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Moments with Birds

Notes from my summer travels

At Holy Isle there is this little Carolina Wren with one short leg and a twisted foot. It is a friendly bird, and clever, gathering where the good folks at this beautiful Retreat Centre sit for breakfast, lunch, tea and evening soup. We never spoke, but s/he was never really far away. In the garden s/he hopped and skipped across my wellies, sat on the wheel barrow or hid under the greens waiting for me to turn the soil as I weeded. S/he was not the only bird to keep me company. A small gaggle were always within eyeshot. Their joyful noise lifts my spirit.

At home in Zimbabwe I am lucky to live in a suburb with big yards, trees and gardens and I always wake with the morning bird call - usually the noisy purple crested turaco babblers, our resident woodpecker and the stunningly beautiful flycatchers. Seasonally we have the fighting lovers -the gloriously yellow Weavers- and the very messy Hornbills, Hoopoes and of course crows. All year round lots of crows. The house is next to a school so the packed lunches draw them. My sons poor old and much loved cat, Tiger, a semi-feral wee beastie in her hey-day chasing snakes, other cats and hunting the neighbours chickens (oops) lost a toenail to an aggressive crow!! A lone Heron often drops by early morning to look for frogs in the pool. And the giant African Eagle saunters in around lunchtime to sit on the wall and look for the large vegetarian cane rats that scurry through the hedges and the drainage channels (stopping to chew my mealies when they get a chance). I could go on.

At the Centre my room at the back of the building has a big skylight that the pigeons and crows like to shelter around. The cooing pigeons wake me every morning, sun, rain or snow. The sound of birds has followed me.

One morning during my stay at Holy Isle, we headed down to the beach with a barrow to collect seaweed for the garden and came across a distressed and bleating lamb (the Isle is home to soay sheep from St Kilda- they look a bit goaty). The mother lay motionless having given up her mortal coil that morning (rigor mortis had not yet set in). We shooed the baby towards the flock, and although it returned throughout the day to that spot, it soon found what it needed amongst its kinsfolk and its pineful bleeting ceased. Life and death sitting side by side. Made me more curious for the Death and Dying Day that the Centre is hosting on Saturday 30th September.

I cannot help but feel humbled by the companionship of animals.

Wishing you much love and good company,



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