Green Deserts

My Dad remembers fields
like tapestries, embroidered
with wild flowers.
He remembers golds and pinks,
purples and blues; and butterflies
and hovering bees –
the humming meadows.

Here, there are green deserts –
cut and sprayed and ploughed
and planted every year –
rye grass, bright green and lush
and dead. Wild flowers banished
to the hedgerows – bees following
the paths we follow, skirting the fields.

My Dad remembers cuckoos,
corn buntings, tree sparrows,
turtle doves. These green deserts
are almost silent. Only the rooks,
patrolling, and the winter fieldfare.

My Dad remembers hares hiding
in the long grass of the meadows;
deer stepping dainty in the twilight,
a kestrel quartering the field.
These green deserts are still,
only the wind blowing through
the lifeless grass, and the rain falling.

I’m lucky to live in a rural area where we have lush hedgerows and neglected patches of woodland. However, even here farming practices are not ideal for the environment. We visited a local garden today where they have re-created wildflower meadows. Last time I visited with my Dad he told me that was how fields were when he was young – I hadn’t realised it was so recently that we lost our traditional meadows. This is for earthweal, where we’re thinking about extremes. The uniform green fields around here ARE extreme – a massive change within living memory.

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9 thoughts on “Green Deserts

  1. I miss the sounds of songbirds, and bees, and the sight of green hills into late May. this rings of the ‘toponesia’ that Brendan cites – the forgetfulness of special places ~

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  2. That is so telling, how your dad still remembers the flower meadows which we rarely see. Some cause for hope yesterday, I saw lapwings and a hawk while out on my bike, and plenty of wild flowers in the hedgerows at least!

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  3. I’ll bet your father’s memory stretches back ten millennium, that’s daily life in the Holocene which now passes. Another marker is how soon those green fields will change — I hear viniculture has moved up from France to England — how growing seasons may freeze or wither or be racked by super-voracious parasites. (Monoculture destroys topsoil, too.) Just the poem for the challenge, Sarah, and it’s a narrative gem.

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  4. THis is so sad. It reminds me of my husband’s stories of the difference between the sea life in the early 70s when he and his family sailed up the east coast of Australia and now… barren as the fields which your Dad remembers filled with life. We are so greedy.

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  5. How awful. The devastation must be terrible where you live. I hope you find the way forward to regenerate the farm land. Regenerative agriculture offers many viable ways to replenish degraded farming environments.

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  6. You’re right, there’s nothing natural about agriculture. It produces deserts that have to be maintained by foul means rather than fair. Farmers are not the guardians of the environment, they’re part of the curse.

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