onto the 13th day of February – pink skies, brown waters and the appearance of strange quiver like objects 13.02.2022

My walks in February have been sporadic yet each one yields a new drama… and in between there have been postings about the brown waters running through the Glen despite the lack of rain.

on Saturday the fifth I was one of a booted group of water warriors/worriers looking on as Simon from UCC demonstrated the tools of his trade. As we watch It emerges that we are semi-circled around a small hummock, which has only became pre-emeninent since Simon bows over it with tweezer in hand, and lifts from its crown a greyish, gritty and mucousy matter – Otter Spraint he informs us – which does not smell at all of violets as i have heard, but sweetly salty. We sniff it in turn and cheer for these elusive leavings as evidence of riparian life.

The water bed is covered in a greyish silt, even as the water rushes over it…none of us want to go there as the tweezers extract a delicate fragment of tissue. He does a river bed shuffle, raising the life from its sunken place and casts his net, allowing the swift flow of water to feed into it, the disturbed elements. He does this 3 times hopping and riffling into the one netting before depositing its load into the white sample tray. We are hopeful and not hopeful in equal measure, greedy for sightings of indicating species either/both good or/and bad, we want it all. We find a leech, its sucker glueing it to the plastic base, there is a tiny snail leaving its faintly drawn trails on the plastic … both bad, and the third bad is a waterlouse, with its feelers and legs… I feel for them, poor enemies of clean water indications, always the bad guys, just living their lives in the conditions given… Out of two scoopings we get 6 minuses – the maximum in our test – and 0 plusses, no innocent caddis fly larva, no delicate mayfly or sensitive stone fly, we are at optimum water pollution. We should do one more scooping nearby but it seems fairly conclusive and this is a demonstration situation, we get the drift. I am partially pleased , this is ammunition for action, and the Otter Spraint is evidence for another argument to clean up.

Later in the week begin the postings of the brown water, my memories of healthy rivers after the rain are dashed, as we have had none; it’s been a dry February. The water is brown from another kind of disturbance – machines and earth moving for construction, a development up-stream. In the same week IF has persuaded the chief council environmental engineer to go drain hunting, and they have found in one visit two sources of sewage seepage, leaking into the river near to its source: one is feeding into the storm drains and another is caused by a blockage, just a stone’s throw upstream. There are promises for fixings afoot. Even if it’s a long haul.

There have also been some of those renowned Glen pink skies

And there has been some activity in the Fleischmann place at the bottom of the zigzag – plastic drinks bottles topped and tailed into quivers bearing leaf feathered cuttings of bay and other snipped branches. These are hoisted, suspended and otherwise dangling in trees and bushes, their fancy harnesses taking carefully poised positions, over water, tucked into the growth and suspended from branches… each visit I make bringing more… there might soon be a proliferation

..later I am informed these are… bug motels, possibly put there by children.

Last week of January 28.01.2022

The weather has been dry and perfect for kicking up a leaf storm. There is one of those futile piles of leaves still in evidence – I go into the pile –

into the leaf pile

Dusk is drawing in as i circle the ponds and as I arrive at the zig zag I see the sllhouettes of a couple out walking their dog and the flashing of the green glowing collar doubling and tripling the loops of the stone bridges at the Fleischmanns, her joyful skidding scattering the mulch and raising the brown-black scent of decay in the dampening air.

And the swamp Cypress arches her back to the changing shift of the night sky.

The river endlessy flows west in the glen valley groove while on the upper outskirts the night call sirens swirl

Towards the end of the week the wind picks up and the creaking of the trees add another dimension to the descent into the Glen

Up on the heath I take the high road East towards the end and I pass the wizened puffballs…along the gorse hedge and through the hawthorn gateway to the party place where the cans and prophylactic wrappers remain, bobbing ivy berries hover and beckon in time with the passing traffic and I think of the unicorn headdress I picked up at the beginning of the month.

third week of 2022 15 – 24 January 2022

The Glen is on the turn, hardly a winter, a handful of frosts since Samhain and sensing the fingers of spring already, trees barely bare and their leaves litter the ground a fallen ivy burning its flame red veins and golden among the deep tannin browns, their leafy edges still precise. There was a sweeper here during the week making up piles of leaves under the trees, it seemed like an utterly pointless task, a job to keep a man busy, and unusual enough to see one from the council on foot… the puff balls clench their thin and withered cheeks around a black breath and I can’t resist a poke to see them exhale… up on the heath I find I’ve missed the juicy stage too… of the witches’ butter

Heading through the kissing gate at Sunview East with the tags of the clean up posters still fluttering yellow, and so witches butter yellow that I haven’t been inclined to cut their jute strings – they claim their place on the rails, tickets to the circus of birch and hawthorn.

