Finding Nature interweaved in stories- A summary of where to find my writing-


As someone who finds observing nature sublime, I acknowledge it is an important way God speaks. Regularly, I shriek excitedly as a gaggle of geese fly in a V shape. I advocate for wellbeing from nature as God reveals his majesty by showcasing mind-blowing sunsets. Recording my nature-watching journey reassures me there’s a masterful creator who inspires habitat protection for future generations. As a grandma to five, I am motivated. Balancing the content of my creative writing to raise awareness of environmental concerns effectively is my aim.


            Living next to the Grantham Canal is a blessing, with swans, ducks, swallows, coots and bats regularly swooping by. Equally, we reared our own lamb and kept hens for fresh eggs on the table at our smallholding. So, I widely share my enthusiasm of countryside life experienced in short stories and poems. It is an authentic way to tip the reader off about the precariousness of wildlife habitats by championing the wonder of wild species to encourage their preservation. My purpose is to celebrate and praise the spectacular free gift of nature by writing eco-stories to gain perspective. 


            Here’s where my wild creature advocacy stems from real-life inspiration- An extraordinary event happened around the millennium when paddling in the warm Red Sea with family. As I waded into the sea to pat the wave surface while watching my children swim, a couple of dolphins came up behind me. There was an echo of ‘Wow!’ as the magnificent mammals glided either side to do a swim-by. They had escaped from an area of paid-for experiences to swimming with dolphins. I was too flabbergasted to grab hold of their fins, though. What a privilege! My father snapped up a photo of my shocked face being ushered deeper into the waves by the cheeky dolphin duo. Some extracts from stories and poetry written to engage young people and adults in considering their unique environments and sustainability are in my “Count Our Blessings,” collection, Onwards & Upwards, 2021 below.


            Thus, I wrote about a similar event in The Real Me story where the protagonist is diving:

“I’m saved by this spectacular mirage which begins with a clicking sound. My heart races as the swell of a huge, grey fish moves me. For a few seconds, I hold my breath, enjoying the dolphin’s hypnotic gaze. During his ballet, this fantastic creature checks me out as sunlight bejewels his body. Playfully he turns, flicking his tail...” Again, in Finding Myself as the Tide Turns I use my experience of the splendour of the Lindisfarne coast to connect with sea creatures as the young adult Sarah revels:

“Waiting, my feet sank into the tiny shells on the shore, I almost missed nature’s treat of a shoal of silvery tiddlers swimming by. Together, we rippled the surface of the sea, forming our temporary peaceful spot. Only when the ghostly seal pups stopped barking from behind the rocky outcrop, I de-stressed by following on into the lapping waves up to my knees.”


            Now, I fully understand how God shares glimpses of the wonders of His creation to lift my spirits and equip me to evangelise others. When I worked as a Teaching Assistant in Primary school for many years, we particularly highlighted the awe and wonder of the seasons and weather. A favourite activity was taking the Afternoonies for a listening walk. We often left our desks to gather mahogany glazed conkers- fallen from nearby horse chestnut trees to mark autumn’s arrival. Locally, conkers are still baked, then drilled and threaded for hours of smashing fun. Or, to enjoy winter’s crisp bright snowfall, we’d hat and scarf up for snow-angel making on the iced grassy pitch.

So, there were subtle cues to an improved environment in my first YA-winning short story, Off the Beaten Track that told of an honest rural existence of fowl keeping:

 “One day this mud will be a meadow of tall buttercups. I know it. Right now though, I have to collect the eggs. I despise those chickens. I despise the way they’re turning our yard into a grey, slippery, mess. It’s horrible. Still the eggs are lovely.” 


            Writing about global warming comes with responsibilities and challenges. There, I comment upon alarming weather changes but try not to traumatise the reader. That came after learning lessons from some over-enthusiastic apocalyptic writing, Paradise Lost...Not! That is where there’s an Asian volcano eruption:

“There was a scorched line where the foul magnum cooled. It oozed from the fiery centre, reaching to the surface of the earth. Crackling flames enveloped the defiant, dragging the last of them back, screeching. I covered my ears. They left claw marks, etched forever in the ground - a terrible reminder of the time...” Lately, I realise this doom narrative backdrop from my early writing days was not as effective as showing the glory of our natural world.- Offering possible solutions before tragedy a more wholesome aspiration.


