Sweet Chestnuts by Tempe Nell

Nature artwork by Tempe Nell

There are days where we could do with a dose of nature but life seems to get in the way.

I’ve touched briefly on ideas such as indoor gardening and art, but another great way to access the calming effects of nature in everyday life is through the written word.

There are some wonderful books which have the ability to transport us to wild places full of nature. However, on days where you just can’t set aside the time to get into a book, poems can offer a window into nature and provide that ‘breath of fresh air’ that we need!

The following poem and beautiful accompanying artwork is by Tempe Nell. Tempe is a brilliant and inspiring woman whose poems are a joy to read.

Enjoy this gem of a poem and allow yourself the time to become immersed in its soggy, autumn landscape!


Sweet Chestnuts

Struck by falling leaves and matching wools,

We loped round a steepening corner and

And paused under the umbrella-shade of a sinking house.

Hesitantly, we contemplated an early return

And, as your double jumper dappled greener

And the drips began to runnel, heavily, we doubled back.

But on cue, the rain softened, and turning once more,

Now with more purpose we stepped past invading snowberries,

Our feet leaving tarmac to short-slip over path pebbles.

Bricks turned to bark and under canopy spreading,

Our toes nosed through wet leaves like happy dogs.

Oh hello Grandpa! You announced to an ancient oak

Whose limbs, now reduced, lay beetling below

And you imagined ladies with parasols

And I imagined running my hands up Grandpa’s vertical skin.

Bearing left, to a different tree, we snap-crunched beechnut cases

Past a couple with distinctive coats and over a bridge

Where the sky flapped sideways for a moment.

Rounding right, we beheld our prize, slightly raised on its own rooted mound.

Above hundreds of prickling cases boasting cracks of sweet chestnuts

Smoothly huddled to each other’s curves within.

But the branches were now empty of their nuts, whether by wind or by time,

Laying your rope redundant. So with eyes downcast,

Like birds, we hopefully hopped through the litter for more hidden treasure.

We damned the old woman who we pictured, sack-full,

Lugging the tree’s sweet hoard away.

And, urgent to deny the settling chill, we continued on,

First under a black walnut whose smell, once dislodged,

Tingled lemon-peppery in our noses,

And then past shrunken blackberries, ripe too early for us Autumn foragers.

Two dogs approached on the coming curve, friendly (part wheaten),

And you threatened to strip naked and swim in the pond under the gaze of the gold-fishing heron and to the joyous cries of Hampstead.

As we approached the edge of our walk, your thoughts turned to time,

And we, in a different mood, Boston and Virginia crept past an intense wet fox-shit stink

And under a weeping willow, which we greeted like an old friend, to return to your secret garden.

-Tempe Nell

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