Frog-off 2016

I have been straining my ears for at least the past week, waiting impatiently for Frog-off. It came on Friday night, when a week of malaises (the joys of caring for the young, they share all their germs) had left me jaded and tired. It cam, as it always does, as a joy. The first tiny chainsaw of the frogs, calling out in the dark in hope and desire. Frog-off.

This year, it is on the late side. The earliest I have heard it here is in Feb but the latest was in the chillingly cold spring two years ago when I had to wait until April. It is the first undeniable  point of spring for me. The joyous moment when living things start to return to the upland bog which is my home. My hopes have been raised for more than two weeks by persistent herons frogging in my pond (it has no fish, they were catching something).

The frogs are the clearest sign of the fact that a visually dreary landscape has a rich inner life. Here, the numbers are huge. They are of course supported by all the little things which live under than, the invertebrates, and they in turn support the bird life. They are in important early resource to the herons and the barn owls.

More than that, they are a joy in themselves. The winter is over and past, and the voice of the frog is heard in our land.

Not straight at all

For most of my life, I knew I was straight. To be a little more accurate, I thought I knew I was straight. About two years ago, dancing at a ceilidh with a dear friend, it dawned on me. She was not just a dear friend. She was the woman I loved.

It did come as a surprise. But the more I thought about it, the more certain I became. The more I was with her, the more I fell in love with her. The more I loved her, the more I desired her. Not hard, for she is an astonishingly beautiful woman.

In the summer, she told me that she loved me. That was the beginning of something I had not seriously expected to have again, a real love affair. I wonder if real love affairs are the prerogative of the middle aged and the old. When young, I was unsurprised, if pleased, when I fell in love. Now I am older, maybe even old, it seems a miracle. To find somebody whose company is an endless delight, who prompts one to be the best self one can be is an astonishment. To know one does the same for them is grace upon grace.

What I am trying to say is that I fell head over heels in love with Sophie and that is why I desire her. It was not a matter of deciding I wanted a woman and looking for one. And Sophie brings out the best in me. I find I am capable of a kindness, a consideration for others that is the best side of me. She makes me better. And that is how I found out I am not straight at all.

Call me naive

There is only one God. Or so I thought – go on, call me naive. Only one God, and all of our human ideas about God are flawed and fallible, though we people of faith do what we can to understand understand, to worship and to serve.

Judging from the outcry over Giles Goddard allowing Muslims to hold a prayer service in his church, you might be excused believing that Christians thought there were lots of Gods all in competition to get the good will and worship of human beings. We don’t. Of course we believe that our version of faith is the truest, and most helpful, but we do not, traditionally anyhow, believe that other faiths worship other gods. Muslims, in their turn, of course believe their version of faith is the most true, but that we, too, worship the one God.

Let me be perfectly plain. Calling for a good faithful man to be disciplined for recognising that there is only one God, and that we all try to serve him, makes Christians look foolish, ill informed and narrow minded. It stirs up ill will between the great faiths. It adds fuel to the Islamaphobia which is becoming an ever-more serious issue in our country, and it creates misunderstandings.

 

 

Frog Off!

It is a dark afternoon, and I have come indoors before finishing the afternoon round of animal care to report one of the most exciting milestones of the year. Gentle reader – we have frog off!

As I emerged form the stable with a barrow of muck I heard it again- the chain saw purr of a dozen male frogs, calling out from love and desire in my pond.

Now, however much bad weather follows, I know we have reached a point frim which we cannot go back. By tomorrow there will be frog-spawn. However ever many dreich days follow, it is spring.

