Kildare Snowdrops

The tall tree casts its long shadow at dawn in a weak sun; winter is beginning to ease. Snowdrops catch little of the hint of warmth in still air. Cool but not cold. These Galanthus nivalis could be from the mountains in Turkey, from a valley far above the Black Sea, where I have never been.

Our snowdrops in the garden at home were planted by a previous owner, a different family and a different generation. Snowdrops from Crimea, snowdrops from the Balkans, snowdrops from the First World War. Ottoman trophies – a few bulbs brought home in soldier’s luggage – memories of friends lost in the chaos and misadventure of war.

The snowdrop varieties here in our garden are the same as the ones of the big houses of North Kildare: Castletown and Carton. Snowdrops as a signature of social cohesion, a society within a society, traded as presents between the tenant farmer’s wife and the big house. The snowdrops in Hosie’s garden were in a white sward, right across from the 33 milestone on the old coach road from Dublin. That is 33 Irish miles, marked on Taylor’s Map of Kildare of the 1770s.

Writing for pleasure itself is alive here on a Saturday morning in the halls of Ardgillan, the home of the road improver Taylor of Taylor’s Map at his country seat. And there are snowdrop varieties to see here in Ardgillan gardens too, in the shade of the tall trees.

This short piece developed from an exercise of 15 minutes composition, from the prompt word -Tree, freshly written at this morning’s meeting of the Ardgillan Writers Group and read a few times by a our readers, for sentences that did not work, transcribed this afternoon from the pencil manuscript typed up, edited and elaborated this evening and made ready for this internet blog.

See the diversity

Stopping by trees
focussed on individuals
thalli of colour and form
units of biology
living on bark
in community patterns
related to the conditions
that surface offers for life;
here where the thallus lives.

Grouped through the ages
into genera, the observer
sees, into species that
require a chemist’s senses
What are the intrinsic,
and what are the extrinsic?
the factors that make life here.

A spore grows ontogenetically in
a place suitable for juveniles once
a place where the thallus can fruit
complete the life cycle as the
substrate changes over the years.

Habitats in the forest
are not the easiest
for a tourist to imagine
Night, rain, heat,
sun-flecks, trunk axil
seeps. What can
the resident islander see?

Host trees each
one, watching the
variation intrinsically
as the extrinsic is
thought to differ,
wetter, western, trunk
age, all to genus
as grouped by the observer
all to species if thalli numbered
and patiently seen.

Choices of vegetative reproduction
geometrically tangential to the
surface of the tree, rain
drips and seeps apply chemistry
what bacterifuge is necessary
for life at the surface
of this thallus here. Taxonomic
identity comparison one against one
one has observed before.
Taxonomic insight takes patience
in the forest to see
In the dark shade, the
warm sweats drip and blur
the optical aids vision
of the intrinsic, minds
free for the extrinsic
wondering about the daily
routine, here at this
thallus, physiology.
How does it manage a
shower, how does it manage
at dawn, noon and sunset?
When does a vector interact?
Is the surface alive with
an ant? How sour is
the rain that passes
over? Where do those
tree mists flow in
the valley, where
does the night dew fall?
Does the tree canopy
harvest occultly the
clouds here or
what is this surface
like, leached or
flushed.

When to move
on to another thallus
to start the routine
again. How slow
do we move in the
forest to see
that thallus taxonomically
Give the pin a number
and write all the answers
methodically of a mindful of
questions organised scientifically

So what is your method
as you are wandering about,
for the method controls the
enlightenment your mind
can perceive. Focus on the
intrinsic, answer the
extrinsic litany.
Start a new thallus
then on, methodically,
until the day is
done. Stand still if you can see
a thallus is front of
you. Move over
barren ground, those
quadrats need scrutiny,
several a day if you are
able, until a week is
done. They say seven
weeks is enough to get
you to the front line.
Look at bark, imagine
the chemistry. Add weather
and dendritic geometry
for then you will see
like a forest master.

One plant whose flower
has never been seen
by mankind, then
you will see the once
off. Taxonomic
insight watching for
the raw edge between
hypothesis and reality.
The anomalies need recording
as they are scientifically,
new, new to science.

Walk, observe, stop, observe,
patiently repeat your litany.
There are hundreds of forms
on the trees of the islands.
How can you see them all
and challenge them for their
reality. Imagine the
muriform, imagine the simple
and where they would start life
on this surface, where do we
look on a tree, to see you.

Once the taxon emerges, then
the botanical use starts, a
predictor of environment on
the surface of a tree
united by physiology
a tolerance of life
nearby, one thallus to
the next, what differences
intrinsically emerge
and can be put down
to extrinsic causality.

Seeing in the forest
with the patience of
a forest master enough
to create a mythology
for an island’s culture
one thallus, one kind
Reality envisioned
and communicated internationally
in lingua latin
The name of species is such.
It is here, pantropically
If you can imagine
the chemistry of
bark in the tropics –
Plant host family
at a glance –
lines of an obsessive
romance with
a subject.
The insights that emerge in
free verse, summarise the
methods we can use to
seek enlightenment
in the forest. Why not
climb a tree, spend
time in the photophilous zone
with varieties of me, zip-lining
is too quick, a mental blur
hanging about the like a sloth
optically observing, remembering
the geography of where on the
island you saw a thallus like that.
This matching mismatching
mentally such names
as we have to handle the
forest, like a forest master,
and create a biological
mythology all carefully
attested in reality.
Deconstruction to unity
reassembly to botany.
Let us see these patterns
as vegetation, patterns
in the forest, visual memes
to stop your walk, so that
you see, the
diversity.

