These pieces of Thumbnail Nature writing are the output from a pair of hour-long nature-writing workshops in which we wrote about nature found in unexpected places. Enjoy!
Unseasonal warmth under
a cobalt sky;
Blood red, poppies popping.
Just three blooms jostling,
Not by the roadside, but thru’ it!
What soft strength lets fragility
pierce tough tarmac?
They’re late blooms.
Heads bowed in respect.
This month of November,
The eleventh day
We will remember…
Bag-laden shoppers, pavement staring. Oblivious to the decorated tree with its sad, drooping lights which flash. On. Off. On. Off. Look up, I want to growl. Then you’d see the feathered angels. Black. White. Black. White. Sharp beaked and tails wagging balanced upon the wires. Invisible.
The garden, mid-November. Grass thinning, leaves dropping, plants blackening, sagging, dying for winter. Beside the wall, a fresh-leaved alkanet, four centimetres high and spreading fast, nosing up through grass, ignorant of seasonal rules, resilient to dog-pee rain, to colder nights, to the steely glare from my lawn-loving husband.
A pool of shiny anthracite, a tideline of cement bleeding into willowherb at the edges. Once meadow, now a fish rib of parking spaces. A coal tit appears, black capped and angry. Ter-chi, ter-chi, it’s me, it’s me, he calls, staking his claim to the outposts of hedgerow.
Sarah Hill Wheeler
In the Most Unlikely Place
Roadside assistance needed. A bird is running around our green wanting to hitch a migratory lift to Africa. Long black stripe from the back of the head, through the eye, to its thin ebony beak. Google identifies the wheatear, on the UK’s amber list.
A tiny blue flower, nestled among its green leaves. Perfection. In my narrow backyard, the roses in their pots are faded; even the asters are blown over. But Ivy-leaved Toadflax, blossom of old stone, has found its home in a crack in the concrete. The power of the small.
An alien is invading. Tendrils reach out over the porch gutter. They explore fresh air. Small, fat lumps of green flesh are understood to be leaves. It catches my eye every time I walk by. My wife wants it gone, but I will leave it. It’s found its home.
Squeezed- together terraced houses outline the snaking traffic. A stunted holly tree fights for space between the concrete and tarmac. “See-saw, see-saw”. I hear it above the relentless engine babble. A coal tit. Foraging among the polished spiked leaves. Oblivious to the noise. Living its life.
Once I saw
Avenham Park, Preston, by the river. One brick-built bridge, steps slippery with moss.
On the top, out the side, a tree. Rooting between bricks, emerging horizontally, then straight-up, branching, leafy.
Freshly educated, I recognised Elder. Medicine to me, weed to gardeners.
This one, safe. Irrepressible. Cheering, me.
In No-Man’s-Land, an unpeopled zone, brambles were barbed wire. Heavy light infused sombre thoughts. Infantryman’s camouflage was the palette. Tiny fungi with matching helmets stood to attention. A single poppy-coloured stigma of herb-robert shone. ‘Death-come-quickly’, it’s called. I hope it did. Remembrance in the most unlikely place: a messy No-Man’s-land.
I blink. Have fairies visited overnight? Is this a ‘mother nature makeover’? Cracked paving stones, raw edges now softened by vibrant green moss. Maybe it’s a map, boundaries clearly marked? We get a lot of stray frogs! A beetle puts out tentative feelers, bemused by the sensual feel of velvet.