I’m fascinated by the small details of nature:

The way the fronds of a feather lock into place – a technique that we crudely imitate in the production of zips.

The fragile beauty of a leaf skeleton after the body has fallen away.
It’s like the complex criss-cross of lines on my youngest daughter’s hand. A palmist would have field day with Laura’s reading.

The freshly fallen fruit of the horse-chestnut tree – the spiky outer layer, the whorled pattern on the conker as it vacates its soft, fleshy womb.

Tiny green shoots emerging from the ground, illustrating the complexity of life and the miracle of survival.

When it snows, I hold my hand out and watch the soft flakes melt, although it leaves me with a fleeting feeling of sadness, like when icicles drip away to nothing.

I watch bees collecting pollen, butterflies enjoying a midsummer dance, ants pushing clods of food toward their nest, flowers breaking out of their buds, the varying species of seaweed on the seashore, seashells, and even the smallest chunks of worn-away glass and driftwood.

I am riveted by giant forces of nature, too:

The shapes and colours in the sky, at sunrise, sunset, noon and night. Each season and every mood of weather brings its own interest.

Storms excite and revitalise me. I like to be outside, with the rain pelting down, and the lightening throwing brief, dramatic images across the landscape.

Wild seas draw my attention; the sight of waves as they break, splash and crash, the music in the sound the ocean makes.

But trees are the most fascinating of all; those gentle plants with their beauty and variety, the abundance of flora and fauna they harmoniously support and live alongside, while they help to hold the planet together, clean the air and make it safe for us to breathe.

Finally, I used to get a kick out of casually observing the clumsy art of adolescent flirtation, amused by how subtle they considered themselves. For example:

A small group of girls encounters a small clutch of boys. Without warning, the girls crank their voices up a couple of notches. The boys ignore them, so the girls get louder. They say things like.

“Oh no! It’s them. I hope they haven’t seen us.”

“I don’t think so. We’d better get out of here before they do.”

If that doesn’t work, they switch to high-pitched, giggly, theatrical chatter about make-up, or they might bitch about the latest victim of spots or bad hair. Eventually the boys notice them. There’s a flicker of interest. Time to repeat “Oh no! I hope they haven’t seen us”, et al, and flounce off, weaving around a bit so that it’s easier for the boys to catch them up. Half-an-hour later, they all reappear as a single group. The girls are insulting the boys. The boys are lapping it up, although  their carefully practised lazy gait is distracting them somewhat. The girls are flapping their arms about, energetically twisting and turning. 

Job done!

It’s all changed. The progressively smutty lure of time has stolen their innocence. I prefer to close my ears to the obscenity. I’ve heard eleven year old girls claiming to have been party to sexual experiments that I have never dabbled in, and wouldn’t wish to.

Trees are sticklers for tradition. Unlike young teens, they are always discreet.

Written for Calen’s Sandbox Challenge, Exercise 10.

©Jane Paterson Basil


This Time



Year upon year, you have held me
in a cunning grip, trapped against my wishes
in this ugly
n e r.

Each time my eye locked upon a possible escape route,
you blocked it like a shot from a gun armed
by a mindless robot.

A small crack in the wall
winks its way into my thoughts, begging consideration.
It may have been there all along,
but I missed it


Perhaps it was made by the shock of your last
artful attack.

Even the shameful blush on your face
was a rude sham to manipulate me.
The abuse leaves no bruises
but it sure scars the soul.

The split is too small for you to to see, or maybe
you think me too clumsy to squeeze through.

Your skills of observation are blunted by self-obsession.
If you cared, you’d be aware that the stress
has flayed away my excess flesh.
I only need the strength to walk through
this small fissure.

I won’t crawl or beg for empathy;
it never helped before.
A hidden trace of dignity remains;
this, I must display.

When I gain my freedom,
I hope to grow so tall that you will never consider
torturing me again.

Rather, if a heart still beats in your selfish chest,
you might choose to nurture me.
If not, my child,
I shall be bereft, but our planet
will continue to breathe,

and so shall I.


©Jane Paterson Basil


It’s like an egg breaking inside your head;
a sudden flood that controls your mind, telling you
to run to the window and dive
to the soulless ground below.
In the instant before your thoughts recover,
you move across the room, ready
to turn your eggy impulse into messy reality.

Out of step with the moment, you feel
the shock of the drop forcing you
to release all oxygen from your lungs, though you want
to draw a greedy last gasp of cool air before
the end… and then you realise
it hasn’t happened yet.

