It is a more fortunate destiny to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire.
I’m staying in Tarbert, Scotland. The local people said “Have you been to the shell beach yet? I was telling some folk that I collect sea glass and shells to make mosaics. I call it my hidden treasure.
Tucked away out of sight along the coast at Tarbert are two shell beaches. Other inlets nearby are covered in rocks. For some reason only two small inlets are covered in broken clam shells, pink, white, brown and orange with hues in between, lie stacked up on the shore. The waves for years have broken the shells into small pieces.
The tourists would never find it. Access to the beach is hidden at first glance. If you follow a well worn path under the ferns, over stones and bared roots of trees you will reach the beach. Perhaps Robert Louis Stevenson, who was from Scotland, knew about it when he penned the words I have quoted.
Hurrah. Lockdown has eased in Northern Ireland. Shops are open and people can dine out again in Belfast.
Brendan and I were going on a Mystery Tour with Our daughter, Ruth. Mary Black’s songs were seranading us as we headed north out of Belfast.
Brendan and I were singing a different song eleven years ago as we went to the hospital to have a test to check for cancer. “Because he lives I can face tomorrow”. The Cherry Blossom trees at the entrance were in full bloom.
Today eleven years on Cherry Blossom Trees are in full glory in the sunshine. They seemed to line our journey today, waving from gardens and hedgerows. Scripture says the trees of the field will clap their hands as we go out with joy. Yes I have joy after those sad days of cancer eleven years ago. I am healed by the power of the name of Jesus.
Our first stop was Ballyronan, a caravan and woodland park on the shores of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. Plenty of wildlife flourish here. We saw two healthy herons up ahead on the walkway. Whopper swans and ducks come here from Iceland. Chaffinches and sparrows sang overhead in the Ash tree branches. Although we didn’t see any, there is a good population of bats and owls.
Our next stop was where the River Blackwater joins the Lough Neagh. We lingered there in the stillness. A kingfisher flew over the water and disappeared in a flash.
Time for lunch. We headed towards Ardboe. At a crossroads not far away was a small building with a sign outside saying
High Cow Bagels, Drive Through. Coffee.
Brendan said “Let’s stop here. This guy has a sense of humour.” High Cow is the English translation of Ardboe. Ard means High and Bo means Cow.
I asked the Chef, “Is there any cow on the menu.” We chatted back and forth and had a good laugh. I told him I was healed of cancer. He was happy to receive some of my books.
Ruth looked at the menu.
High Cow Classic, High Cow Melt, The Cowboy Melt, High Cow Big Breakfast and much more. We enjoyed a unique tasty lunch, coffee and a High Cow Classic Bagel al fresco. The chef was a bundle of fun and the food was five star. I’d definitely go back again.
You never know what you may find when you leave the motorway and go on the roads less traveled.
Jesus said to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet their Heavenly Father looks after them. I love bird watching. I had plenty of opportunity to study different birds when I lived along the shores of Strangford Lough.
Near where we lived in Portaferry was a favoured nesting place for three couples of Guillemots. These are small sea birds that spend their time at sea until spring. They build their nests in crevices above the water line on the stone wall. The south facing wall received the full warmth of the sun, a comfortable place to get the maximum heat for their vulnerable young. The chicks were hidden from the blast of chilly winds and out of reach from predators.
This particular group of Guillemots became quite tame. They would sit on the wall above their nests unafraid of walkers passing by. They are a feature every spring. One is sure to see these little black birds flying or swimming near their nests. I was able to photograph one couple last year close up from my car. They didn’t fly away even though I was very near them.
Their black feathers flow smoothly back from their pointed black beak. They have bright red legs and a patch of white on each wing. Their feathers look as of they are smoothed with oil. This gives the bird effective movement down underwater to feed on food at the bottom of the Lough.
During the strong winds and storms of February 2020 the shore wall a further few miles along from Portaferry was broken. The road remained closed for several months. The reason for the delay in the repair was because it is a nesting site for a colony of Guillemots. Many pairs make their nests and rear their young safely. There was even less disruption to their nesting and feeding because the road above was closed. Well done to the council who waited till the birds had reared their young before repairing the road.
Last week on a drive north along the Antrim coast we stopped at Glenarm. This village has a small, picturesque harbour with white limestone walls rising from the deep blue water. We walked close and to our delight little black birds flew out from the walls and skimmed along the water away from us. Guillemots were nesting here. It is an ideal nesting site, with crevices between the stones on the south facing walls and small fish swimming below in the water for them to feed on. We watched the birds. It was lovely to see the black and white birds below us before they ventured back to their nests. This harbour is an ideal place for the Guillemots to rear their young.
