Thursday, 11 November 2010

My Halcyon Day by Lynda Waterhouse

I have seen three kingfishers in my life so far. The first time was one autumn day when I was twenty and visiting my first ever RSPB bird sanctuary in Ynys Hir in Mid Wales. I just caught a flash of turquoise. My next sighting was on another autumn day fifteen years later on an artificial lake in Chingford. Again it was just a fleeting glimpse. On Sunday at Minismere nature reserve in Suffolk just as I was leaving a hide I turned and looked through the window behind me. A kingfisher rose up from the reeds and hovered above the surface of the pond. It was an intense three seconds as my heart stopped and my mind’s eye worked overtime desperately trying to preserve the image. Why did my halcyon moments mean so much to me?
In Greek mythology Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus the guardian of the winds. When her beloved husband, Ceyx was drowned she threw herself into the sea and was turned into a kingfisher. When she builds her nest at sea Aeolus stills the wind for seven days to keep the next generation of his family safe.
Another legend says that the kingfisher buries her dead mate in the winter before laying her eggs in a nest of fish bones which then floats out to sea. This image makes me remember the pagan myths about the moon goddess carrying the body of the dead king, symbolic of the old year, to his final resting place. Then I find myself in the realm of the Fisher King. The wounded king who is waiting for a knight to return and bring the secret that will heal himself and bring life to his desolated kingdom.
As I write this post I realise that the kingfisher and the stories that surround it have helped me to clarify what is driving my passion to write at the moment. I now understand what the theme is that I am trying to capture and keep. It is hard to put into bare words. It needs a calm sea, a still wind and a story to express it


Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Wonderful post Lynda. Imagine if you hadn't looked back. But I think we have an innate sense that draws our attention... the kingfisher was probably sending you a message... 'hey,look at me!' Isn't it amazing how things layer until you know you're working towards something that might still be cloudy but you know there's something good happening.
Love your clever play with halcyon, because its both the mythical bird as well as the genus of a big group of kingfishers. This sounds a bit 'birdy' but I wonder which one you're seeing? In Africa we get them all... the tiny tiny Malacite, the Giant, the Pied, the Woodland and Brown-hooded... not sure I can choose which I love best. If you are interested in hearing some calls try
But bird facts aside your post has such lovely connections and nuances. Good luck with bringing the threads together.

catdownunder said...

Oh, I have never seen one in real life - what a lovely experience!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Thank you so much for the links Dianne. I love watching birds and will check out 'my kingfisher'.
Cat - is the Kookaburra a relative of the kingfisher?

catdownunder said...

Just checked - yes, but they are much noisier!

Katherine Langrish said...

beautiful post, Linda!