These pieces of Thumbnail Nature writing are the output from a pair of hour-long nature-writing workshops in which participants wrote about early signs of spring in urban areas and we talked about spring clichés and using internal and external dialogue in creative nature-writing. Enjoy!
Amanda Tuke – workshop leader
[This great heading photo of Jackdaws was taken by Amanda Scott]
They’re early this year. Brian’s leaning over the yard wall, squinting upwards. Yep. The Annual Jackdaw Olympics has commenced. What to watch? My chimney & Brian’s chimney host the hotly contested pick-up stick championship, all jabbering and twig waving; opposite it’s the telephone cable balancing final. Who needs Sky Sports?
The blizzarding March snow has melted, leaving behind the bodies of snowmen to litter the park. Alongside them, snowdrops chime silent bells, and dwarf iris poke out speechless purple tongues. Tulips muscle headless from the earth, and buds open screaming mouths. Springtime, and the dead return to life.
“There is a housing shortage,” I sigh.
“Yet this home sits empty.”
One morning, they show up.
I watch through my kitchen window.
He checks the roof.
She looks inside. “Spacious,” she says.
Their plumage flashes blues, reds and browns
as they move in.
“New neighbors,” I cheer.
I spotted a group of perhaps a dozen snowdrops having emerged from their birthplace by pushing through the snow covered lawn. I visualised their smooth and graceful, seemingly effortless, silent struggle, compared to a weight lifter straining every sinew to achieve a similar goal.
Nature 1 – Mankind 0
Continuing the Cycle
Hyperion’s fuming eye burns off night’s sweat. Main Street’s guarded with newly popped explosions of lilac. Robins and Blue Jays dash and dart and dip in and out of branches claiming realty for their own. Squirrels leap from branch to wire. Children giggle. Parents smile. Life persists.
Bonnie L. Boucek
‘Ugh. The car workshop’s started early this morning.’ Squeals of metal scraping metal pierces my consciousness. Sawing back and forth, back and forth; it’s incessant. Coming round from my fug of sleep, drawing the curtains, I am greeted by the sunshine-yellow chest of a great tit peering back at me.
I squish through snowmelt on blacktop, antenna tuned to signs of spring.
I lose the signal, recalling grass clump heroes – reclaiming territory one crack at a time – coated in tar last summer. Somebody’s idea of renewal.
Still, a signal – electric green – moss in dents and divots.
Jen Clare Paulson
Thinking in Spring Clichés, again.
Seeing scurvy grass,
In a rock or a road.
Makes me think.
Six months of shite weather is nearly over.
But, oh no,
My mind voyages again.
To Captain Cook,
And Vitamin C
And the Doctrine of Signatures
And that every plant,
Has a story.
Embracing their silver white
On the car journey to school
platinum blazes the hell strip;
Mum, what are they?
Its spring come early.
Thorny black trees
are like the trendy middle aged,
who embrace silver white blossom.
Mummy, they’re like catwalk models.
Yes, advertising a new season.
From the gallery window, an embroidered panel sings with the acid greens of imagined Springs. Huddled in padded coats, shoppers scuttle by. Eyes down, unseeing. Overhead, snow clouds linger. Soft flakes become mush in the drab air, land damply on the quilt of lichen-speckled paving stones, each crack moss-stitched.
Constables’ trees await their full green shield.
The grand gyratory has grown another lane.
Urban oasis within has newly planted trees.
Lighter days and colourful bulbs raise the chatter level on the paths.
Mother on iPhone chirps “Rise and shine, it’s Spring, and the national collection is opening”.
Slice! Caw – Hop the concrete stair! Sword as hefty as unsteady, dewy in tinsel ribboned air. Feasible, thinks Magpie. As he drags decapitated tree as large as anaconda – pausing to sway on the skinny young neck of a looming lamppost and rearrange there.
It’s Spring! Daffodils – “poets’ flowers” and ultimate cliché –everywhere. Damn Wordsworth! Damn their magnificence! Genus Narcissus: brazen strumpets of self-proclamation. Forget Spring; ‘tis a myth, this early… North winds are forecast. A call to Persephone to decimate daffodils’ grand displays (another myth of course).
Spring’s in every nook, dusted with ice but glistening with hope. Buddleia, already blue, bursting from invisible gaps, cracks of vertical campanula, moss-trimmed mortar & maiden shoots with twinned leaves. Even marital sparrow chatter behind the broken brick high in the wall. New song & warm soul welcomes the equinox.
Bowed by grief, a graceful willow weeps body shaking sobs into a
stream. Water gently ripples the question ‘why so sad?’
‘I’ve no child’ she sighs.
Exhausted, she sleeps.
Dawn light silhouettes downy silver buds, glistening on a fragile
An eerie breeze whistles ‘Hi mum! I’m pussy willow.’