This will probably be the shortest blog post I’ve written. A bout of Covid and a garden that is demanding a lot of attention at this time of the year has meant there’s been very little time to write.

However – I couldn’t resist posting this – sheep around here have been losing their thick fleeces – they are the kind that don’t need shearing but they leave their wool along fences – great for the local spinners and weavers!

Time to shed winter coats!

Washing Line

By the coastal path

frightened sheep run under wire

leave woollens to dry


Walk into the Past

The walk in Knockman Wood not only triggered a number of thoughts but also inspired the following poem.

Light Shines Through

in ancient woods of oak and birch

scents of wild garlic bluebells mingle

among cushions of mosses. A woodpecker

drums a background beat to birdsong

I feel the presence of past lives,

smell the charcoal burners,

see farmers drying corn in kilns, hear

ghostly kye grazing among the trees.

Young birch trees have white,

paper thin bark that curls and peels

to make perfect kindling for

fires in kilns and homestead hearths.

Light shines through these woods.

They encourage me to linger,

to share their past, listen to stories told

by ghosts, grasses, stones and trees.

Knockman Wood

Change in the Weather

We’re going to have to get used to the fact that the seasons are going to be unseasonal. We’re going to be getting more stormy weather and extremes of temperature look like they’ll be the norm not abnormal.

Where we are we haven’t, thankfully, been getting temperatures over 30 degrees. If it gets above the mid twenties that’s too hot for me. This week has been decidedly mixed – alternating from hot and sunny to cool, wet and extremely windy with the odd flashes of sheet lightning thrown in.

Yesterday was a perfect day – not too hot. A day to go for a walk near the sea. No crowded beaches here with thousands of folk not caring about self distancing, but just the lone fisherman, a Buddha like figure squatting on the shingle and, in the next bay, a flock of gulls gathering as they do where the burn flows into the sea. As we approached, they took off and landed further along the shore. That reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years back.

Take Off

Nature’s Concordes

the herring gulls

thrust forward on a sandy runway,

take off over the sea,

encompass the sky in parentheses

and return,

land safely on wet sand

awaiting the next departure.


Requiem for a Tree

At a time when we need to be planting trees not cutting them down, we did hesitate for quite a while before taking down the cypress  – hoping  that it might somehow recover. However it became obvious that it wouldn’t and we were afraid that the blight might spread to the others.


I’ve written about three or four versions of this poem but one will suffice for the blog! Sometimes we see trees that have had all their life drained away by a stranglehold of ivy – but not this one.

Ivy was Innocent This Time

Flanked by healthier specimens this evergreen

stood tall, erect, except it wasn’t green.

The only green to be seen was a cloak of ivy

wrapped tightly round the trunk.


A thick layer of russet needles covered

earth around the tree, they crunched

under our feet. Whereas once long

green plumes had flexed in wind,

now branches snapped like pretzels.


The great god blight transformed

this cypress from a lesser green goddess.

A metamorphosis not inflicted by Medusa,

but death’s rigor mortis. Surgery post-mortem

started – secateurs, loppers, log saw.


The russet carpet was swept up, bagged;

amputated, the goddess now lies in state, cloaked in ivy.





Beyond Five Miles

As lockdown eases we can now go further than five miles for a walk. This poem was inspired after we had our first walk beyond five miles …


Beyond Five Miles

 Liberated from lockdown,

we follow winding

lanes to the Wood of Cree.

On familiar paths, we’re

drawn uphill by storm-filled

waterfalls’ magnetic pull.

It’s the season of cow wheat;

waves of long grasses

flecked with yellow specks

of flowers, much prettier

than their name.

Dykes still moss cushioned,

saplings in a crèche, feet

encased in mossy boots.

It’s a tonic to be back again;

we wallow in a sea of green,

breathe woodland scents.

Life here has continued

oblivious of any virus.

Was that a roe deer or the

ghost of a memory? So

much to see, we feast eyes

on orchids, nearly missed as

we look up to see a treecreeper,

spiralling the trunk of an oak.

At our feet, an inch of russet

in the form of a young toad

braves our boots. We stop,

hear the strident call

of a jay guarding his patch

of  ancient woodland.

Then stillness …

we linger, absorb the healing

peace, fresh scents of

trees, mosses, grasses until

a distant roar of motorbikes

reminds us of life elsewhere.


Stormy Weather

After many weeks of dry sunny weather, we’ve now entered a more unsettled time – appropriate considering the political and economic climate. Then of course there’s the very unsettling thoughts of the elephant in the room named Brexit plus the shambolic state of affairs down south and the ever present concern of climate change.

So, the stormy weather – heavy rain and gales fits the current state of affairs. Looking out the other evening, the hills were completely hidden by a thick curtain of darkening storm clouds but the field just beyond our garden was bathed in the golden glow of evening sunlight. The farmer’s beasts seemed content and oblivious to the threatening sky.

Buddhism for Beasts

A leaden curtain masks distant hills,

while in the nearby field, cows graze

in warm evening sunlight –

unmoved by threatening  storms.

Zen-like they enjoy the Now

until the one hand clap of thunder .




