Last weekend I went away with a friend. We traveled north-east to an area of the country I had not visited for almost ten years. The trip there was a challenge – lots of traffic and a detour trying to leave the city, then lightning, thunder, heavy rain and hail as we journeyed on. The light faded and the rain continued to fall. We saw this as a gift in this drought-parched land, but it made the drive slower than we had anticipated.
Others had arrived at the cottage which was to be our home earlier than us. We trundled our luggage and supplies from the car to the shelter of the eaves, where they took it inside. Even that short passage back and forth soaked us. But I have not been wet like that in heavy rain for many, many months and it was a refreshing experience.
Some of our companions were keen to spend the weekend taking part in the national Big Birding Day. They set off early the next morning, under looming clouds. But our cottage was in a forest and I planned to do some writing and to sit on the verandah and see what would come to me. So, armed with binoculars, pen and paper I sat and gazed at the trees around me. I was rewarded by my silence and stillness. In the two days we spent there we managed to identify forty five difference species of birds, five of which I had never seen before (and any birder amongst you will tell you what a thrill that was for me!) Amazing birds with bright colours, lively calls and long names. The blue-mantled crested fly- catcher, the purple crested turaco, the yellow-throated wood warbler!
What imagination! Not only by those privileged to name such creatures but by our God who created and painted them in the first place. I spent a lot of time worshipping the Creator for the beauty that surrounded me.
Yet there was an element of sadness too, for the memories evoked both by the place and the activity of finding and identify the birds were bitter-sweet. For times have changed and what was once a well-loved pastime does not take place very much anymore. Even after so many years, the sense of sadness was there.
Was it overpowering? Did I regret going? Not at all – for the lasting memory for me will be the beauty and the opportunity to re-visit a much-loved area, and continue a much-loved activity. And it is another ‘first’ that has been faced and is now behind me. Will they ever finish, these ‘firsts’? Probably not. But each time I face one, there is one less in the future. And none of them have de-railed me, for always there is the awareness of the presence of God.
So I look back on a happy memory, thrilled with my bird-count, capturing the beauty of the place re-visited in my mind – and I am at peace.
And I even managed to write a chapter for my next book, in spite of all the activity happening around me! It was a great weekend – one I will remember for a long time