Weather or Not

Weather

We got an incredible one inch of rain in ten minutes last Friday evening. I got some wonderful photos and no, that is not my hand shaking.

In fact the weather in June has been most strange. The end of May saw four consecutive days at 32 C / 90 F. This was followed by four consecutive nights of frost. And then this devastating rainstorm on Friday evening.

Bird Feeder in Winter

Los Días de Noé / the days of Noah, as they say in Spanish. But our one inch of rain fell in just ten minutes and the wind was horrendous. Similar storms are called chubascos and I’ve also heard tromba.

Whatever: it was cold, dark, windy, and wet and 13,000 homes went without power.

Bird Feeder in Spring
(same angle)

Wet Welsh Rain

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Wet Welsh Rain

              Day after day, rain, drives in over Singleton Park and Swansea Bay. It claws its clouded way, shroud clad in grey cloud, up Rhyddings Park Road, through Brynmill, and up to the Uplands and Sketty, as it was then, now Sgetti. In those days, the rain got everywhere. It swirled around ankles and knees wetting everything below the hem of the raincoat. Umbrellas kept the shoulders dry. But when the wind blew, and gamp and brolly turned inside out, and people looked as though they were duelling with the wind, and threatening to poke each other’s eyes out, then a good soaking was sometimes better and safer and, in the worst of the rain and the wind, the gamps and brollies came down.  As for the puddles: they were everywhere. You walked in them, whether you wanted to or not, and your leather shoes turned into a pulp that let in water. Socks slopped around your feet, wetter than soggy blotting paper aka blotch [hands up if you remember blotch!]. Heads down, we faced the wind, draped around bus stops, waiting for buses that never came singly, but only in threes after much long suffering. Wind like a whiplash drove the rain before it and everywhere, woolen scarves turned into wet wash cloths and woolen gloves became underwater rain-sodden mittens.

Comment: As Tropical Storm Arthur gathers in the North Atlantic, we would do well to remember the good old days of summer holidays in Wales when it rained every day, bob dydd, during the whole two-week vacation. But did it really rain back then? Who remembers now? I seem to remember it was sunny every day, especially when the cricket was suspended with the words Rain Stopped Play displayed across the television screen. Ant the lunch time cricket scores: what joy to listen to them and to discover one day, as I listened on my illicit radio hidden in my school dormitory,  that play had been stopped because of “piddles on the putch, sorry, I mean puddles on the pitch” [hands up if you remember that announcement!]. I am sorry to say that particular radio announcer did not stay in his job for long. A great pity: I found him rather amusing.

We would do well, too, to recall the twelve days without electric power that followed Hurricane Arthur, back in 2014 [hands up if you remember Hurricane Arthur!]. Alas and alack: how accurate are our memories? And did all of those things really happen? As the street vendors and newspaper vendors [hands up if you remember paper boys!] used to cry out on street corners “Echo, Echo, South Wales Echo: Read all about it” or “Post, Evening Post, South Wales Evening Post, read all about it!” The South Wales Echo and the South Wales Evening Post hands up if you remember them … Oh those were the days … or were they? … click here and read all about it!

 

 

 

 

Triumphs

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Triumphs
Luis de Góngora

Waking to birdsong in the morning,
making it safely to the bathroom
without tripping on the rug in the hall,
shaving without cutting my face,

getting in and out of the shower
with neither a slip nor a fall,
drying those parts of the body
that are now so difficult to reach,

especially between my far-off toes,
pulling my shirt over wet and sticky
patches still damp from the shower,
negotiating each leg of my pants,

tugging the strings of the plastic sleeve
that helps my socks to glide onto my feet,
forcing swollen toes into under-size shoes,
hobbling to the top of the stairs,

lurching down them, cautiously,
one step at a time, on guard for the cat,
the edge of the steps, the worn patches
where my stick might catch or slip …
one more step, triumph, I’ve made it.

