Rainbows and bird boxes

Frosty Sunday morning

My day began with the dog bringing me a gift of a dead sparrow. Fortunately this is not typical behaviour of Lacey. In fact I’d dare to say that she had nothing whatsoever to do with the demise of the poor thing, although considering the very hard frost on the ground, its body was quite warm, indicating recent death. Sadly, one less bird to count. My sister and I, although 300 miles apart, drank tea and watched birds together this morning. She’s very organised and has a spreadsheet. I’m not and had the back of a piece of paper.

We’re getting our practice in for the RSPB big bird watch at the end of the month. It’s interesting to compare notes. We both live in suburban areas, but Frances is probably closer to the country than we are here in East Belfast. She has visits from woodpeckers and wood pigeons which I certainly don’t.

Yesterday Lacey and I walked along the Knock River through Orangefield Park. We often see herons there and apparently there are kingfishers and otters to be seen too. But I had a treat on this trip as an egret was gracefully stepping through the water.

Inspired by our bird watching and the fact that Frances has all her birdboxes cleaned out ready for nesting season, I spent the happiest hour doing the same and relocating them all a bit higher in the trees and facing the right direction a little more accurately. Here’s hoping for some new families moving in to our garden.

Ready for immediate occupation

I wrote another post once (Wellies and Wheelbarrows) about getting out in the garden and how much healing it does for me. It’s not just healing from difficult things though, but general healing of the soul from the everyday, inevitable thoughts and wonderings.

Everyone is a bit apprehensive about this new year. All of us hopeful for what the vaccines will mean for our communities, but all of us very aware that this is not an instant, overnight solution. As a parent and a teacher, I am apprehensive about these next few weeks. Online learning for my two at home. For the boy its for the whole month of January. This is a real challenge for him. Unstructured days with no one-to-one support. For me, its back to school tomorrow, working together with my fantastic colleagues to keep each other and all of our wonderful students as safe as we possibly can.

All of 2020 seemed to be about taking one day at a time, and I think 2021 is going to be pretty much the same. That’s a good thing though isn’t it? Living in the moment, this moment. Breathing in the frosty air of my Sunday morning garden. Breathing out thankfulness for the time and space to be present with nature’s beauty and her creator.

River Lagan, Belfast

On New Year’s Day I walked along the river Lagan. Behind me was a murky, atmospheric mix of rain and sunshine. Ahead, a bright rainbow. A symbol of hope. It seemed a poignant image of the year we are leaving and the year that lies ahead. There was definitely some murkiness in 2020, but also the gift of sunshine. Especially for me, where the support of family and friends was concerned. People finding creative ways to bring some kindness to the lives of others. We are entering this new year with some hope and everyday, in my ‘one day at a time’ I am going to be looking out for rainbows.

River Lagan, Belfast

Soaking up the empty

IMG_0454I had wondered how this season would be. And so far it’s been hard.

All the other difficult days we have faced so far, have been isolated, preceded by days of dreadful anticipation and followed by days of sad processing. But this season, this Advent season is prolonged. Part of me truly wishes to go to sleep and wake up in the middle of January. At the same time, I am struggling with leaving 2018 behind. Because Tony was here in 2018. He was a part of it. He lived in it. And I don’t want to let that go. There have been years, recently, when I have just been so glad to see the end of December. Hoped for something new and better in the next year. But now? I don’t want to turn my back on this year at all. I don’t want to lose that almost tangible connection to him being here.


I anticipated that this lead up to Christmas would feel very empty. I had begun to feel just that, as the rest of the world around me began to collectively become excited, happier, sillier, over-the-top, loud and bright. I have felt empty.

And then, wonderfully,  something started to happen that brought us joy like shafts of light. It began on the first day of Christmas. A friend arrived with a beautiful white bauble for our Christmas tree and a written message of love and kindness which remembered Tony. The next morning another friend called at the door announcing herself as the second day of Christmas, carrying a delicate glass angel for the tree. It wasn’t until the next day though that I realised a pattern was emerging. Another friend had come to sit in with my two and she brought with her a glittering angel encased in a glass bauble. As the next days passed, the three of us began to look expectantly around IMG_0456the step of the front door and in the post box for any surprise packages. And over the days we discovered such a variety of thoughtful gifts and messages for us and our tree. The anticipation, the discovery, the delight in receiving such kindness, somehow began to soak up the emptiness. The 12th day saw the opening of a special Christmas Eve gift from the dear friend thousands of miles away who had mobilised all the other friends to this 12 days of Christmas giving! Amazingly friends who didn’t even know what was happening have gifted us with angels for the tree or our home, adding to the wonder of it all. Oh, how loved, protected and cared for we have felt as each one has poured in something of themselves to our little family. Some hope, some smiles, some joy, some kindness. Thank you.





How odd!




How do you feel about odd numbers? I like them! A lot! Don’t ask me why because there’s no rhyme or reason at all. I just like them. I have enjoyed all my odd number ages and strangely enough, ALL the houses I have lived in have been odd: 49, 85, 89, 39, 127b (even the ‘b’ feels like an ‘odd’ letter!) and our current home, number 1. I was born, graduated, married, moved country (twice) all in odd years. I guess it’s not that strange: I had an even chance of all those things happening in an odd year.  So, all this to say, I am enjoying the thought of this year being odd!


Yesterday I found some time to sit and think about my hopes and intentions for this odd 2017. I made four lists (personal, family, home and others – as in other people) and tried very hard to balance intentionality and eagerness with realism and practicality. I have planned on some things which just need to be done better and some things which need me to step up and be different. Some things which are carried over, a bit like Christmas turkey and need eaten soon, and some things which will take me out of my comfort zone. Some things which I hope will help us as a family to be together more and some things which will help us to think outside ourselves a bit more.


It warms my heart that these ‘hopes and intentions’ are not just randomly pulled out of the air because a list is being drawn up. They grow out of the journey travelled this past year. Experiences, relationships, listening, reading, thinking, watching. Everything that I have soaked up to make me who I am at the end of 2016, spills out into the dreams and motivations for a new season. Things that have been whispering in my heart, increase volume in the expectation and energy of possibility. Things that I couldn’t have hoped for last January, come nearer and become clearer. Things that I never imagined I would be able to do, grab hold of new confidence and determination, nurtured in the old year.


I wonder how you see the new year. How you hope and dream. From whatever place you find your feet standing now, there IS hope. Whether the path you see ahead is straight and beautiful, rough and lonely, beside still waters or steeply uphill, there IS hope. And I pray you find it.

Have a happy and odd 2017!