I pick up a stone almost every day from the highland and bring each lump home, like teeth A says, I like the way the numbers form, clustering from one to six, and here masquerading somehow as a five; there is something of the constellation of Orion in it… my thoughts play of swivelling the extremities to capture the feel of the hunter’s shoulders, and i see now I need at least a seventh not just to make up a full week.

The first stone I picked had a seam aligned with the stripe of the path where it lay, magnetic pulling along the Glen axis of East West, attracting my attention. Here at home, the way it has landed points the other way North (to the way it came) catching the afternoon light on its Western cheek, while the group are holding their shadows on the kitchen counter.

thrown pink jacket now faded clings on, becoming vegetation

The thrown Pink jacket has faded to blend with the colour of the old man’s beard that spreads over everything on this side of the Glen, now incorporated into the vegetaion

honey fungi corsage on fresh stump

the line of felled elms now show individual corsages of honey fungi like stump debutantes presenting to the ghosts of their fallen silhouettes

the Swamp Tree Key

i am not sure why this tree conjures lock and key, but it seems to me it does, especially now when the birdsong makes the space around it.

Second week of 2022 10- 14.01.2022

There is an abandoned jumper at the hatch, it is has been there a while, and I find it today laid out white on the mossing conglommerate, that place for the belly connection with the river, as it rushes over the mill race below. There are a scattering of crusts which animate the arm into one of the Winter Feeder. The hairy textile is collecting in its fibres offerings from the alders, and other matter released from the winter vegetation of the Glen; the scene presents a sense of a surrender and exchange; histories and micro worlds are being made constantly, here among the concrete-moss-paintskin-bread- knittedgarment, the water gushes beneath.


The next day – Wednesday morning – there was a hard frost, one of the few we’ve had this winter, the white jumper has stiffened into a cold embrace of the hatch, the crusts have been claimed, but the seed heads remain

Thursday 14th January

Walking the Glen with TC and the tree officer, and a small gaggle, looking at spots from TC’s map for planting trees. The council officer has been involved with many planting experiments in the city, and many attempts have been torn down by local people, she knows the hotspots and the hazards. We ask about the hedgerows and she explains, indicates the 2 metre border caused by using just the ‘one arm’ of the council path clearing machines…. its not just the machines, she says, all public walkways must have this edge for visibility and access…our minds fill, and we don’t speak of the attack and murder of a young woman runner mid afternoon mid week after her teaching day in her small town park.

ElRi and I mischievously speak of ditching the machines for scythes …and why not? it is not beyond the powers of imagination to envisage The Glen as a project for hand tools only…it is small enough for an experiment like this…getting bare knuckled with nature might then be a contact sport, and not a struggle for domination..

Rambunctious, twice today this odd word popped up, ElRi is reading a book on garden philosophy and she spoke of The Rambunctious Garden and then later today, while soaking in an orange bath, powered by a Vesuvius bomb I read about the wild old woman, in Martin Shaw’s Courting the Wild Twin, here, she is incarnate in flamenco dancers:

‘They bring the wayward nobility of aging clackerty-clackerty-clack on to the creaking wood of life’s rambunctious dance floor; a hundred horse skulls underneath to improve the acoustics’

on page 30

ram·​bunc·​tious | \ ram-ˈbəŋk-shəs marked by uncontrollable exuberance : unruly

this is what I want for the Glen, it’s there in the Willows, the Alders, the Oaks, the Gorse, the Brambles and the Bracken, the Buddleia, the Rosebay willow herb, the foxgloves, the Bulrushes… the Elders, the Hawthorns, the Hogweed, the Queen Anne’s Lace, the Yarrow, the Jelly ears and the Oysters all jostling and dancing their moments, and with a little help from her friends, gleann na phúca can keep being that way, if we go there seeking it.

I visit the jumper again, now waving submerged under the rippling shadows of the guardian Alders.

Friday 31.12.2021 revisiting the Rowan and her oyster

I go back to the rowan to see the oyster and if there are any lingering berries, I have a recollection of seeing them on a single living branch in the autumn, today I see berrries on the branches of the neighbouring hawthorn and I’m not sure now, this little tree looks completely exhausted and yielding to its fate. The Hawthorn and Rowan flank the empty pedestal where the most part of the oyster flesh is strewn, I gather up a piece and I’m surprised by its heavy and limp life form, and I’m reminded of the slabs of tripe laid out in the English market, there are tiny black creatures meandering about the gills. I gather piece by piece and lay them one on top of the swollen other, heavy-limp and grey-beige, I am certain I want to remove them from this careless scattering, though not sure where to remove them to; they seem most at home in the long grass where they are merging with the other life forms here, it’s all so open in the human thoroughfare of the park and I’m saving them from another kicking. I end up tucking them into the side of the pedestal, still in view but hopefully with a kind of nestled integrity that offers some protection from attack. As I do this I find more bits of flesh ground into the gravel path and right up to the base of the trunk, I look up and see the remaining oyster fanning out from its fruiting place.