The Joy of Living

Lockdown continues and on a rainy day there is less time spent in the garden and more time to think, reflect and write.


The snow and the wind and the rain of hills and mountains
Days in the sun and the tempered wind and the air like wine
And you drink and you drink till you’re drunk on the joy of living*

Summer in lockdown and a heatwave;

we walk each day – average three miles.

Stay local we’re told, so the hills remain

tantalising, too far away for now.


Each morning we look out on Larg,

Lamachan, Curleywee, Cairnsmore.

Can we stay fit to stand again on the tops,

to gaze down on our home in the Machars?


The months slip by, the sun beats down.

I think back to that cold November day

we climbed Cairnsmore, reached the

snow-capped summit in sunshine.


Resting backs against a drystane dyke

we sheltered, drank the wine of the air,

feasted eyes on feathered cirrus and frosted grasses

while our thoughts drifted hundreds of miles


south, to where you lay, immobile. Once,

you would have shared this walk with us,

quoted Ewan MacColl. That November day

we toasted your friendship, and the joy of living.


We knew you didn’t have long; that fact made

our own lives seem more precious. You were

one who lived mindfully, who lived for the now.

On Cairnsmore, we followed the map of your life.


*The Joy of Living – written and sung by Ewan MacColl

not long before his death.

Shades of Rhubarb

This is a year that everyone will have a number of reasons to remember. Not least Covid 19, the shambolic state of politics here and elsewhere and the dire state of the economy of so many countries. Then we have the ongoing tragedies of refugees, the rise of anti-semitism, homelessness, climate change – all of which are major problems that seem a long way from being adequately addressed. It’s no wonder that more and more people are finding the natural world can give some moments of joy.


During the long weeks of drought and lockdown, the daytime hours for me have been divided mostly between gardening and taking local walks. The garden has certainly needed the extra attention it’s had this year and it is now becoming more how we want it to be.

However, there are a number of shrubs and trees that were well established when we moved here nearly five years ago. One of these is a very healthy honeysuckle which is right next to the greenhouse. This is significant because apparently honeysuckle is a big attraction for certain insects and especially Elephant Hawk-moths. We have been finding them on our morning visits to check the plants. Presumably, when they land on the honeysuckle, they are attracted by the warmth of the greenhouse.

Elephant Hawk-moth

Deilephila elpenor

Today, there’s one safely hidden

among strawberry leaves

another, caught in a web


Greenhouse spiders weave

lairs in corners, capturing victims

daily but one, was destined to live.

Largest of moths – caught by a tiny spider,


You free it from sticky tether,

it remains on your hand

motionless –


Rhubarb pink and green markings,

soft majestic moth,

now on your shoulder, reluctant to move.

It clings.

Trust from a moth,

a gift you savour.


Finding Peace in Lockdown

I  was recently introduced to the works of Irish poet Eavan Boland. One of her poems Atlantis includes the following

where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name

and drowned it.

In these times of Covid 19 and a very uncertain future, maybe we should face up to our fears as well as our sorrows, give them both a name and drown them.

Many years ago I read a book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers. Her philosophy was basically Take responsibility for anything you are being, doing, having, or feeling and never blame anyone else. The only way to get rid of a fear of doing something is to go on out and do it. That’s OK if you’re afraid of doing something but what if your fear is not fear of doing something but fear of what other people or other things (like viruses?) might do.

Again and again I return to the saying by Reinhold Niebuhr

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

This helps to get things into perspective and accept that there are just some things that we can’t change and we have to resign ourselves to things as they are and, yes, there are some things we just can’t change. Worrying will certainly not change things and only make us feel worse.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk reminds us in his book Peace is Every Step  …we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive. Every breath we take, every step we make, can be filled with peace, joy and serenity. We need only to be awake, alive in the present moment.

If we focus on the present then we have less time to fear the future.  Fear of what might happen in the future can destroy any enjoyment of the present and also hope.

We can focus on the natural world which is a constant balm to disturbed and uneasy minds.


Plague & Pestilence

These are very strange times. We are faced not only with Covid 19 but also politicians that we can no longer respect. Those in government seem to think they can convince the general public that they are doing a great job, but  they are patently failing miserably and it is all too easy to despair.

Victor Frankl wrote – When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

Perhaps we have to change the way we perceive what is happening and look for the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives. We have seen the planet benefit from fewer journeys both in the air and on land. Now we see cleaner air in cities, we hear birdsong rather than traffic noise. Venice is seeing the benefit of far fewer cruise ships dominating their waters and residents are appreciating the quieter streets.

If we look to the natural world that can help us to stay sane. Thinking about the economic and political world too much is a sure road to depression. Focus on the beauty of a meadow with the sea of different grasses or the tiny daisy brightening the cracks in the pavement. Even the yellow haze of buttercups that can take over verges and gardens given chance. There’s life and vibrant colour to admire – don’t just think of them as weedy thugs!

Walking along a green lane is like stepping back into the past – the days of horse and carts. Those days too had times of plague. It wasn’t always an idyllic time by any means, but the human race survives and will continue to do so – in spite of plague and political incompetence.