Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Golden Hour

Towards Castlefreke and Long Strand
Towards Castlefreke and Long Strand

There's a time in the evening when the sun is thinking about setting but seems reluctant to do so.  Low in the sky the light is soft and filtered, imparting a certain 'glow' to everything.

As I stood in that field of Barley, I felt like I was in the midst of a great painting, a work of genius, by the great Artist.  It was a moment of beauty; I could hear the sea rush against the shore to my left and I could smell the earthy ground, still wet from the recent rainfall.  A breeze was gently blowing across the fields so that the Barley seemed - almost - to mimic the movement of the nearby waves.  There was a mist beginning to rise in the distant hollows and I knew that the special light was about to leave, so I reluctantly did the same.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Barley Cove

A little while ago now, for a belated family celebration we took a trip an hour-and-a-bit West from here to Barley Cove for the night.  It is a beautiful place.  We got a great deal on a family room overlooking the beach, which was only a couple of minutes walk away.  If the sun is shining it is hard to beat Ireland (that's a very big 'IF' though)!

I limited myself to just two rolls of film and a 50mm lens, so no sweeping landscapes, just little details here and there...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poisonous Beauty

Woody Nightshade Solanum dulcamara

My better half saw this plant growing in a couple of different places in the garden.  We thought that it might be Deadly Nightshade, and a quick search on Google showed us this plant exactly, referred to in a number of different articles as Deadly Nightshade.  So that is what I thought I was dealing with.  I put on a thick pair of gloves and dug it out, put it in black bag and into the bin.  Foolishly I had some skin showing on my arms and just touching the plant brought my skin out in an itchy rash.  I mentioned all this to a couple of wise farmers on Sunday morning and they looked at me a bit quizzically.  So I went to the bookshelf afterwards and found "The Oxford Book of Wild Flowers".  It turns out that this plant is in fact "Woody Nightshade"; it is poisonous (though not as poisonous as the "Deadly" version) and is a particular danger for children, pets and farm animals who might like to eat the egg-shaped berries.  I'm fascinated at how such a pretty flower can be poisonous, though that poison (from the berries) has been used for centuries to treat various skin ailments (didn't do my skin much good) and even (in a dilution) to treat Rheumatism!

Foxglove Digitalis purpurea

In another part of the garden there is a much better known plant, the Foxglove.  I have always loved the flowers, I remember watching with delight as a child as bees scampered into the bell-shaped purple domes to emerge only to disappear once more (it didn't take much to keep me amused)!  Also known as "Dead Man's Bells" (because this is a poisonous plant too), the leaves produce a drug used to treat heart conditions.

I am ever amazed at the sheer variety and staggering depth of complexity found in Creation.  Similar to my reaction to the wonderful Gannets and Razorbills (see below), understanding more of nature brings  me closer to the One who spoke all this into being ex nihilo (out of nothing):
11 Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
(Genesis 1)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Great Saltee

Gannet (in front) & Razorbill (behind)

Have you ever experienced something in Creation that took your breath away?  It hasn't happened to me too often; I remember a volcanic pool in Yugoslavia (I think) that was two hundred metres deep and you could see the bottom so clearly through the depths of crystal-clear water.  Another time I remember snorkelling and chancing across a magnificent Octopus that kept changing colour.  I had the privilege once of seeing Mount Kenya emerge from the clouds, impossibly large on the horizon...  (I realise that I am now sounding like Basil Fawlty giving his "herds of Wildebeest" speech!)

Gannets' Rock

These small band of memories was joined by another on Tuesday as I was invited to join a couple of photographers as they headed out to the Saltee Islands off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford.  It was a beautiful day and I was simply awestruck at it all, from the boat trip to the sheer number of birds and the beauty of the Island.  It was stunning.  At one point, as I rounded a corner of rock and saw ahead of me thousands of Gannets nesting and swooping and squawking I just wanted to fall on my knees and worship - not what I was looking at, but the One who created such incredible beauty.

Gannet Chick

Admittedly the little chap above wouldn't win any beauty contests but it was just incredible to be able to get so close, a real privilege.  I felt like a special guest, invited to a place where yes I was an intruder but momentarily at least a cautiously welcomed one.  

Great Saltee Island

One of the photographers I was with told me how, when he had brought his daughter to the Island on a previous visit, she had remarked that "it felt like heaven".  

I got a little bit of that feeling too; I only know as much as what heaven will be like as the Bible tells us, but something tells me that there was at least a trace of that eternal magic ingredient here...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clonakilty Agricultural Show

We had a great family outing to the Clonakilty Agricultural Show last Sunday afternoon.  I'm told that we had exceptional weather (it nearly always rains and this year we only had a light shower).  It was all very impressive, yes the displays were great and the exhibitions and the stalls and stands were really very good, but what impressed me most was the community spirit and just the sheer togetherness of everyone.

People of varying backgrounds and interests were there together and all really enjoying themselves, the winners were congratulated the losers commiserated and it just all 'worked'.

This might all sound strange to those who are familiar with this (and other) shows, let me explain:  I grew up in a community which had strong links to the land and I remember shows in my childhood years that were just like the one here in Clonakilty (my Step Father used to almost single-handedly organise them).  But there was not the same community spirit, people wanted the show but only if they didn't have to do much to help etc etc., you know the story and that's why that particular show stopped many years ago.  I hope and pray that doesn't happen here and I honestly don't think it will, the community spirit is too strong.  Anyway I just suppose that I came across something very precious last Sunday and when I come across something that is precious I naturally want to protect it.  But I know that there is nothing to fear here...  


Friday, June 11, 2010

Time and West Cork Time

One of the advantages of rural life in Ireland (as I suspect is true of non-city life almost anywhere) is the way time is treated.  Country time is not the hard slave master that city time can be; everyone in a hurry to be somewhere to do something to meet someone etc.  In West Cork, time is not a precise phenomenon, it is merely an advisory instrument that may or may not be relevant for the conduct of any given day or occasion.  Things will happen when they will, people will arrive when they mean to and not a moment sooner or later.

What got me thinking about time?  Well if you're still reading then you must be vaguely interested so I'll tell you - The Innishannon Steam Rally.

This grand occasion happens over the June Bank Holiday weekend every year. It's a great family day out, but what really caught my interest was (wait for it) ... the "Slow Tractor Race".  It's complicated, but basically the winner is the person to drive their tractor the slowest without stopping, so the person who comes last is the winner.  Ingenious!

Can you imagine such a thing happening in New York, Tokyo or London, where millions of people race around as if their lives depended upon it all day every day?  After witnessing this race - there were two heats and a final and it took a long time (but nobody was in a hurry), I know where the better quality of life can be found...

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
(2 Peter 3:8)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Letting Go ... letting God

Church of the Ascension, Timoleague  

Have you ever been at your wits end?  Have you ever been in a situation that was completely desperate and you simply could not see any way out?  I suspect most of us have felt a bit like that at one time or another.  Maybe it was a health problem, or something to do with finances or to do with a relationship or some kind of depression.  We are at a total loss and so we do not know what to do.  And so what is often our very last resort?  That’s right, we call out to God to help us.  And what are our prayers like in these moments; are they gentle platitudes?  No they are from the very depths of our being, from (as the saying goes) ‘the bottom of our hearts’.  And so with our fists clenched and our stomach in knots and our teeth grinding we cry out to God…  And do you know what?  In these moments prayer seems to have a potency and a power way and above the norm, it is like when we are on our knees in our own personal Garden of Gethsemene that the heavens are torn open and we have direct access to the Throne of Grace.  We have at last made room for God and He is there before the first word has even been uttered from our trembling lips.