            Later, I wrote for young adults more sympathetically, avoiding volcanoes. Instead, my tale was about the effect of melting icebergs in Iceland with a carbon footprint-aware holiday story called Dancing on Thin Ice:

 “Naturally, huge lumps of ice break off into the lagoon; we adapt it into sculptures by keeping it frozen artificially... environmental activists are highlighting their concerns over the ice melting earlier each year...” There, I attempt to describe the outstanding Aurora Northern Lights despite ever witnessing the phenomena. Using an artistic license is essential when imagining better worlds. However, I did suggest a starting point for two young girls to engage in sustaining their local environment: “I let her sign us up to the next village litter pick.”


            By quoting expert opinion from Ben Okri in a 2021 Guardian report, I validate my point of view in Daydreaming:

 “Artists must confront the climate crisis-we must write as if these are the last days...We need a new art to waken people both to the enormity of what is looming and the fact that we can still do something about it.” Also, that story discussed the recent COP26 Conference and storm Arwen's flooding. 


            Therefore, with that signposting, I was commissioned by Arts Council England support to facilitate a project culminating in the Making Our World Better anthology, edited by me, Dahlia Publishing Ltd, 2022. I wrote as part of the stimulated active learner challenge delivered to a few previously marginalised groups across Leicester University. The foreword by Michael Attenborough CBE. D Litt said:

"Climate Change has brought us to the brink of self-destruction. We now need, as a matter of urgency, a creative response from humanity. .. a civilised society is one that is in constant dialogue with itself, one of evolutionary discovery and growth. This exciting new anthology is one vital part of this creative movement." I was happy to have this validation for my “Making Our World Better” facilitation efforts at the Attenborough Arts Centre, where Michael is the patron. 


            In that anthology, a couple of my poems reflected on lockdown and how engaging in nature helped improve our wellbeing. Firstly came Turning Over a New Leaf, explaining a walk in the park:

“The branches knew about vital social distancing, 

even then when humans were sniffling the bitter pandemic scent. 

Ash trees grew longer roots to help prevent their dieback, 

so we can learn from how these wise, adapted fir trees bent...”


            Then in You’ll Find Me as an Essential Worker gave a hint of my legacy starting with: 

“You’ll find me at Belvoir Vale; it’s tree-lined.

That’s the perfect place for my family. 

At Leicester’s greenest place to abide

Happily buzzing around kith and kin,

I’m there championing our hopeful story.”


            I take the command seriously to subdue the earth and the animal life and have mastery over all of it. It acts to give direction for caring for all creation and habitats. And I promote that approach in readers, where possible. Our small home uses solar panels to harvest the sun as a clean energy solution. We enjoy growing our vegetables in a large frame and greenhouse. For decades, I’ve used charity shops to recycle and make do with pre-loved clothes and reuse household items. So, I attempt to practise what I preach. Closer to home, reflecting upon familial inherited health issues, I wrote A Dot Leaf Legacy with more than a hint of truth. That life writing showcases exotic endangered species and a fantastic trip to Costa Rica inspired the wonders of health tourism:

 “Guanacaste coast... a protected rainforest running adjacent to the coral-filled Pacific. Warm memories came flooding back of clever, camouflaged insects ... and vibrant neon birds... a couple of green and red toucans and feeding hummingbirds honey... we need to protect the forests to avoid more species disappearing.” 


           Reorganising resources to share harvests and resources with those in need is worthwhile. As part of dealing with social injustices, I often pen possible solutions. In a previously unpublished tale set in Ukraine, I keep the reader aware of the ongoing horrors of war using the everyday pleasures of eating home-grown vegetables. Showing the contrasts of life with a juxtaposition of food availability since the invasion from before the war, Love Hurts attempts to empathise with those caught up in the conflict:

“We usually had an abundance of produce. My face burnt. Last night, Dido foraged for potatoes and wild field mushrooms from the dampest part of the community orchard. When he brought the ingredients in my belly churned, 'An army can't go to war on an empty stomach,' I clapped. As several chickens roamed our town since the bombing caused mass evacuation, I asked, 'Oh, no meat yet?'

 'You'll be lucky! Oh, what a treat meat pie would make!' my husband salivated. 'Sorry, I'm too slow to catch a chicken for May Day.'”