Seeing the Guillemots reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me when he tells me not to worry. Matthew 6 v 25 to 27 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Many artists have written poetry, songs or painted scenes from October! The month of October for me brings a season of change and harvest. Situations I have been praying for seems to get answered in October. Our large family made a move from Coleraine to Co Down in Northern Ireland back in October the seventh in 1998. One son and two grandchildren have been born in this month. Another son, his Canadian wife and three young sons have just returned from Vancouver after six years away. He left with a suitcase and has returned with his arms literally full. My book, “The Grapes are Worth It” was completed and printed this month.
Change is reflected in nature. The full moon in the sky hails change. It is called the harvest moon. In our area the fields are emptied of rich crops of potatoes, wheat, barley and corn. The brown earth has yielded its goodness to the farmers. The leaves of the trees have changed color from summer green to amber. I am reminded of a verse from scripture, where the Angel of the Lord is described .
I saw a figure that appeared to be a man. From what appeared to be his waist down, he looked like a burning flame. From the waist up he looked like gleaming amber. Ezekiel 8 v 2
We took a drive through the Mourne Mountains at the weekend. The trees’ leaves in the valley and hillside near Rostrevor painted a glorious picture that will stay with me. Seeing the beauty of the leaves of the trees at this season is healing to the soul. Scripture tells me “The leaves are for the healing of the nations.” It is true.
Brent Geese return form Canada in October. Seventy five per cent of the population of Brent geese in the world come to Strangford Lough for winter. Their brown necks and shoulders blend in well with the seaweed and stones. Underneath they have white feathers.
One morning I was traveling up the Ards peninsula. The sun was rising in the sky behind me. Birds were feeding along the shore of Strangford Lough, enjoying the warmth of the early morning sun’s rays. I noticed a large group of sea birds in the distance. They looked like white gulls. But to my surprise they were Brent Geese. Their white underbelly feathers reflected the low sun’s light.
These are some of my reflections this October of 2020.
The Loughshore Rd in Portaferry, Co Down is very popular with local walkers, and more so during the Covid restrictions. There is less vehicle traffic. A family of Black Guillemots have become quit celebrities to local visitors. They have brought joy to many people during this difficult time when people have had to self isolate. Getting out in nature among God’s creation brings healing to the soul and mind.
The Black Guillemot is a small black sea bird with a white patch on each wing. Each has a pointed beak, smooth feathers and red feet. They feed on sea creatures and can dive very deep underwater to feed. It’s a privilege to get to see such wild life nearby.
Black Guillemots have a nest amid the rocks in the wall along the shoreline of Strangford Lough. They have become quite tame. Passersby stop to watch them as their family play in the water below. My daughter was driving past last evening. Two birds were sitting on the wall. I asked her to reverse the car to see if we could see them up close.
Amazingly the two birds were not disturbed as we stopped. They didn’t fly off. We were able to take photos of them close up. What a delight.
The waves from storms in February breached the shoreline wall in various places. Some were repaired before the lockdown. The road had to be closed to traffic about a mile along the shore from where we live. The wall was broken and part of the road fell into the sea. The Covid lockdown prevented workers getting to fix it.
Then in July when work was due to start to repair the road, it was discovered that another group of Black guillemots had built nests nearby. They were still feeding their young in the nests. The department of the Environment stepped in and advised work to stop. The repair didn’t go ahead. The workers are waiting till the Black Guillemots are finished reading their young.
No room to wade on the shoreline The water is lapping against the wall I’m safe here on the ledge My favourite spot Jutting out of the water I’ll wait And keep warm With my neck Sunk between my shoulder blades I’ll wait Till the water recedes I’ll wait To dart at some tiny fish Lingering in the shallows I know their hiding places I’m too old To fly from my perch To find another spot I’ll leave Those fishing grounds To the younger ones. I’ll wait
I am always encouraged when I watch birds in my garden. Jesus tells us to look at the birds. They don’t sow nor reap yet our Heavenly Father looks after them. We are more important to God than birds so we are encouraged to learn from the birds. There are swallows nests in the eve of a barn and a swallows nest in a hedge nearby. Psalm 84 says “Even the swallow and the sparrow find a nest near your altar where she can rear her young. “. An altar speaks of a place of prayer. So if one is praying in his home be sure there will be a bird’s nest nearby in the springtime.
