Present Time Still Standing

The present cold, dull day makes one want to stay close to home comforts. My AGA cooker is one of my home comforts. For the last few days it was not working properly and I was feeling the cold. The engineer checked it over on Friday night. The problem was a blocked filter stopping the oil flowing to power the cooker.

I had been meditating on the scripture about five wise virgins who had their lamps filled with oil. I wrote a blog on the subject. I was experiencing at first hand what it was like not to have the oil flowing. I was very cold as a result. I was waiting patiently to see if the Aga was working again. I was overjoyed to see it was working better than it had been for a long time and my kitchen was warm again.  I cooked pancakes for breakfast, made wheaten bread in the oven and cooked soup, all before ten am.

In the early morning the sun light up the sky and sea to a pale blue. Light and warmth were returning. Is the winter over?

My husband and I went for a walk along the shore. We walked through the variety of boats safe on dry land for the winter. A rich man’s yacht, a black upturned curragh, an unfinished wooden skiff and some fiber glass small boats sheltered there. We went to our favorite spot to collect sea glass. Oh, the welcome warmth on our backs as we bent down searching.

Later we sat at the quay sharing some fish and chips. Other creatures were enjoying the welcome sunny morning. Brent geese fed in the water and gulls soared overhead. Two gulls landed on the pier a little distance off. I took a photo of them. A friend distracted me for a while. She was out enjoying the morning as well.

When I looked at the gulls again, I noticed the bigger one was standing on one leg. I commented to my husband. A moment later the gull stretched the missing leg out behind. He limped a few steps forward and sat down. His partner looked on attentively. He must have been in pain. We prayed that the gull’s leg would be healed and restored.

Yesterday was a joyful day. I wanted to fit in so much while the sun shone. The joy of yesterday overflowed into today. The cold and dullness at the present time has not dented my sense of wellbeing.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/present/

The First Flowers of Spring.

My daughter, husband and four children came to visit yesterday. They have to make a three hour journey from the south of Ireland.  This was their Christmas visit as life was too busy for us all to see each other then.  The children have past the baby and play school stage. No buggies or car seats to contend with. Now the grandchildren are approaching the teenage years. Long legs and reaching arms need room.  They are blooming like the flowers Shann reached me.  Mark’s people carrier Jeep has served the family well.

They all poured out of the vehicle, glad of the stretch. We shared hugs, so glad to see each other. Bags of presents weren’t forgotten in the back seat. I didn’t notice their visiting student from Spain at first. She is staying with them for six weeks to improve her English. A student exchange has been working between Ireland and Spain for many years. The Spanish like the tone of the English the Irish use.

I remembered back to when we would take our children on trips in our van to the beach, the playground or a forest. They poured out of the van and ran in every direction like calves released from the stall. Brendan would whistle and they would come back when it was time for home.

We gathered in the kitchen for lunch. The children were excited to be back at Granda’s house.

“I’m sorry they’re a bit battered and bruised,” Shann said. I wasn’t paying attention as I reached a bowl from the cupboard. There was clattering of delph and cutlery as the girls set the table.
“Did Mark have to stop and deal with the children?” I said thinking it was the children Shann was talking about.  I looked up.  She was referring to the bunch of flowers she had given me.
We all had a good laugh. I love this first bunch of spring flowers.

“Did you come across on the ferry?” I asked Mark. “Yes” he said. “The attendant informed me there was a special offer on this Sunday. If you buy a return ticket we can deal with any children who have misbehaved. We throw them overboard.” We burst out laughing again. This is Irish humour. I hope the Spanish girl didn’t mind.

On the sunny afternoon all the girls headed down to the shore. Hannah arranged a competition to see who could pick the most sea glass for granny.  That was good idea because it motivated them to search all over the place. They had the extra blessing of seeing different birds, a heron, gulls, oystercatchers, Brent geese and redshanks.

Back at the house the treasure was displayed and counted. Ten points for each blue glass, five for green and three for white. The winner was announced, cheered and rewarded. They had good fun. I have the added benefit of all that sea glass to work with.

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Meanwhile Mark, with some helpers loaded up bicycles, table and chairs he had stored with us since they moved house. He secured it to the top of the jeep. No worries with Mark. Too soon it was time to go. Mark sped off with a bigger load. I hope they got across on the ferry with no one or nothing going overboard.  A great day.

The Arctic Terns Have Arrived.

I drove out this morning to town.  I parked my car along the sea front and walked on the sunny side of the street.  It was too chilly on the shaded side.  Resident gulls and Brent geese on the waters below were enjoying the warmth of the early sun too.

The winter slumber of people and nature has been awakened by the warm sun and noisy gulls eager to prepare for new life.

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The population of gulls along the shore has increased dramatically this week.  Artic terns have arrived at their usual nesting place on an island near Strangford harbor.  They are safe from intruders across a short stretch of water, but near enough for the onlooker to enjoy their activities.  They gather in the evening, bodies white against the black, sea washed rock.