Walk on
now, go
again to
the wilderness
and watch
the forest.
Pencil to
note your reactions
in your mind
stimulated by
your senses.
Walk on,
see the
diversity.

Howard Fox, 16 iii 2013
Views: 25
Tags: botany, consiousness, discipline, of, poetry, stream, taxonomy

Tied to a tree

When I go travelling there,

I see what I see,

When I look at a tree,

the minutes extend one another

to quarter or half an hour,

before I move on to the next,

rewriting the logical words,

for each of the species,

with all those thalli,

on the surface of bark,

where I look with a lens,

and a spark.

Howard Fox,

14/15 ix 2015

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog II

What (unfinished)

Relax, take it easy, calm your mind, not so fast.

Time is a healer, on your day off.

Isolation is unneccessary, censure is intolerable.

Talk in friendliness about anything,

compose something, talk it out loud,

for your sanity demands it,

connect with other souls, talk about modernity.

Listless in the heat, brain fry complete

deep breath, take it easy,

calm down, not so fast.

Take a walk to a tree,

use your eyes for an exercise

to see what is a twig,

develop the vocabulary to communicate

about an entity external to me,

keep going, screening with your eyes

until you have seen something you did

not know exists, now

take your time, really take it easy,

look at nature, calm, with your mind.

Recreation in nature is an inquisitive enqiry,

what is it like ?

Use your mind to describe this entity,

maybe do a dissection, or a drawing, or a painting,

or a photo, if you are impatient.

Make an image in your mind to communicate with the future

so that we can speak of the same entity,

in the same language, in the same words,

to some other soul, for we are all kindred.

Minister some spiritual kinship, by mentoring

this exercise in clarity, calm from the anxieties

of a distressed mind, a bit of visual yoga.

All you need is a tree, standing nose to a low branch,

shortsighteness helps, and tropical sunlight, to give good acuity,

for to see what is this entity, before me.

I am not the first to need something external,

to drive my tortured concerns away, but perhaps

with the spark of curiosity, looking is something my eyes can do

mindlessly, contribute kinship with that entity,

that needs a bit of dew, and respect too.

Calm the mind from its anxieties

is the exercise here, a diversion perhaps

if it works perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

the scales on the eyes of your perception,

will need a gentle rub, why torture your mind,

with intolerable situations, take a deep breath

and let it all go, keep your eyes open, and

release yourself from the tyrrany of why.

Why, for you have now delved

into the torture of what !

(c) Howard Fox, June 2013

Views: 43

Tags: poetry, tree, visual, yoga

Comment by Howard Fox on June 7, 2013 at 9:16am

In composing this piece as a reaction to Roger Carter’s Why (unfinished), I am conscious of writing the same poem, again and again, on the Caribbean Literary Salon site, with different words. Such a preoccupation it has been warned against, and is common among those who express ideas in lyrical and poetic forms. My concern with the cognitive method of botany is pervasive and a difficult theme to escape from and a lot more needs to be written on this theme. I am also drawing on a conversation with a retired bryologist, Donal Synnott, over the use of the words tyrrany and torture – in botany, the need to provide polite society with scientific names for plants could be considered a tyranny or torture, formalised in binomial nomenclature by Carl Linnaeus, over 250 years ago. The predictive nature of the species and generic hypotheses of science is profound and a pleasure to use. Now we are in the midst of a phase of accommodating genetic information in the botanical synthesis to the detriment of a classical botanical education in morphology or form. In providing this stimulus to Caribbean botany, I trust this Salon will appreciate how to assimilate plants into their national cultures, and this will encourage a few who on the fringes of a botanical enlightement, might take cognitive steps in their observation methods to improve their perception for and respect for plants, that possess a subversive lack of an obvious utilitarian role in the society we live.

Caribbean Literary Salon Blog I

The ways are clear for us to walk

up the vales of L’Ivrogne

to tarry by a fencepost

while tethered cattle look on

the heat, the flies, the brilliance

of the white Ochrolechia thallus

sorediate in places, something quite routine

a form from the Caribik, is what we have seen

Carefully collected, numbered 29185

preserved in East Lansing for everyone

A particular piece of Soufriere that catches the noonday sun

the fencepost crumbled fifty years along

by the Cacao orchard on the way to Fond Doux.

The forms that surround us, we do really see,

we have to set a syllabus to educate us in them

the form is just once off, not another thallus within arms reach

a white mysterious crustose Ochrolechia of the Caribik

for our curiosity. The concept is mid century and was Lecanora before.

Context is supplied in Cuba by Wright or Guadeloupe by Duss

that is what Vainio wrote in 1915 I hope, but this hypothesis

must be read again, revise up on the history his worry said

Looking back, maybe someone in future will see how to group this,

another, maybe three, in a logic framework that we can all use

if we can perceive the soufrieriness of thee

For hail Brodo, it is a white sorediate crust, only one can you be

that a whiff of creativity is appropriate to solve the mystery.

Comment by Althea Romeo-Mark on March 25, 2013 at 6:35am

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Interesting poem. I do feel like I am on a journey with you, a little exploration of the natural environment to see what it has to offer us and tell us.  It takes us on a botanical and historical journey, and yet manages to have some rhythm and rhyme. I think it could be edited to give it more shape and form.  Break some of the longer lines, but do not break the rhythm.

Comment by Anthony RICHARDS on December 28, 2012 at 7:35pm
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Ok. I admit that you made me look!

I “googled” Okrolechia.

Regards, and thanks for all the assistance, this year.

Have a great New Year

Tony