Comment: “Cada pie mal puesto es una caída, cada caída es un precipicio / Each ill- place footstep means a fall, every fall is a precipice.” Luis de Góngora (1561-1627). I have reached the age of fragility and futility: every day that passes without an accident or a fall is a triumph. I re-read Luis de Góngora with increasing pleasure, the Polifemo (1613), above all, but also the later poems about the difficulties of ageing. When I read them I realize that I am not alone, that others have aged before me, and then I think of Jorge Manrique dead at the age of 39. And what poems he wrote, as did Góngora with a whole poetry movement named after him.

As for the photo: young storks in Avila, Spain, ready to fly. The one at the top is bouncing up and down, waiting for the breeze to get under his wings and lift him to sun and stars. High in the sky above him, almost unseen, his parents wait, ready to swoop down and assist him when he gets lift off. Uncertain he may be in those first few triumphant wing strokes, but down they come, place their wings below his wings and show him how it’s done. For him, it is the world that awaits him.

For me, and people my age, the world shrinks, walls close in, the daily process of living becomes more difficult. My joy: not in the lift off, but in the painstaking processes, getting up, getting washed and shaved, getting dressed, going downstairs, the early morning taste of fresh-brewed coffee, each sip a pleasure … and out in the garden, spring robins calling, a phoebe whistling, rose-breasted nuthatches, American Goldfinches, and the wondrous joy of just being here, sitting in the sunshine, lapping up the warmth, and every moment of every day a triumph renewed.

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Rain

 

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Rain

rain
song-birds
trilling liquid notes
spring songs
flooding gardens

oh!
competitions
ritualistic rivalries
staking out territories
winter stalwarts
versus
nouveaux venus
with their summer wealth
of well-fed health

everyone competing
for their garden niche
males en garde
guarding each square inch
their earthly paradise
carved in my yard

Comment: They lit up the Mountain Ash as if it were a Christmas Tree, American Goldfinches, twenty-four of them. The rain ran down the window panes and all the photos blurred and distorted. One at each end of the garden, two robins sang. Two pair of Purple Finches, the bright male and the dowdy female, pecked beneath the feeder as the chickadees, siskens, and juncos flitted in and out. The red squirrel scattered the ones in the tree and the grey squirrel ran at and over the ones on the ground. Chaos. And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, until the garden was empty and birds and animals had taken shelter.

 

 

 

 

Beaver Pond

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Beaver Pond at Mactaquac
for my beloved 

Beaver Pond, Mactaquac, on a fine spring day:
so sad to sit here knowing you can no longer
walk the trail. I remember the sun on your hair,
white, a flag of surrender to old age besieging
your mind and body. It cannot be seen on the board
walk where you stopped to commune with newts,
frogs, birds, fish, ducks, and the great blue heron
you disturbed. Remember? He rose from the reeds
with an anguished cry and a crack of mighty wings.

The wind in Island View is chill today, not a day
for walking in the wild. Monday: men arrive in a truck
and haul our garbage away. So much detritus,
such a mess at the roadside as winter ends and spring
brings thoughts of freedom to roam beyond spells
of ice and snow. Memories: I pack them into a green
green plastic bag and stuff them in the dustbin.

I want to be free. I want you to be free. I want to sit
and watch you wander, like you did last summer
contemplating the multiple meanings of grass, sun,
bird-song, herons, ospreys, beavers, their lodge,
this dam they constructed, this pond in which
they swim, nocturnal creatures, who live far away
from this lock-down and from our silent visits banned.

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Bed Time

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Bed Time

Supper’s over.
I’m ready for bed.
I want to put a pillow
underneath my head.

‘Sleep, my child,’
the raindrops said,
falling gently
on my head.

Rain, rain,
on the window pane,
on the pleasant land
of counterpane,
and yes, it’s raining
yet again.

I listen in wonder
to the thunder,
hearing it crash,
seeing the frightening
lightning
flash.

I listen to it rolling
round again.
This crazy life
drives me insane.

Oh when can I
go out again,
walking free
beneath the rain?

