Morning Zephyrs! Julie here. Yesterday was World Otter Day – so here is a picture of an otter for you to enjoy!
I love otters – and one of the reasons I love them is because they come with so many interesting facts!
Did you know that sea otters tangle themselves in kelp when they sleep so they won’t float away? And sometimes they hold paws with another sea otter while they snooze, so they don’t lose each other?
Or that many otters have a favourite rock they carry in their little underarm pockets for when they need to open seafood shells?
Or that they have particularly smelly poo that some scientists describe as smelling like violets? Otter poo is so unique it has a special name – spraint.
I’ve loved otters for a long time because someone close to me loves them even more than I do – my mum. I’ve had a book about them on my bookshelf for as long as I can remember, which I think she must have bought me…
In adulthood, myself, my siblings, our families, and my parents have spent many a summer’s week on extended family holidays, often to the wilds of Scotland – Fort William, Inverness, Skye, Arran, Mull, Raasay, Orkney to name a few. And on many of these trips, my mum has brought along a fervent hope of seeing an otter in the wild.
We’re quite a wildlife-y kind of family – we’ve seen deer, seals, dolphins and porpoises, basking shark, sea eagles, osprey. Spending some time as amateur Springwatch presenters is a traditional part of our holidays. And so, many of our trips would include dusky evenings looking over bays and rivers to see if we could spot an elusive otter.
I can still remember the first time we saw one, on Raasay in 2012. We’d set off as the sun was beginning to set, arriving at the harbour where my oldest brother did his best Steve Backshall impersonation and gave us some tips on how to maximise our chances of spotting one. We hung around the harbour for a long time, eyes peeled, but – nothing. So we wandered up to where the road wound along the edge of the sea and walked along it, stopping regularly to stare out at the increasingly darkening water. One thing my mum doesn’t have in abundance is patience – she kept muttering things about “not being able to see one tonight”, until eventually she gave up and wandered away from the rest of us to “look somewhere else”. And as soon as her back was turned and she was out of range, what should pop up in the sea? An otter! We tried to get her attention, but to no avail, so we stopped and watched it for a bit – here it is in this, admittedly not very clear, photo.
Eventually, my brother went to fetch her but, by the time they got back, it had gone. After that, it became a standing family joke that my mum – who most wanted to see one – was always looking the wrong way when an otter would appear. We joked that the otters would wait for her to look the other way or wander off, pop out to show off to the rest of us, then disappear as soon as she looked round. Or we’d pretend we’d seen one – “Look! An otter!” – then when she turned round to look, we’d say it had gone. Or we’d send her a text or report back on our trip out – “Mum! We saw an otter!” “Really?” “Yeah – wanna see a photo?” And there would be my niece holding a cuddly otter in a shop…
A couple of years later, we were on Arran, staying in a house right on the waterfront. My mum and dad had been there a few days longer than us and had been – unsuccessfully – looking out for otters at dusk. One beautiful sunny day, we set out for an afternoon trip, around noon. We were sitting in the back of the car, messing around with our phones and a pair of ridiculous heart-shaped sunglasses, when my mum suddenly exclaimed, “Look!”
“An otter just ran right across the road in front of us, didn’t you see?”
Sensing that the trickster tables were turning and she was playing a similar ‘not really’ prank on us, we replied, “Yeah, right…”
“No – look!” She said and pointed to her right – where, disappearing into the undergrowth on an overgrown path, we could just make out the furry bottom of an otter. After all those times of missing out and being made fun of, she’d finally had an otter sighting – which the rest of us had missed!
She’s become something of an expert since then, buoyed by her success! A couple of years ago, she came back from a trip to Mull with my dad and put a framed photo up on her wall, one that she took herself while they were there…
Perseverance. It can be a tricky quality to master. Whether it’s turning out again and again to spot an otter when all around you have already seen one and you think your day will never come; or whether it’s continuing to follow God’s call on us to think beyond ourselves, love our neighbour, and act for the greater good even though it costs us, when we see others not bothering to do the same.
“I have not yet reached my goal, and I am not perfect. But Christ has taken hold of me. So I keep on running and struggling to take hold of the prize. My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal, so that I can win the prize of being called to heaven. This is the prize that God offers because of what Christ Jesus has done. All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. But we must keep going in the direction that we are now headed.” (Philippians 3: 12-16)
Keep your eyes on the prize…
Keep going Zephyrs – fix your eyes on the prize and follow the call that God makes on us. We will get there! Amen.
Have great days, all!