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Turning Over a New Leaf

Updated: May 24, 2022

To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime's experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width. Patrick Kavanagh*

Lately I have been mulling over how I would like to keep a more complete record of the plants and creatures that I see in my garden, and in the local fens and wood land, as the months go by. While my sketchbooks note some of what I see: the moths that appear in my trap, the wildflowers, birds and insects, there is so much that slips by without record. The last year has seen extraordinary extremes of weather, from the iron cold that gripped in early spring to the prolonged and persistent heat of this summer, and now the extended golden, clement days of this autumn have shown that the patterns of nature are changing and are no longer following the same rhythms, and so the desire to document such a shift has seemed more pressing.

So I shall begin and alongside I shall share my findings here. I don’t want it to be a dry and dusty log of facts, as I know I won’t keep that going, but rather a diary of the year, a nature notebook that includes my photographs, sketches and paintings. I hope it will help me to become more alert to, and more mindful, of the seasonal changes and have a greater appreciation of the small wonders that can so easily disappear in life’s busyness.

To begin, here are some drawings and paintings from last year when I first started keeping sketchbook studies of the hedgerow plants in my garden. Last October the garden flowers had long since faded and I began to note the seed heads and fruits that lay in the hedge behind the border. There the ivy and wild clematis scrambled through the scarlet studded yew and the pearly beads of snowberries were being snaffled by the blackbirds. This year I noticed for the first time the stripy jerseys of the ivy bees on the sputnik ivy flowers and how they were often joined by Red Admirals basking in the last of the late summer sun. I wonder what November will bring?

* quoted in Robert MacFarlane's introduction to Nan Shepherd's "The Living Mountain".

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