Walking the beach is good for my bodily and mental health. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but I make a project of it maybe twice a month.

I prefer the morning, before the sand is disturbed by lots of walkers, and when the sun is dancing among the waves. And I like it when the tide is about half in, so that I can walk on firm sand.

This day anyway, a Monday, I took myself off early and arrived to see the waves still churning after the stormy winds of the night before.

The rumbling white horses were exhilarating, and the wind, though strong, felt warmer I think than it was because the sun was bouncing off me.

I stepped out vigorously, (maybe not so vigorously as I was ten years ago!), and headed off face against the wind. The tide was low, so there was no problem with firmness underfoot.

On I went with the sound of the ocean in my ears, and without a thought; I was right in the ‘now’. There is something very soothing about walking to the sound of waves, with an awareness of the wind and sun about you. I must have been totally absorbed in the walk because suddenly I was brought back to earth by the clumsy flapping of a wounded cormorant.

Poor creature. I thought at first he was resting, and that my absentminded arrival had panicked him, but no: he was in a bad shape, and was trying to make it back to the sea. Here’s how bad he was: his wings seemed as if they had been twisted back against the shoulder joints, and he tried to make forward progress by pushing with these and digging with his beak into the wet sand.

He was in bad shape, and I wished I had the guts to put him out of his misery by wrenching his neck: to tell the truth I was afraid of his beak. I left him, knowing nature will take its course. But that was only half the drama.

If I found the sick bird interesting, I got a positive treat from the antics of a seal trying to get back out to the deeper water. He or she wasn’t a pup, but was even less of an adult, a big pup if you like. He was a beautiful silvery grey creature, and I watched closely as he snuck down facing the breakers.

He had to get beyond the first two surges, and many times he was simply washed back in. He wasn’t aware of me, and the intensity of his focus on the task in hand intrigued me. It took fifteen minutes, and I saw him use a stronger back wash to give him the necessary traction to get out, and then he was gone.

Only on the way home did the thoughts kick in. How life is sprinkled with tough situations, like that of the bird, and successful achievements like that of the seal. And how we can be sad at the pain of the world, and joyful at the happy endings. 

Read Cassidy every week in Ireland’s Own