Grasping for sanity, you clutch the back of a dining chair.
You shudder, knowing how close it was this time,
and you wonder, had you jumped,
how desperately would you regret your imminent death
in the few seconds before the concrete smashed your skull to shreds,
and would those seconds stretch
into eternity?

©Jane Paterson Basil


Guess I’d forgotten the depth of low –
forgotten how far down I could go.
Winged creatures more sinister than simple butterflies
have made a home in my heart.
They’re boring holes and sending messages,
warning me to hide.
I know they want to eat me but I’ve run out of fight.
Even the urge to search for comfort
has flown.

I hold the phone a distance from my ear,
in the unfulfilled hope
that I won’t hear the voices talking, questioning, offering goodwill, comfort, meals, walks and company, company, company, then moving quickly on to what he said, she said, who did what and isn’t it interesting.

When you are drowning inside,
discussion is low on your list of priorities.

I say that I’m hungry.
This is true, but my mutterings about supper are just an excuse
to escape another one-way conversation.
Food is an dull complication to be dealt with later.

Good people, I love you. Please leave me alone,
or rather, don’t speak out loud.
Can’t you see that the groan which issues from my throat
is a strangled scream?
Please, please don’t reach out to me with sound.
I’m hoping that silence will keep the monsters under my rib-cage at bay.
If you have something to say, I would be grateful
if you’d just write it down.

Note for my friends: Don’t worry about me –  if I was still feeling this bad, I wouldn’t have managed to write the poem… such as it is.

©Jane Paterson Basil

Fire and Snow


Unhurried, it swirls, rising and then sinking lower than in it was before. It seems too casual to make a cold blanket, yet the ground becomes increasingly white. Please let me be snowed-in tomorrow. Let the roads be impassable.

If I do much more, I fear I might end up throwing all of my possessions out of the window onto the garden below.

When they ask me why I did it I’ll tell them they are no longer required. If they mention the damage to the flowers, I’ll tell them that they are no longer required, either.

I’ve spent weeks trying to clear my ex-partner’s house on my own. He died a couple of months ago. My son lived there and he’s been given notice to quit as it’s a rented property Paul has felt incapable of making any decisions about what to keep and what to discard. He didn’t want to let anything go until he’d decided, so I’ve been stuck.

Finally it reached a point where I had to take over the decision-making, so my daughter and her fiance drove down to help, over the weekend, . We took some stuff to a charity shop, and we brought a lot over to my small flat. Laura and Dave have been wonderful. I don’t know what I’d have done without their help. I don’t even drive.

On Saturday night we had a massive bonfire. A sofa, three reclining chairs, two leather armchairs, a king-size bed and a lot of other items were burnt to a cinder. It wasn’t my idea, but I was beyond caring.

That was to be the end of my duties. They have to be out tomorrow. Paul’s girlfriend’s father had agreed to hire a van for today and tomorrow, collect the things they wanted to keep, and put them in his storage unit. He was also going to dump what was left over.

I had a premonition that they would be let down. I was right. Kristi’s father isn’t going to help after all, and they can’t use his storage unit, either.

My nephew and sister-in-spirit have kindly agreed to step into the breach. We have nowhere to put the cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine, a large chest of drawers and their bed, so I’m hoping the landlord of the house we’re clearing will agree to let us store it in the shed outside the house. The place will have to be gutted before it’s fit for new tenants, which will take a while.

We’ll collect their clothes and personal items. I’ll have to somehow find space for them in my flat until they are rehoused. It’s a good thing I’m a genius when it comes to space-saving. I spent today neatly packing what I already have of theirs into the smallest area possible (this includes and Ikea chest of drawers, two Ikea cupboard units, two tall shelf units, a large coffee table and some smaller pieces of furniture), and separating what I think they won’t need.

My living-room sofa is piled up with bags of goods to be delivered to Oxfam. Under the window I have boxes of tools which I hope to find a home for. By tomorrow evening, I doubt that there’ll be more than a narrow corridor between my bedroom door and my bed. Owing to Paul’s mental health issues, the council are legally bound to rehouse them, so from tomorrow night they should have temporary accommodation. I hope they get rehoused soon.

Until I spoke to my nephew, about twenty minutes ago, I was almost at the end of my tether. I was afraid to allow myself to cry. If I gave in to it now, I might never stop.

It appears – as always – my mental health condition must take a back seat; I’m a mother.


©Jane Paterson Basil