I’m fascinated by the energy the birds exert in rearing their young. Firstly they fly here and there to collect material to build a nest. Then the female lays her eggs and hatches her young. The male and female gather food to feed the hungry chicks. The poor parents are exhausted after the young leave the nest. I often felt like that after the summer when my children were home for the summer. I have never seen chicks in a bird’s nest before. This year I had the treat of seeing my first nest of young.
After visiting a friend before lockdown, Jean sent me a picture of a robin’s nest. She had been furloughed from work and was enjoying her garden. The parent birds had found a safe spot under a plastic covering in a shed. Jean wanted to use a table she had stored there. To her delight she found the nest with three chicks in it. She didn’t unsettle the nest but checked it every day till the chicks fledged three weeks later.
She inspected the nest more closely and found small purple pellets at the bottom of the nest. She did some research and it was suggested they acted as insulation and absorbed waste. How clever the robins are. They even know what can be used as good material for their rearing of their young.
My son is home during lockdown. Back in March we had some logs that needed chopped. Each day my son enjoyed a bit of exercise chopping the wood. His dad and he cleared a space in the yard to store the wood for next winter. One morning in May I noticed a Wagtail flitting in and out of the wood pile. Was he building a nest in the midst of the newly stacked logs? I never got to check where the nest was.
But I was social distancing at a friend’s farm recently. He said come here I have something to show you. At the back of his modern tractor in between the gear for lifting heavy weights was a nest with three baby wagtails. He told us the parents feed the young when the tractor is not in use. When the tractor is in use the parents follow it to feed the young when the farmer stops. How special is the lengths the birds go to rear their young and overcome obstacles.
I heard a cuckoo recently. It had a clear crisp,call. I was cheered to hear it’s call. They fly in from Africa in April. The female lays her eggs in a wagtails nest or other convenient nest in the meadow. She is lazy. She leaves the rearing of her young to poor little birds that feed one hungry Cuckoo chick after it has pushed the other young out of the nest. The Cuckoos don’t stay too long they fly away in May.
My daughter lives in a street in Belfast . Blackbirds have built a nest in a bush in the hedgerow. She sent me a photo of the nest with young in it. The parent birds fly in and out to feed them. Ruth is keeping her cat in lock down in case she disturbs the birds.
All these three stories of birds has comforted us during this season of isolation. We are looking to the birds as Jesus taught us. They don’t wear masks or are restricted in rearing their young. They continue to survive.
It is May 2020. The government has urged us to remain at home until further notice for fear of the spread of the Corona Virus in the country.
It has been unusually sunny and warm here in Ireland for May. I am not confined to the house. I am out enjoying my garden tending to plants that are breaking ground in the safe warmth of the sun’s rays. They new growth is thirsty. Pot plants already established soon wilt if not refreshed with water.
I had to rescue two lupin plants from an invasion of greenfly. The new shoots were weakened by dry conditions and their position in the shade at the back of the house. The green fly landed and began to eat at the juicy heads of flowers that were reaching up beyond the leaves. I sprayed the offending creatures with soapy water. I watered the plant. It’s leaves grew strong again instead of limp. I moved the plants to the front of the house where the sea air and sunshine will help them recover.
God promises in his word there will always be winter and summer. I’m so happy with this reassurance. I found this winter cold and longer than usual. There were storms and wet, dark days. The wind found any space past door frames and windows. Inside the house was cooler than normal. I am enjoying the windless and warm days of summer.
I can relate to the flowers. One needs the proper conditions to flourish. A good place in the sun, fresh air and water, strong against any infection or enemies. Jesus promised he would give me water that I will not thirst again. He gives me his Holy Spirt who revives me and strengthens me body, soul and spirit.
I have tried to grow lupin at my previous homes without success. I am determined to look after the lupins that grow here. I believe they flourish here because the greenfly doesn’t like salty air.
The lupin remind me of days of my childhood. My birthday is in May. I probably was feeling happy at the thought of my birthday coming soon. I noticed the beautiful flowers that appeared on trees and roadside verges as I walked alone to school. I walked past a neighbours garden. This lady had a colourful display of lupins every year, pink, purple, yellow and white. They were in full bloom on my birthday. It’s that time of year again. I am tending my lupin plants.