A friend and I were on holiday in Skye. We’d heard that a Golden Eagle had been seen in one of the steep valleys close to where we were staying and so equipped with boots, binoculars and lunch we set off. With map in hand we soon found the place. It’s very easy to spot where a rare bird or a bird that will attract a crowd has been seen; there will be an area full of badly parked cars, and groups of men carrying enormous back packs, camera’s and scopes. (I don’t know why but it does appear that “twitchers” are unable to park cars in neat lines and invariably take up more room than is strictly necessary. This could be because they are so keen to get out and see the bird. I must also state that I am not a twitcher and I can park a car.)

The men started to climb the hill straight from the lay by whereas my friend and I followed the footpath sign to Glen Sligachan. We crossed the river, walked through fields and entered the valley. I’d never entered a valley quite like this one. Although to start with it was quite wide with the river running alongside it quickly became very narrow with very steep sides but what I noticed most was the quiet. The sound of the road, not far away at all, had disappeared. The only sound was the ripple of the river as it passed over rocks in its path but that didn’t last long. We walked on and then slowed. The narrow, high-sided valley along with the quiet began to feel slightly spooky. There was no bird song no sound at all; if fact it was so quiet that it hurt my ears.

I like hills and valleys; living in Glossop they were hard to escape from in daily life. When I looked out of the windows of my home it was towards Bleaklow Moor and Kinder in one direction and the Nab, our local, smaller hill, in the other. Glossop was in a valley and I felt protected by that; nestled in the valley.

I didn’t feel protected or nestled at all in this steep valley in Skye. I felt quite afraid. There was no one else around and so we decided to turn back and didn’t see the eagle that day. We ate lunch back at the start of the path where the valley was wide and where there was the sound of cars on the road and birds in the trees. Where I felt I could breathe again.

I was reminded of that day a few mornings ago as I read Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd:
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green pastures;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honour to his name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honour me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life
and I will live in the house of the Lord for ever.

It’s such a well-known Psalm and yet reading it in a different version than usual things are noticed that otherwise remain hidden. For me it was that last phrase, Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. I have associated the last verse with life after death but suddenly I saw that God’s love and goodness will pursue me all the days of my life.
Three things struck me; unfailing love, He will never stop loving me; pursue, that means more than simply follow. It’s purposeful, it isn’t going to stop; and all the days of my life. That’s today and tomorrow and every day yet to come on earth and in heaven.

And that’s true for you too.


In case you are wondering what the difference is between a birder and a twitcher it’s quite simple. Twitchers are people who run around the country chasing rare birds. Birders don’t!

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