Walking now to the end of the valley, encountering dogs and walkers, exchanging brief greetings, it’s the last day of 2021, grey and damp. I turn again at the buddleias and their multiple brushes waving haphazard across the heath. Taking the lower path today to remain in the enclosure of the valley, a little below, and away from, the noise of the traffic. Past the mother oak and her offspring, buds already forming at their tips, and on to the gothic zone, I linger here in the gloomy amphitheatre, soaking up its damp, dark presence and imagining the garden it once was. Then I catch the seashore feel of the the lichen growing on an old waterlogged log; in another environment this could be a rock pool harbouring crabs and anemones. I hop over the well and make my way back. There is a scent of vanilla and almonds from the edges as I pass the winter heliotropes.

Wednesday 29.12.2021 Unicorn

Wednesday is bright and light as I walk out well after dawn. I go to the stone bridges to see if Dipper is there and sure enough there she is! On the elbow log, dancing and prancing on her white legs, bobbing her white chest and blinking her white eyelids making play with the water, I watch for a while until she swoops towards me and under the bridge where I stand. I’m so happy to see her 🙂

Taking the path west I walk the length of the valley as I pass through and along the bare-armed corridor of winter trees, I see a glimmering golden fairy-tale mirage on the horizon, Knocknaheaney, lit up by the low slanting sun, ever unreachable as it appears in this last clear light of 2021.

Keeping this mood I stride over the bend at Blackpool by the Buddleias, ignoring their exposed crocks of accumulated trash, I walk the heath with my head in the sun and miss the path to the mother Oak, instead i keep along the upper path among the gorses and brooms and wonder idly if there is any witches butter to be seen. Too early perhaps for this special golden booty. I go to the end of the grove and find, among the relics of a party, some traces of unicorn.


I pause to find a place for this magical head gear and, instead of pinning it to the branches like any other lost toy, I am tempted to try it out, feeling what it might be like to be a unicorn, perhaps, just this once in the Glen. As I do the sun dances around me – the unicorn horn is an antenna for the dancing light.

I pocket it and walk back to the path’s fork and down to the mother oak, through the gothic zone, that feels darker these days, since that old fallen log with that special gifting pocket has been removed, (that special nook where L once left an oak gall and I an ivy leaf, a triangular stone and other pieces for the curious) and more gloomy. I put the unicorns head gear back on as I come to the well and gaze at my shadow, or is it a reflection? I can just make out the pinkish glimmer of the horn glancing off the dancing water.

unicorn at the well
shimmer farewell 2021

a perfect song for roaming the Glen in today’s mood…

unicorn song

She was born to be my Unicorn

Robed head of ferns

Cat child tutored by the learned.

Darkly ghostish host

Haggard vizier of the moats

Seeks the sandled shores of Gods

Baby of the moors.

The night-mare’s mauve mashed mind

Sights the visions of the blinds

Shoreside stream of steam

Cooking kings in cream of scream.

Jackdaw winter head

Cleans his chalcedony bed

A silken word of kind

Was returned from Nijinsky Hind.

Giant of Inca hill

Loosed his boar to gorely kill

The dancing one horned waife In doublet of puffin-bill.

The beast in feast of sound

Kittened lamb on God’s ground

Ridden by the born of horn

Jigged like a muse on life’s lawn

Marc Bolan

Tuesday 28.12.2021 Rowan oysters and washing stones

Tuesday’s walk leaves me despondent, the litter is back with broken glass and leavings of cans and boxes and fast food wrappings, the weather is grey, I see my favourite oyster mushroom has returned, not by its crested presence on the bark of the ailing Rowan, but by its kicked remains about the empty pedestal and Prosto bench, a sad sight in the drizzle, bruised gills sodden and damaged, matching my mood. I look to the tree and see how bark and fungi are part of the same living and dying organism, those vaulted spaces in the trunk become the perfect architecture for other life, the Oyster being the most flamboyant, fleshy and fragrant. The fluted fanning waves, like angel wings, pile upon pile, so delicate to the human touch yet so vigorous in their cellular formation, in dynamic dialogue with the energy of the dying tree. I see the scarrings of a name carved once into the bark and healed over from a more vigorous period in this tree’s life, the oyster seems to bring the inside out, giving voice to a secret trait of the Rowan.

