This is the diverse output from an hour-long nature-writing workshop in which we considered different approaches to writing about beauty in nature. Enjoy!
(The lovely title picture of a dandelion clock was taken by Angi Holden)
Yesterday, the first few flakes of May’s aberrant blizzard fell. Soon, on a still, sultry day, I will stand entranced in a slow-motion snowstorm. Around me, the downy seeds released by the valley’s goat willows will bank against walls and snag in brambles, before melting into summer’s growth.
Whitebeam! Genus sorbus. Street tree, chalk downland tree, my local tree. Startlingly white they stipple the slopes marking old boundaries. Smooth grey bark, woolly-backed leaves, clusters of flowers, deep red berries, golden autumn coat. It both conjures and repels magic – those anglo-saxons knew a good tree.
The hawthorn hedge
New leaves shout, green as oxygen, green as youth; sunlight dapples shadows into Chantilly
lace. Between the leaves, clusters of creamy blossoms, luscious and lipsome: plates of tarts
for the Queen of the May.
Behind is darkness always, tangle and thorns and the stink of death.
The minute she pupates, buzzes straight to the fast lane in the ecological chain Granted a few days stay, busier than the bee Farmer’s winged helper, yellow-black marmalade bands Pollinator, aphid eliminator
Green larvae gorge on gourmet aphid meals in crop fields Bees nests, house cleaned, welcome guests
Beyond the fence fields explode in the hostile brightness of oilseed rape – visible they say from space, staining our blue planet yellow. This side of the wooden rails the acid yellow of dandelions is nearly done. Verges are already detonated in silver satellites, silhouetted against a bloody orange sunset.
Cow Parsley / Queen Anne’s Lace / Mother-Die…
Frothing up to my boy’s shoulders as he splashes through, disturbing feasting buzzers. Pale parasols conceal hairy stems, a flock of spit-spot bridesmaids, circling the full-blossomed May. Cousin of carrots and celery, lacy weed on parade… Pungent wafts of another name, danger in fertility…
Two triangles – painted olive, dusky rose, olive surrounded by a white line like a silver lining – meet across the centre of the wings. More olive on pinkish-buff and crinkled wings folded down the body turn moth into dead leaf. A common moth but one so beautiful in its deceit.
In nature i stand
Nature is comforting; supportive if you will. I hadn’t realised how important it is to embrace the moments that lead to peace and clarity. The beauty of nature is that it stands with you, no matter the weather nor emotion, remains through darkness and in light.
Ghost-white sphere stands proud.
Look closer: intricate, elaborate, geometrical perfection.
Innumerable florets atop pin-thin stalks.
Each guarding an impossible secret – seed of the next generation.
Pick one: the stalk yields with a mighty pop.
Trace the head, whisper-soft, against your cheek.
You too have been seduced by beauty.
My passion for the purple parasite grows each time I make the journey to admire the luscious, plump beauty of its glossy, two-lipped flowers, skulking at ground level; its subterranean roots feasting on willow. My eyes scour the ground: there it is! The perfect purple parasite is reborn.
In the Forest
Lying on my back in the forest glade I watch the clouds vying for air space. The
sun dazzles, my eyes close. The silent beauty of the moment is interrupted by a
blackbird chasing two smaller birds from their nest. Nature isn’t always about
beauty and kindness.
In Ancient Times
The land split
and water filled the space
carved niches and fissures
as it smoothed the rocks
generations crofted on the shores,
grew their crops
watched the water rise
pushing violently to expand
now shore dwellers anxiously wait
to see who’ll be the victor, land or sea.
Woodlight – flecked, leafy – speckles ankle-deep forests of bilberry (whortleberry, blackhearts, brylocks, huckleberry). No blue-black berries yet; now, real treasure – pink-flushed bell flowers, glowing, lit within. A weevil clings to a zigzag stem, long snout pointing, a Victorian lamplighter come to extinguish each tiny lantern for the day.
Blue violet and shining green, iridescence of leaf and parakeet feather. The colours of Beltane, of the gateway from spring to summer. Bluebells below, blue sky above, green holds them together. The sky is beyond our reach but the bluebells, the bluebells we could reach out and touch.
Cock Pheasant visits
First, he shakes himself like a wet dog, then jerks his head. Ruffled
feathers fall back to oily slickness as he struts across the lawn. White
necklaced and helmeted in emerald, burnished copper breast plate
shimmering, he rattles scarlet wattles, a suburban peacock cawing
out the dawn.
Sarah Hill Wheeler