Another Thought from the Brain Of Bennett… just in case you don’t listen to BBC Radio at 6:55 on Wednesday morning (and why on Earth not?!)
What’s your favourite beauty spot in Northern Ireland? We’re kinda spoilt for choice: Silent Valley, Strangford Lough, the Mourne Wall, the Giants Causeway (of course) but also all the little hidden gems around the North Coast like Dunseverick Harbour, White Park Bay and – one of my favourites – Murlough Bay just outside Ballycastle.
You need nerves of steel to get there by car: a tiny ribbon of bumpy track cuts precariously through the cliffs and plunges down towards the sea. Your brakes are steaming by the time you get to the bottom – and your engine is steaming by the time you get back up again. Every heart-stopping moment is worth it when you breathe in the wild, elemental landscape at the bottom of the track; it has a kind of savage, prehistoric beauty.
I was there last week and I couldn’t stop taking photographs of the trees. At Murlough Bay the trees grow horizontally rather than vertically – the fierce winds coming in from the sea obviously batter them and put such massive pressure on them that the branches claw away from the sea towards the land as if trying to escape – physical proof of the enormous stress of day after day being constantly blasted by the wind.
I think we are all living in days of enormous stress. Our uncertainty about our future in Northern Ireland is echoed by fear and disquiet around the globe. Any sense we once had that the world was gradually becoming a safer, happier and better place is being eroded and called into question. There are reasons to hope but also reasons to despair. And when you add the personal pressures and stresses we face on a daily basis – about money, health, relationships, being overworked and underpaid (aren’t we all?) – you can see why I was so drawn to those windswept trees at Murlough Bay and felt like they expressed something true.
But I found one tree right down by the water’s edge that was different. It actually had the most exposed position of all, should’ve been practically flat on its back. But the tree was so old, the roots were so deep that the pressures of the relentless wind could warp and twist a couple of the branches but couldn’t bend the core.
That’s what we need: Deep roots. When we’re under pressure, one of the first casualties can be time to nourish our souls. But every minute spent in prayer, in quiet, in nature or in good company can be vital root-deepening time in preparation for the next storm.