Living in Harmony

Watching a wildlife program about Japan has inspired me.

The most northerly island, Hokkaido has the harshest climate of all the islands of Japan. The people who have settled there are farmers who grow cereals and flowers in the short summer. Fishermen harvest the rich sea before the cold of winter freezes it over.

In September the Pacific salmon begin to return to the rivers of Hokkaido to spawn. Black bears gather at the coast to feast on the fish that team in the river mouths. Fishermen who also collect the bounty of salmon, sit mending their nets. These men and bears live in harmony with each other. There is plenty of food for both. Often a mother bear is fiercely protective of her cubs, but there is no need to fear in Hokkaido.

The farmers have reclaimed marshland on the coastlands. They were once the feeding grounds of large, tall, white birds called the Red Crowned Cranes. To the Japanese they are symbols of beauty and long life. A century ago their numbers were reduced to thirty pairs. They were in danger of extinction. The farmers, who drained the cranes’s feeding areas, rescued the cranes by giving them grain through the winter when the ground is frozen. Their numbers have now grown to 1000. Here is another example of men and wildlife living in harmony. They co-exist in the harsh conditions.

These cranes are known most of all for their singing and dancing. When they gather in large numbers they put on a show. The enormous birds lift up their heads and raise a deep call from their throats. They pirouette, jump and flap their large wings. They don’t crash on the icy ground. Their performance reminded me of the ballet dancers I saw recently in “Giselle.” The male star leapt across the stage. The many ballerinas created an enchanting atmosphere with their movements in the second act.

The Red Crested Cranes are an example to us. They live in a cold, harsh environment. They could chose a more comfortable climate. Instead they flourish, dance and sing where they are meant to be. Their beauty, strength and endurance are to be admired. I am encouraged to lift up my voice and dance, like the cranes before the One who created me, even in the most difficult of situations. The psalmist calls us to praise Him. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150 like King David danced with all his might before the Lord when he brought back the Ark of the Lord.

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We had flown eight thousand miles from Ireland to Vancouver, Canada.  We visit different friends in Cloverdale, Coquitlan, Langley, Surrey, Hope, Abbotsford and West Vancouver.  After working with different groups we took a day off.  We were visiting Sescelt, a town on the Sunshine Coast off Vancouver.  The only access to Sescelt is by ferry. Last time Brendan and I visited Sescelt in Vancouver, our host took us for a drive along the Pacific, and told us stories about killer whales and salmon that are abundant in these waters.

We were taking a walk when someone shouted, “The salmon are running.”  Nearby we saw many salmon swimming up the river to lay their eggs in the sandy water bed.  We stood silent watching this phenomena for a long time.  We happened to be there at the right time.

This time we visited Sescelt we had another once in a lifetime adventure with nature. Hundreds of eagles were gathered in an area in the hills where there was easy access to food.  There were eagles everywhere, perched in trees or flying overhead.  We spent the afternoon eagle watching.  Our host loves using his camera.  He was looking for the perfect shot.  He did get some stunning pictures of the eagles.  I used my iPad to take some shots.  I am not a camera whiz kid.  Not as high defination as my friends camera, but I am happy enough to have captured the event.  We happened to be there at the right time.

Most eagles in Canada live in BC, where they are near a supply of fish.  We love to get a glimpse of them when we are in Vancouver.  Perhaps we might see two or three flying overhead back near the city.  But that day we were in eagle heaven.  Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; yellow feet, legs and beak; and pale yellow eyes.

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Immature bald eagles have a mixture of brown and white feathers, with a black beak and brown eyes in younger birds;  It takes five years for a bald eagle to attain solid white head and tail feathers. For the first five years they gradually change; the beak turns from black to yellow, the eyes from brown to pale yellow, body feathers from mottled to dark brown, and head and tail feathers from mottled to solid white. We saw an abundance of eagles of all ages, a reward for our journey across the land and ocean from home, eight thousand miles away.

I was getting my strength back after two busy weeks.  The eagles reminds me of God’s promise.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭40‬:‭31‬ KJV)

The Salmon

When Brendan and I were in Seschelt our friend Ivan took us for a drive up along the coast.

We parked near a bay and our host told us he often went fishing there. The salmon were abundant in these waters and one was sure of a catch. What an ideal way to spend an evening in the sunset on his little boat in the bay. This certainly was the good life.

We stopped off at a coffee shop. Some people called over to us and told us “The salmon are running!”
There was a small river flowing nearby. We crossed over to it and sure enough we saw salmon spawning in the shallow waters. What an oppportunity for us!

While Brendan and I rejoiced to see this feature of nature before our eyes, our friend took some video footage. We were all excited as we spent those moments. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

Salmon live their adult life in the waters of the ocean. The Pacific is a big ocean, and millions of salmon return up the many rivers along the Canadian coast in Autumn. There are many types of salmon. The Sockeye is the biggest and most popular salmon caught. Wild bears and eagles have a feeding frenzy when the fish return.

The salmon has one goal, to return to the place where they were born to hatch their young. Once they leave the salt waters and enter the fresh water of the river the salmon stop feeding. They start the hazardous journey upstream over rapids, waterfalls and potholes to get to the shallow water when they can swim no further.

There the female releases her eggs in the sandy water bed and the male fertilises them. The parent salmon work is done. Every ounce of their energy has been used to get to their destination. They die soon afterwards.

We watched as the salmon released their eggs in that Creek. There were queues of fish waiting in the shallows to take their turn to lay their eggs. Perhaps they were not so keen to go forward because they knew their end was near.

Brendan, our friend and I savoured this moment. What is nature saying to us?

As I pondered on this I thought of my own life as a parent. Our goal as parents is to raise our young and help them through the stormy waters that we have passed through and show them the way.

The salmon entering the fresh water begins the journey of dying to self. This is symbolic of the one who decides to follow Jesus as well. He leaves the ocean, which represents the world and enters into the river of The Holy Spirit. Just like the salmon one has to die to self so more of the life of Christ lives in us.

As I get older I realise that on my journey in the river of the Holy Spirit I have had to die many times to my own will. As I trust God ‘s leading in my life I have peace. I can pass what I have learnt on to my children. I do not have to die physically like the salmon, but I have to die to my own will. The following scripture sums up the Christian journey.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen (Jesus the author and finisher of our faith) since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16, 18 NIV)