September pastoral

Warm September morning

The geese are back, noisy and disorganised

on their daily commute.

A haze lifts from fields glistening with a heavy dew,

and eastward, above a band of bright cloud,

the felltops float.

The hedge is red with haws

and, bright against a pyramid of tight black silage bales,

a robin pauses in its insect hunt,

poses, ready for its close-up.

Swallows and martins still climb the air,

swerve and stutter,

pin-sharp against the clear sky,

training for the marathon to come,

but the swifts are already gone.


Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts


Earth Day


So it’s Earth Day today – one day to remind people about the planet we share.

Living where I do, it is hard to forget the climate change debate. There are reminders everywhere – wind turbines punctuate the horizon and colonise the sea. The local economy is driven by a nuclear power station some miles down the coast, while inland the fells and lakes show us a romantic image of a wilder, less peopled world, though they too wear a skin created by centuries and millennia of human action. Their bones read like a geology textbook of glaciation and its slow aftermath – U-shaped valleys, erratic boulders, benign flood plains awaiting the next deluge.

All this reminds us that on the almost inconceivably grand scale of geology, climate always changes, mountains rise and fall, ice advances and retreats, species evolve and are eclipsed.

But we cannot help but be attached to our little fraction of the great sweep of time, our infinitesimal point of differentiation on the curve, to worry about its gradient here and now. Can we affect it? Tweak the coefficients to slow things down and give ourselves and our earth-bound companions the time to adapt? Or are we like Canute, faced with an overwhelming tide? Have we already passed the tipping point?