Comment: Most days are good. Some days the incessant indoor routine gets to me. This is one of those days. On Friday, we had a foot of snow. Today, Monday, it’s rained all day and it will rain all night. The skies are grey and the river’s rising. That’s not what we like to hear at this season of the year, for this is when the rivers flood and fill the streets with filth and mud. There’s enough happening around us without the necessity of folk in low areas being forced from their homes by rising waters. All we can do is hope and pray and send bright and hopeful thoughts your way.

Fragile

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Fragile

Snow flakes fall fragile
strength in numbers
not in each morsel
falling rom grey skies

a word to the wise
there is no health
nor strength nor wealth
each one of us fragile

one puff of wind
a sudden gust
and we are gone
turned into dust
when that voice calls
go we must

Comment: I sat here looking out of the window. I didn’t mean to write a sonnet, especially such an unstructured one. Then, poetry, like life, sometimes just happens. A sudden gust and the sky filled with snowflakes. Light and airy, winter fairies floating across the lawn, not settling, scurrying on. I blinked, looked again: the wind had dropped and they had gone. Now they’re back, wind-blown, and in a flurry. Just passing through. How many in a minute, in an hour, in a day? Anonymous, no name, the numbers game: some days that’s all we can play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring

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Spring

Slow going
this snow going
but at least
it isn’t snowing

Snow forecast
on the weather show
but we know
it cannot last
now the equinox
is past

With a roll of drums
Easter comes
but friends and family
stay away

so all alone
and safe at home
we’ll spend
our Easter day

Everybody understands
how often we must
wash our hands
and all our friends
must safely stay
at least six feet away

Comment: They are difficult to see, these deer nesting at the bottom of our garden. There are at least three of them, all safely distanced, the clever little things. The poem was written as a challenge from a friend. More about that later. Keep safe, keep well, keep six feet apart, keep hoping! Spring will eventually come. The drawing below is by my friend, line artist Geoff Slater. It is one of my favourite illustrations, taken from Scarecrow.

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Easter Bunny

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Easter Bunny

I guess s/he came a couple of days early, but we didn’t think we’d get an early morning scene like this. Yesterday, the grass was starting to turn green, the deer were grazing the new tender shoots, the sun shone, and the world was warm and welcoming. I wonder if the Easter Bunny will be back on Sunday to hide those eggs all around the garden? There are certainly enough hiding places out there right now.

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This is the view from my chair at the breakfast table in the kitchen. I don’t how much snow we have down. They forecast anywhere between 8 and 10 inches (20-25 cms), but there could be more down than that. This is Easter weekend, Mr. or Mrs. Bunny. What do you think you are playing at? We cannot go to church, even though it’s Good Friday. We must stay six feet away from each other. We must walk alone through the snow, if we go out, and who will stoop to help a fallen child, let alone an old stubborn man, from a distance of two metres?

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And this is the view of the picnic table on the back porch. Dear Mr. or Mrs. Easter Bunny: didn’t you know that just yesterday we were planning to eat our Sunday breakfast out there in the sunny weather that was the delight and comfort of last week? We had our chairs out on that porch yesterday and we sat out there and read in our isolation, separate books, separate chairs, six feet apart. Mr. or Mrs. Bunny, I do hope you bring some nice chocolate eggs to the children this year, otherwise I might just recommend you for the annual party-pooper award because just look at you sitting all dry out there: you really make me mad, you mad March hare with your pop-eyed April stare.

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Comment: For any who think these photos are Golden Oldies, they aren’t. This is what we woke up to this morning, 10 April 2020.  Close to a foot of snow and trees leaning on the power lines. Luckily we didn’t lose power. But we fired up the insert, just in case.

Flickers

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Flickers
(1613 & 2019)

a watch spring
this cuckoo-clock heart
fully wound up
time’s ticker flickering
waiting to strike

black hole its beak
poked the world’s fabric
shredded into ribbons
robin’s nest torn
storm-tossed onto lawn

constant this love
its warm ashes lingering
searing holes in shoe soles
soul-sick with yearning
bright bonfires burning

metaphor and meaning
real and imagined
hammering on chimneys
territorial flickers
spring heartbeats drumming

losers of somethings
winners of others
wings lofting upwards
light above darkness
all creature comforts

a spring need to nest
an old man’s need to rest

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