a clear pure light

One of the most successful things I have done in this cottage Рstill after six years in the throes of restoration Рwas to restore the old wooden ceiling. When I did that, I found a nail near the door. Almost certainly the nail on which in the past the hurricane lamp was hung to be easily reached down when one was heading out of the door to grapple with a crisis. This January brought the usual storms and power cuts, and I have got another hurricane lamp to hang in the same spot. IMG_1320I was glad of it on Friday night when my hear torch packed up and refused to work at all. This was not a good moment for it to pick, because the geese were in the middle of the pond. I have been having fox trouble again. Foxes are beautiful and destructive. Also, because urban foxes are being dumped in the countryside in large numbers, currently they are a real problem. I have recently lost my gander to a fox, and the sorrow of his poor widow was pitiable. I was lucky enough to be offered a breeding pair of geese, and took them, offering every assurance that I now had a safe fox-resistant (little is fox proof) pen for the nights. And there they were, in the middle of the pond. And there I was, running round the edge, trying to persuade them to leave the pond and get into their pen. Well, actually, just to leave the pond. I was wonderfully well placed to see both the beauty of the hurricane lamp, with its gentle glow, and the down side of it. A very gentle glow.  I would have given a good deal for a nasty bright modern light to help persuade the geese. The trouble is, the pond is deeper than my wellies. Round to the left I went, and round to the right the geese. Down to the right I went and round to the left they went. I waded in as far as I dared. They went to the opposite bank. I splashed the water with a long stick, and they edged right up to the bank. then the water was half an inch away from the top of my wellies and a backed off. And with that the geese went back to the middle of the pond. This was repeated for an hour or more. Even outside ones wellies, the water chills the feet. I got more and more fed up. The geese remained unruffled. Finally, tired and exasperated, I made an error. The water came pouring into a wellie. That was it. I had little to lose. I set off across the pond, and the geese looked at me in horror. Actually it must have been very funny to look and I do have a weakness for comedy. Making people makes me happy. Those wretched geese did not even have the decency to laugh. They did however at least shuffle up the bank, and very shortly, into their proper pen. And I went back to the house, poured the water out of the wellies, stripped off my soaking wet jeans and socks and hung the lamp back on its antique nail

Je suis Charlie

There are European values. I became more aware of them watching the BBC 4 Saturday night European subtitled drama slot. European values lean heavily to laughter, mockery and forgiveness. Police dramas still focus on discovering who did the crime, but are not, in general, much interested in vengeance against them. They are (and I hope American friends will forgive me for saying so) much gentler towards the offenders than most USA dramas tend to be.

The ghastly killings at Charlie Hebdo cut right into our sense of shared European values. Cruel, vengeful, unable to tolerate humour, they cut at the very heart of what we hold dear. The suggestion we stop laughing, even that we stop some of our cruder humour, in order to avoid making ourselves targets is, well it just goes against everything we might believe.

Yet there is another European value, and to this we have not paid enough attention. Justice. There was no justice in invading Iraq, and even less in doing so without a plan to then help the country arrive at peace and prosperity. There was little justice in our actions in Afghanistan, where we made more trouble than we were capable of solving.

Least of all is there any justice in how we approach the Israel/Palestine conflict, a conflict which urgently needs resolved, and would have been easier to resolve earlier.

The roots of the Charlie Hebdo murders lie far back, and a fertile breeding ground we ourselves have helped to create. The murders are wicked and disproportionate. There is no excuse or justification for them.

But if we want to prevent such things, the answers do not lie in police protection or in greater vigilance against terrorism. They lie in a more just world order, where it is easier for wicked men to be stopped in their tracks much sooner.

With or without the spur of fear, the duty of all of us is to work unceasingly for justice. We must have justice and courtesy for all those from minority faiths and communities in our lands. Justice in our trade polices, and justice in our foreign policies. Anything else is, ultimately, as unEuropean as shooting dead people who make jokes.

Happy New Ephphany!

When I lived in England I did not understand the New Year at all. As a ex-pat Scot who was reared in England and now lives in Scotland I am still not sure I wholly get it. Maybe the version I have is all my own, but as it is precious to me, I cling to it.

It falls in what is the (liturgical) Christmas season, yet it has a very different atmosphere. Christmas (to me) is pure magic. Not the kind which works against the world, but the kind which works with it. The magic deep down the fibres of life. The kind which makes you draw a breath of wonder at each tiny baby, and stare with astonishment at the beauty of a new born gripping a finger. Not because it cannot be explained, but because the explanation takes you to deep quiet places. Its best services are full of silence and and quiet embraces.

Christmas is arrived at after frantic hard work, and in a state of tiredness, an an increasing sense that there is no tie at all, and yet comes to a moment of utter stillness. A moment to enfold your beloved ones.

The New Year is about another kind of silence. The time to reflect on what is lost and why some of it is well lost. A time to look to plans and hopes with a heart which suddenly thinks that there is a whole year to get there, and time to rejoice and dawdle on the way.

We do rejoice and dawdle. We catch up with old friends. We even make new ones. Our plans are extravagant, all-embracing. New Year spills out past Christmas and into Epiphany, when we are able at last to party for the new born and show him off to everybody. The Scots are still wishing people a happy new year well into January, and the church by then is remembering just how that baby set aobut transforming the world.

And we need the hope and the resolutions, even if we only half believe in either, for they hurl us forward into our own new efforts at transformations. Happy New Year, everybody. Believe you can change your own lives and the lives around you. You need all the faith you can muster for the New Year.