbling to think how they were built hundreds of years ago, dating back to the Moorish population living on this land. They would have had just their hands and maybe donkeys to walk the hard paths up to the terraces, to take advantage of every metre of available land and make it productive. 

A POEM A DAY - DANCING WATERS

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This is where I would like to be today. There is no more to say. 

A POEM A DAY - EL SALTAMONTES

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I spotted this giant grasshopper sat still on my patio. It looked lost and didn't jump away. The patio is enclosed within 4 steep walls so I have no idea how it arrived, maybe it was blown in on the wind. We carried it carefully back to the countryside where it shuffled away into the grass. 
Grasshopper in Spanish is 'saltamontes'. I love this word, it literally means jumping mountains. I hope this prehistoric looking creature recovered its energy and was able  to jump mountains again. 

A POEM A DAY -ENTICING

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These brilliant yellow flowers on the verges around the countryside terraces and fields were buzzing with insects. The stamens reminded me of a birds nest with the open, squawking mouths of tiny fledgings waiting to be fed. 

A POEM A DAY - TWILIGHT

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I am fortunate to have a wonderful view from my third floor roof terrace, looking out over the village, with the hills framing the valley. The sun drops over this horizon and we can have beautiful sunsets, with the colour of the sky changing rapidly from golds to shades of pink and purple to the deepest, night blue. At this time of night the sky is alive with swallows and bats chasing insects at dusk. Whilst the birds swoop, the bats flitter, their flight passing the field of vision so quickly they are impossible to focus on. The feeding frenzy ends as suddenly as it begins, as night falls and they leave the sky to roost for the night. 

A POEM A DAY - RIPPLING GRASS

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I stood mesmerised by the movement of the wind through this patch of long grasses. The changing patterns and colours reminded me of the hypnotic effect of the wind on water, waves building and crashing on the shore or whipped up waves rippling over the surface of a lake. 

A POEM A DAY - PETAL WINGS

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It is so good to be back out in the countryside. The terraces are covered in wild flowers, everywhere you look is a riot of colour and birdsong fills the air. We are fortunate to be able to walk into this environment and live in a quiet village. The virus is still around and we all need to be careful and cautious but out in the open air at least gives us an hour's peace and restores faith that a better future lies ahead. 

A POEM A DAY - BUENACHE DE LA SIERRA

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This morning I was writing a short piece about witnessing a wild fire burn the mountain overlooking the village. It reminded me of driving through fire damaged woods in Cuenca and coming across the village of 'Buenache de la Sierra'. A local artist, Fernando Buenache, used this burnt wood to make incredible sculptures, there are hundreds of them in a field near the village and many more interesting art installations inspired by nature in his bar in the village. He also has an exhibition of stones and art made using stone and wood upstairs in his bar. For Spanish readers you can read more about his work and a recent exhibition in the following link.
https://cadenaser.com/emisora/2019/09/06/ser_cuenca/1567769751_103923.html


A POEM A DAY - DAISIES

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The terraces in the countryside around the village are dotted with daisies. I was out an hour before sunset, already many of the flowers in the shade were closing. It reminded me of the origin of the word daisy, 'day's eye', as the sun drops and the petals close over the yellow suns. 

A POEM A DAY - CURLING CAROB

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The terraces around the village have historically been planted with olive trees,  almonds, grape vines and 'garrofers'. In recent times orange and lemon trees have replaced many of these dry zone crops, despite the need for watering in this drought affected area. In my thirty years here I have seen the loss of the carob as a comercial crop. I can remember the hessian sacks full of crisp, black pods in every village garage and the sweet smell permeating the village in Autumn. The carob used to be sold as pig food but now it is now longer commercially viable the seeds litter the ground and the trees grow wild. They have a very particular gnarly bark and the trunks often hollow out as new branches loop down to the ground and perpetuate the tree. 

A POEM A DAY - FRIZZ OF FENNEL

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I normally notice fennel when it has shot and is tall and leggy with a head of seeds traced against the blue Summer sky. At the moment the fennel is lush and tangled through plants and flowers on the verges and stone walled edges of terraces. I snapped a stalk and tasted sweet, fresh liquorice. 