            So, my anthology and collection writing has a crossover target audience, which I serve in accessible literature and by doing readings, also being broadcast online and on the radio. As a member of the Wildlife Trust, I read my apple poetry at one of their local events. At my Random Acts of Wildness reading to establish identity, I read poetry called Rosy

 “A set-aside garden patch boasted the Old Reverend type apple

Onto whose strong twisted bough he knotted a used lorry tyre.

Only just up the road from Newton’s nature gravitation

Where stands the famous Flower of Kent eating variety.

I expected you wise apple tree to teach us much

About valuing our long roots & the importance of family.”


            Since working these last few years as a creative mentor with children, I’ve drafted picture books to reach the youngest audience and their carers. These enchanting dummies, printed in short runs, tell tales from my “Wild Animal Splash Landing” series. The first was “Sofia Swan Flies the Nest” the second, “Felicity Frog Finds Her Way.” There I offer positive identity affirmations by showing respect and wonder for water-born wildlife. I aim to use nature to model healthy attitudes for toddlers to emulate on their independence journey. These have been read to local Early Year’s groups.


            At present, there are seal and dolphin stories being created, too. I want to obtain the Arts Council England's support to deliver an illustrated text to a young green audience. Under their “Let’s Create” vision regarding the accelerating climate emergency, Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said that we should give opportunities to enjoy culture and confront such challenges:

“Creativity and culture have a particular role to play in responding to them: they allow us to reflect and comment on society, to better understand our own lives and those of others, and to occupy a shared space in which we can debate, present alternative views, and discover new ways of expressing our anxieties and ambitions.”


            With that focus in mind, from a picture book with the working title, Arun’s New Friend, I wrote this extract from a first draft:

“Then they spot a giant pup being fed creamy milk by his mummy, Arun jumps up and down. ‘Why has the seal mummy got a pretty necklace on?' The warden tells them the grey cow was caught in a fishing line. The poor seal still has a neck scar.” These words came after visiting a seal sanctuary at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire. There I touched upon my concern for waste going into the sea hinting at dire consequences for the sea life.        


            Another unpublished porpoise picture book story was stimulated when I was briefly a writer in residence at Scotland’s Cove Park. As part of my writing collaboration, I regularly engage with other artists to share our love of nature. There, I took encouragement from a Burns poem on their shelves from 1787, courtesy of Michael O’Mara’s “A Red Red Rose and other Poems”: On Scaring Some Water-Fowl in Loch Turit- A Wild Scene Among The Hills of Oughtertyre. Of the tenants of the lake, Robert indicates his wish to preserve water birds:


“In these savage, liquid plains, 

Only known to wand’ring swains,

Where the mossy riv’let strays,

Far from human haunts and ways;

All on Nature you depend,

And life’s poor season peaceful spend.


Or, if man’s superior might

Dare invade your native right,

On the lofty ether bourne,

Man with all his pow’rs you scorn;

Swiftly seek, on clanging wings,

Other lakes and other springs;

And the foe you cannot brave,

Scorn at least to be his slave.”           


            Earlier this year, I took notice of this famous poet’s historic warning to appreciate the birds. Other nature writers and showcasing artists are an eye-opener to the planned actions for sustainability and recovery. During 2020, I participated in nature-watch activities, recording birdsong on our field for inclusion in an online map of sounds. Scientists and artists used the drop in noise pollution during the coronavirus lockdown to create the first global public sound map of the spring dawn chorus. Throughout May, people around the world uploaded about 3,000 early morning bird recordings made on their phones to the Dawn Chorus website, where they were shared to help conservation and to create public art. The soundscape project was led by Prof Michael John Gorman, the founding director of the Biotopia museum in Munich, Germany.  

            Sadly, since bird flu hit, the songs of many local small birds are much quieter. Environmental concerns are not new; my meagre efforts and suggestions are realised by numerous green and eco charities actions throughout the world. I try to repackage some of these concerns into bite-size pieces; reflecting snippets when I experience the call to showcase our responsibilities. From believing God created the seasons in our world, His faithfulness and provision give us stability. The baton of providing care to protect our endangered wildlife and their habitats is passed onto the next generation through hope from continued artistic spotlights.  


            To anticipate another sunrise for all quote found on front cover of “Making Our World Better” edited by Fiona Linday, 2022, Dahlia Books:  

“Even in the darkest times the artist glimmers on.”- Dr Harry Whitehead, Director of the Centre for New Writing at the University of Leicester. 

© Fiona Linday 2024

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