Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • Turning into Winter

    skein of geese against a blue sky

    Winter here is a time of opening out, rather than closing in. When the leaves begin to fall, great gaps open in our horizons and we can see further out across the fields and towards the hills out eastward and the castle to the west. Evenings and mornings, skeins of geese fly over the house, west in the mornings towards Flanders Moss, southeast at night, down the river to Batterflats and Skinflats. The light is dimming by half-past three, and it is dark by five. There are fieldfares – one crashed into our bedroom window last week – and redwings, quarrelling with migrant blackbirds for the last of the rowan berries and I heard three robins singing against each other in the early twilight across the river, and long-tailed tits peeping to each other in the hedges. The fields have been ploughed, and some of them have already been sown. The deer sometimes come back to the riverbank now the building work has finished. There have been frosts, heavy rain, and some very strong winds.

    Gardening is all but finished for the winter. Only the marigolds are still pushing out the last few rain-battered flowers, and the first winter jasmine has appeared.

    winter jasmine in flower against a wall

    I am about to package up the seeds I saved – marigolds, evening primrose, teasel, nigella, and the tiny seeds of nicandra physalodes (the shoo-fly plant), which are hidden in its exotic papery seedcase, which you can see here, stained with inky blue. I have put it in a vase with honesty teasel and nigella seedheads because it will keep that dramatic colour through the winter.

    nicandra, showing flowers and seed-cases

    My attention has turned to indoor activities, cooking, learning to make sourdough bread, thinking about Christmas (already? I know!) and planning sewing projects for the dark nights, and new poetry and herbal blogposts for the new year. But there is still plenty of autumn colour,

    Birch tree, lots of golden leaves

    and plenty of berries for the migrating birds. These are cotoneaster berries, which might even attract waxwings if the weather is cold enough. Far from shutting up shop, the territory of rain is opening its doors to winter.

    cotoneater berries

  • April in the Territory of Rain

    This is not really a typical month, as it has certainly not been the territory of rain. There hasn’t been any serious rain all month, and not much in March. The pond is low and I’m already watering things that I wouldn’t usually need to worry about until June. On the other hand, until last weekend, it wasn’t really cold, so we have had a beautiful month, with blossom – the cherry coming a good fortnight earlier, and the apple just opening. Daffodils and primroses weren’t battered by winds, and the wind anemones flourishing and spreading.

    The cow parsley is just beginning on the road verges, along with white dead-nettle and garlic mustard – the first time I’ve seen it here, and the bluebells are out. Soon it will be time to go to Inchmahome, where the bluebells are like a flood under the old chestnuts and oaks, and the geese will be nesting.

    Migrant birds are back, though not in large numbers yet, and the dawn chorus is pretty impressive. We had on major disappointment, in that robins made a lot of progress on a nest just below my study window, but then abandoned it. They haven’t gone far, however, as I still see them foraging.

    There have been some changes, most of them quite encouraging. Wrens chaffinches and gold-finches are about in greater numbers and there are more song-thrushes. There are more skylarks in the fields this year, but I haven’t seen any lapwings at all, nor heard a curlew. The biggest change is the lesser black-backed gull colony. The warehouse they used to nest on was demolished, and though a good number tried to nest among the rubble, they were disturbed by surveyors, and I saw no chicks at all. This year fewer gulls have come back, and only the boldest are on the site – which isn’t being developed at all yet. Some of them are on chimneys, and some of them must be on the river bank, but it seems awfully quiet without them.

    The other change is the deer. Once the sight of a deer coming down from the crags was a rare thing, but now you can see them browsing in the fields furthest from the road almost every day. As the human community begins to struggle with our social and environmental pressures, some quiet resurgence may be beginning among our neighbours. I’m taking all the hopeful signs I can get!

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