A POEM A DAY - GREEN ALMONDS

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Yesterday I was able to go out for the first time in 8 weeks. It was a beautiful evening, cooling enough to enjoy a gentle walk around the village. We crossed paths with other walkers, all politely moving aside, maintaining a safe distance without comment. It was strange to see people and speak Spanish again and refreshing to be out in the open, enjoying familiar views and the countryside blooming. I am fortunate to live 5 minutes walk from nature, the virus still controls our movements here but we enjoy more freedom than those living in city flats with a high density population. I wonder with the new home office working proving possible if we will stiff a movement out of the cities to a quieter way of life and a regeneration of many depopulated rural areas. I think we are at the beginning of a time of change, where the accepted progress of our societies, with its benefits but also its problems,  is being reevaluated.

A POEM A DAY - SPRING

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This is a photograph of the hillside from the first week in May last year. I have not been able to go there since early March, two months ago. The flowers bloom almost overnight, colours spreading over the verges, changing each week, often grouped by colour. I remember once counting ten different yellow flowers on one walk through the pine and oak.  Soon I will be back there, under the trees. 

A POEM A DAY - MORNING

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My daughter took this photograph this morning on her daily walk. She lives in a town near Barcelona that is usually buzzing with people and cars at this time in the morning, going to work, school, the roads head to tail with traffic heading into the City. The restrictions allow healthy adults to exercise or walk between 6 and 10 and then from 8 until 11 in the evening. Many will use the evening hour as they have children to mind, some are still working or others just used to a slower start to the day. The return to work will be a shock for many, like the worse of Mondays after summer holidays. Despite our desire for normality there is a feeling of anxiety about being out and about and how we will navigate what is being called here, the new normal. 

A POEM A DAY - RAINBOW PETALS

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As I am still not able to leave my house I am browsing last year's photographs. It is amazing to think a year has passed since I was rebuilding my strength after a long period of ill health. That scare was a reminder to appreciate everyday and our good fortune to be alive on this beautiful earth. I need to keep remembering everyday to find my blessings, look forward with hope and not dwell in the momentarily overwhelming negativity of fear. This is easier for some than others, we all have our own burdens and I have fewer than many people coping with the numerous difficulties the covid virus has inflicted on their lives. Whilst we are well we are coping, like all of us I hope the slow releasing of the lockdown will be respected by people, that we will all continue to do our best to keep ourselves and others out of danger. Better days will come. 

A POEM A DAY - CITY BIRDS

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Whilst wildlife has been pictured reclaiming city streets, I have also read that birds such as pigeons who are used to foraging food from dropped waste  have been struggling during the lockdown. This bird was photographed in a city park near Barcelona which has been shut to people for 7 weeks. Now we are allowed to walk outside again I imagine it will not be long before city birds once more have a ready supply of food from the streets. 

A POEM A DAY - BLUEBELL SEA

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As the bluebells in northern woods start to fade I remember my walks in Warwickshire. In Crackley Woods with my parents and children, in Berkswell near my childhood home and in Wainbody Wood with my dear friend. They remain a sweet thorn of loss as the pleasure of the memories and the beauty of the scenes shared by so many is tinged with sadness that I will never share them with my parents again. 

A POEM A DAY - THE ROSE GARDEN

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In May the town of St Feliu de Llobregat in Catalunya is full of people enjoying its parks, the annual rose festival and this dedicated rose garden. This year the gates are locked, the garden is empty and quiet and the roses left to themselves. Only by peering through the iron bars can you see the display of hundreds of different roses, blooms bursting with colour and scent, enjoyed only by the birds who have the garden to themselves. 

A POEM A DAY - THE TURNING

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Today is the beginning of a new month. Whether you celebrate May day, Bealtaine or just a bank holiday it marks the season of lighter nights, warmer days and abundant growth. I hope it also marks the beginning of a time of release and healing as countries slowly plan a new normal. As I look forward to brighter days I share a prayer for those who are grieving, suffering loss, fear or facing the daily challenge of working during this time. With thanks and love to all.