In ancient lore the Rowan tree was planted to protect the threshold and all its animals from evil forces: the mischief of faeries; the curses of witches; and the returning spirits of the unsettled dead. Also known as the quickening tree, the Rowan has long been revered for its life giving and healing powers. The berries have a fiery energy and the tree is named for a flame, Luis, in the Ogham alphabet, giving form to the second consonant L. Caorthann is the Irish name for the tree, from Caor meaning both berry and a blazing flame. Rowan berries are important winter fuel for blackbirds and thrushes.

Rowan Oyster

I watch a mother amuse her small buggy-bound child by throwing crumbs to the ducks, we greet one another as I pass in the drizzle, stepping over the sodden square of a four star pizza packet.

I head on over to ‘Scotland’ wanting the heath and the airy height; the swing still hangs by a thread from the oak and I pick up a stone form the path, it’s a piece of quartz with markings similar to the leopard skin print on my sleeve. I bring the stone back to the well and rinse it, enjoying the watery energy washing over me as my fingers wriggle the stone in the current.

wriggling the stone in the well

The winter heliotropes are flowering again.

winter heliotrope

Thursday 23.12.2021 blackbirds, swamp cypress,dipper and mouse

On leaving the home park this morning I pause to listen to the sweeping sounds from the hedgerow, and see a handful of blackbirds in the open branches, traffic was passing and I curse the roar and fade of the engines, but as i do I begin to hear the matrix, the call response from the birds, that unusual sweeping sound is an echo to the passing cars and it all at once becomes lovely.

blackbirds and passing cars

In the park the calls are quite different, there are isn’t the same activity in that cupola willow edging the pitch that held me earlier in the week; today the tallest of the Swamp Cypresses calls, I stop to hear the raucous activity over the water; herons and ducks, and standing here I notice the tree has her arms full of tiny birds.

swamp Cypress armful of birds

I head on to the Fleischmann place and stand over the river on the old stone bridge feeling the flow in my bones and belly as it passes beneath. I film awhile the water as it gushes away and through my lens I spot the bright white bib of the dipper down stream on a log’s elbow. She is still, wary of me and my looming presence on the bridge, but as I stand the tension melts and she hops nearer, curling, stretching, dipping; curling, stretching, dipping, blinking her semaphore rhythm at the gushing water, (once spotted this motion is arresting, so much so that young I can spot a dipper out of the very corner of his eye when looking in the opposite direction) Suddenly she flies towards me, a white flash turns to black, then swooping away low to the river under the lowslung arch of the bridge downstream.


I follow on, hoping to catch up with her, and at the metal bridge I see a another arresting movement. it’s Mty, singular without the dogs, he is animated, waving. He clears the wooden mis-matched steps in even bounds, and an elegance that defies their awkward spacing, eager to show me what he has got. In his hand a little trap and inside a mouse, he hopes, because the creature is so light and still he can’t detect a thing, and so he has taken its rodent presence on faith, and circumstantial evidence: the door of the trap has closed and so the mechanism has been activated by something. We go the river’s edge to see the release; at first nothing emerges, then with a flip the mouse falls out and runs into the wetlands, there by the willow where the hemlock grows, we watch it disappear and re-emerge until we lose it. This house-mouse Mty conjectures has been whisked from the clutches of the domestic arena, of cats, humans and dogs and into another more alien story… beamed out into another world, into the unknown, as from the Starship Enterprise on an intergalactic mission.

new mouse view

Tuesday 21.12.2021 path and river

The Glen river and path twine about one another and criss cross 11 times in the short 3/4 kilometre of the valley. The Valley itself a glacial secret lying in the fabric of the city. Now filled with bare trees the sound echoes through, from all about its environs, the hum and thrum of traffic, an overhead plane, the ruff ruff – ruff of a yard-bound dog. But within the valley itself is contained the birdsong, its source invisible within the cupola weavings of the ever branching trees

Today is the shortest day, the standstill and turning point from ultimate contraction, a place of yielding, to incremental openings; day by day we can expect a handful of extra light fingering each, from now until the next one. This is beyond hopeful in this most deadpan of months, the opaque white sky that has been hugging its peripheries ever closer, closing into the still of winter. Since the golden drop and turn of Samhain there has been a steady settling into hibernation. Hibernia we are called here, winter island. Coming into the nadir of the year, that habitual doldrum, that lack of stirring from that pallid, dense covering of sky, smothering but not quite quenching the small glow that begins to ignite just a tiny bit from within. I feel the promise and gentle disengaging as the grip of the old loosens on the emergent, shiny and resilient in the breast. The harshest of winter is yet to come; but it will come as the year opens up.