I Say Farewell

Farewell Little Woolden Moss.
Farewell Great Manchester Wetlands –
an end of contract and news of a failed job interview
fall on the same day but I haven’t failed
because we planted that last plant,

that last little plug plant of common cottongrass,

greening and rimmed with red like a sunset,
ready to turn golden next month’s dawn.

Farewell to hare’s tail cottongrass,
tails showing like the tails of brown hares
racing up and down the bunds like celebrities.

Farewell to all eleven species of sphagnum,
bog rosemary, cross-leafed heath, long
may you grow and prosper beauties.

Farewell to the oyster catchers who we saw
back-to-back on the bund, reflected in the water,
who cried weep weep in the air far from human tears.

Farewell to the lapwings in their black-and-white mating flight.

Farewell to the curlews with their cur-lee cur-lee-eee,
to the four flying over with down-curved beaks.

Farewell to the skylarks keeping our spirits up
and to the meadow pipits piping away.

Farewell to those I worked with now friends.

Farewell to the porter cabin and the fact we had a toilet.

Farewell to the journeys down the M6 (busy and contentious).

Farewell to a journey now complete – back home now
I will wait, again, to hear the will of the gods…


This poem relates to the completion of the contract work I have been carrying out planting on Little Woolden Moss for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust and my failure, on interview, to gain the paid position of Great Manchester Wetlands Trainee.

These photographs show the development of common cottongrass on a mossland over time.

13 thoughts on “I Say Farewell

  1. contemplativeinquiry says:

    I like your poem and pictures and the sense of respectful intimacy with the landscape that they convey. I’m sorry to hear you can’t continue there – and trust that something that speaks to your passion and commitment will come along.

  2. Tiege McCian says:

    Those stupid interviewers don’t know what they’ve passed up. You’ll achieve your dreams though!

    Your poem is outstanding. Such a personal telling of completion and the goodbyes that come with it. Your words create a window onto the serene, even melodious wilderness. Though it echoes some regret in its tone, ultimately it is peaceful and calming to read. Despite this, it brought to mind two very melancholy songs, ‘Coyotes’ by Don Edwards and the old British ballad ‘Adieu to Old England’
    Coyotes- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ofDcZD9aS9E
    Adieu to Old England- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TJGgMISal38

    This is very timely for me because I’ve had to experience some loss and farewells myself this past month. But this isn’t about me!!! Great work, this obviously moved you deeply and some art of note came out of it!

  3. Aurora J Stone says:

    Very moving poem, Lorna. Sorry the interview didn’t go as you has hoped. The work you did was and will continue to be important and clearly put you into your landscape in a profound way. A way forward will present itself.

  4. Bogatyr says:

    Things are very hard at the moment. A lot of people are chasing any job that comes up, I think. I recently went quite a long way through a recruitment process before not making it through the final round. I can’t tell why, or what I could have done better. It’s an experience I’ve often had in my life, so I completely understand your disappointment.

    My unsolicited thoughts… I’m coming to think more along the lines of singing the world we want into existence. It’s not just a matter of scouring the job sites for vacancies to apply for; it’s a matter of establishing a presence that attracts the right jobs to us. A few years ago I was saved from poverty and despair when I was approached directly for a good job I’d never even seen advertised – in fact, I didn’t even know this kind of job existed – because the recruiter had seen a profile I’d posted that happened to appeal to them. More prosaically, I could describe it as maintaining a personal marketing campaign, identifying and highlighting your strengths, and getting the word out.

    In your case, you’re a talented prose writer, who has been published. You’re learned about myth and legend; you have a passion for your local landscape and community. You have worked with the natural world, and want to do so in the future, and you’re able to take that experience and connect the gritty work of environmental restoration with the mythic world. That’s no small talent. I don’t know you well enough to suggest what you might do with all of that, but it might be a useful exercise to take a personal inventory of your interests, skills, experience and accomplishments, and contemplate how you would use that to sing a future into being…

    • lornasmithers says:

      I hear you. And I know too well that marketing is as much (or more) about creating a persona as it as about creating good works. This is something I’m very bad at and I’ve found promotional work, particularly on social media, comes at too great a cost to my mental health. Plus there is very little interest in what I write about. That’s why I’m trying to get regular paid work in conservation. It’s incredibly competitive but I am making slow progress.

  5. Bogatyr says:

    Just to add to my previous comment:

    I said identifying and highlighting your strengths and that was a clumsy use of words. I should have said; “establishing and presenting the way you want to be seen”.

    In short, creating your personal brand. I think many people shy away from the idea, perhaps because they feel that it’s ‘marketing’ and so somehow insincere and manipulative. Sometimes it is, of course, but every single one of us would like to be seen in terms of our best features. A book I found very useful some years ago was “Brand You 50” by Tom Peters. It’s a small book, easy to read, but packed full of useful ideas. Copies are cheap on Abebooks, or you might be able to get it through your library. As he says about it here:

    A personal brand is your promise to the marketplace and the world. Since everyone makes a promise to the world, one does not have a choice of having or not having a personal brand. Everyone has one. The real question is whether someone’s personal brand is powerful enough to be meaningful to the person and the marketplace.

  6. ceridwensilverhart says:

    I love these lines:
    “…but I haven’t failed
    because we planted that last plant.”

    Very true! You’ve done great work, and I’m sure that if one path has closed it is only to give you time to find the best one to continue your journey.

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