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Another attraction for many black headed gulls this morning was the presence of a farmer ploughing up a field nearby.  It is seed time.  He is busy getting the land ready.  I was reminded of the poem I Will Go With My Father A ploughing, by Joseph Campbell.

I will go with my father a-ploughing
To the green field by the sea,
And the rooks and the crows and the seagull
Will come flocking after me.
I will sing to the patient horses
With the lark in the while of the air,
And my father will sing the plough-song
That blesses the cleaving share.

Instead of horses the farmer today is using a big tractor pulling a large wide machine which grinds up the soil.  Hundreds of gulls follow the fresh upturned soil.  They dive for tasty morsels of worms and insects destrubed by the machinery.  Rooks and crows live nearby in the forest.  They join in the foray, just as the poem says.  Joseph Campbell was born in Co Down.  Perhaps his father ploughed in the green fields by the sea near where I live.

Look at the birds of the air,  they don’t sow nor reap yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Matthew 6 v 26
I saw our Heavenly Father at work today feeding the gulls.

I Must Go Down To The Sea Again

imageI am inspired to write this blog after reading “Sweet Killough, let down your Anchor”,  written by Maurice Hayes.  His mother was born in Listowel Co Kerry.  Living in Killough at the other end of Ireland seemed a million miles in the 1930s.  Her mother sent her a copy of the Kerryman every week.  News from home kept his mum in touch.  She seldom got to visit Kerry.

Hopefully my experience will give you a flavour of life along Strangford Lough near my home in Portaferry, N Ireland.  For my family abroad, my friends and followers dotted around the world, please take a walk with me on this pleasant November morning.

Brendan and I decided to take a walk, soon after sunrise.  Each time we take a walk we get a glimpse of the wildlife along the seashore, in the water, in the air or on the nearby grasslands.  This morning was no exception.

In the bay in front of us many colourful buoys, all shapes and sizes bob about in the water.  They provided anchors for yachts during the summer.  The swallows have left and so have the boats.  They will winter out in the safety of some yard.  Each buoy has a bird perched on it.  The biggest buoy has the biggest seabird, ranging from a heron, cormorant to some seagulls.  They squabble for supremacy.
They rest there enjoying the rising sun and still air.

Along the road I see a small upturned crab, partly eaten.  How did a crab get stranded along the road. I believe it is the remains of a meal a crow had left behind.  There is a forest along part of the shore.  Crows settle there in the evening.  In the morning most of them head off to feed on fields inland.  Not so our resident crows.  There are a dozen of these birds that have adapted to living off food from the shore.  As I was driving one day a crow dropped a sea shell onto the road.  The shell cracked open and the crow enjoyed a tasty morsel.  Clever creature.  They have adapted to foraging along the shore: food at their doorstep.

Brendan drew my attention to two aeroplanes flying west overhead, one in front of the other, to a far off shore.  We are enjoying having our feet on the ground after our recent travels.  We are beside still waters instead, having our souls restored.

The Lord is my shepherd;  he leadeth me beside the still waters. (‭Psalms‬ ‭23‬:‭1-2‬ KJV)

We heard a honking sound from the other side of the lough.  There were large birds, I think swans, flying in formation to our right.  Brendan counted fourteen, the number of our  children.  They have flown the nest.  Gone but not forgotten.  This day forty four years ago I gave birth to our first child.  So started many years of child rearing.  A new season for us now.

A group of oyster catchers were hardly noticeable along the water’s edge.  They sprang into flight as we approached.  Herons and oystercatchers live happily together along the shore.  Gulls will try to chase herons, much to their annoyance and screech their disapproval.

A lone curlew catches Brendan’s attention.  He takes a closer look with the binoculars.  It has a distinctive long curved bill.  My Little book of Birdwatching comes in handy.  A few blackbirds dart into the hedgerows, taking shelter for the winter.  I was delighted to see a group of the Brent Geese sheltering behind Ballyhenry Island.  They had ventured down the coastline from Newtownards.  They looked fat and their white under bellies were high lighted in the low sunshine.  I can expect them soon to be feeding near the bottom of our garden.

A large bird dropped speedily into a field nearby.  It later perched on the top branch of a tree in the hedge row in the distance.  We could see markings on the back feathers.  We knew it was a bird of prey, but which one?  I looked up my Little Book.  It was a female kestrel.

The ultimate visitor was a seal diving into the seaweed offshore.  This area must be his territory.  We have met him before.

All of us were enjoying the unexpected warm morning.   Brendan and I returned home uplifted, thankful for the beauty of creation around us.  I had braced myself for a cold wind with hat, scarf and gloves.   But no, it was a pleasant, warm, bright morning down by the sea.  Unlike John Masefield’s description of his going down to the sea in his poem  ” Sea Fever”.

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

Thank you for sharing my walk down by the sea.

“All creation rightly gives you praise.”