These pieces of Thumbnail Nature writing are the output from a pair of hour-long nature-writing workshops in which we wrote about nature you can find on or near urban pavements and focused on revelling in words. Enjoy!
Amanda Tuke – workshop leader
[The great heading photo of moss on a car was taken by Amanda Scott]
mud brown naked
slippery determined you
criss cross stone and crack
tentacles move to the rhythm
of slime to the silent beat
of your hungry desire
what do you seek?
taste scent textures
invisible to me
my foot hovers wonders
how your skin would feel
on my skin
Dark and damp clench the city.
Lamp lights exhibit meres; puddles clinging to curbs
resembling relentless memories, Autumn leaves garnish puddle sky.
What flourishes in the dirty darkness?
Do snails swim? Too early for tadpoles in perpetual twilight,
algae and bacteria multiply, slowly devouring all that works to be remembered.
Waiting at the traffic lights. Brain and car idling. Not idle are the roadside mob of sparrows. They’re busy as a squad of F1 mechanics. I like their team overalls – brown, black and buff. The boss with his grey cap. It’s a mini-glimpse of a mini-flock, outside the Mini factory.
Moss on my old car, edging the windows, loved and familiar. New car, old car sold, but what about the moss? Don’t worry, I transplanted it into a crack in my courtyard paving. It’s bravely growing there still, a miniature copse rewilding a concrete world, stem by little stem.
There he stood, poised on the rough stone kerb proud and defiant, ready to take on all comers. He’d preened himself so his feathers gleamed, reminiscent of the burnished metallic finish of a suit of armour. But oh! his feet were so cold, how he wished for warm boots.
Shivering in early January’s bite, I halt on the pavement in wonder: my hazel tree is alight. A hundred green candles dangle above my head, soft lambs’ tails, a stately adornment turning leafless branches into a rich chandelier. Pale-hued as young leaves, a small glow promising new life to come.
I lie down amongst the weeds
Kaleidoscopic greens greet my eyes
Lobed ears, hairy, some plain
Sprawled languidly over the pavement
The wind blows, they bend
A blend of yoga and karate defence
Sensei teachers in this urban world
Keep your roots deep, but move with the times
Dripping street furniture, muffled sounds. Trees are sucked away. The birds are silent. It is dark
October. Under a streetlamp there is movement. I stride into the road; my gloved hand picks up the
clawed cargo which immediately retracts into a ball. I roll it under some leaves
The hallmark of our council’s environmental credentials blooms between dual carriageways, as
members pass yet another planning application. On the edgelands a beech copse is felled, an ancient
hedgerow uprooted. Displaced dunnocks and wrens find no home among our crowded buildings,
between the rush of cars and lorries.
They were sizing each other up on the verge, pacing in a figure of eight, eyes narrowed: menace was palpable. Simultaneously they lunge, feet flying, scrabbling the air, a frantic blur of iridescent blue, black and white. Panting, beaks wide they part assessing the outcome. No winner declared.
Wet January Morning …
… most trees still grimly nude but here are sunless dandelions, green as oakleaf lettuce,
squeezing a living from soil scarcely one inch deep by the side of the road, the serrated leaves
exhibiting full sets of lion’s teeth. And alongside, bonsai nettles, barbed from birth.
A flicker of red vibrant light flashes before my eyes,
A drab monotonous day otherwise.
This creature illuminates my path, with virulence,
The Cinnabar moth wings shot with crimson.
Not wings of dead souls like back at home; that flip-flapped agitated, their brown mottled wings the harbingers of death.
A tiny candelabra swathed in silver-green leaves, erupting from a crack in the concrete. I do what I do – rub a leaf, sniff my fingers. I know what this is: Thymus officinalis – Thyme! Its pungent aroma saturates my airways. I imagine its mother waving from above, on the wall.