1st January 2022
On Boxing Day we went for a walk, taking advantage of a brief pause in the rain. We crossed the road to Goldings, where the view widens out to the meandering river and open meadows.
Looking over the parapet of one of the old, brick-built bridges, I saw a flash of blue. A kingfisher! The brilliant turquoise blue of its back glowed against the dull brown of the reeds as it darted down the stream to land, out of sight, in an alder tree.
That jewel-like blue, the blue of a damsel-fly, is other-worldly – or at least, un-English. We were almost unable to believe what we’d seen.
It’s not that kingfishers are rare. I’ve seen them on the Beane before and local wildlife photographers regularly take marvellous pictures of the birds on the Lea, but every time I’ve seen one I’ve had that sensation of being given a precious gift, or being let into an astonishing secret.
Some years ago, we were having a walk in St Albans, one dank and gloomy new year’s day, and we watched a kingfisher on the river Ver, in the middle of a busy park. We appeared to be the only people who had noticed this wonderful sight. I wrote a poem, and I couldn’t write about a kingfisher without the influence of Gerard Manley Hopkins, of course. It's here, called New Year's Day (click to follow link).
As this pandemic has gone on, our horizons have been narrowed, a net drawn tighter and tighter around us: confined to our towns, our homes, and for some people, literally confined to their room, day after day. Our shoulders are hunched, our eyes cast down. Even if we’re not actually ill with the virus, our souls can’t breathe.
We need the healing of being able to look outwards, away from ourselves. While I was lucky enough, in the summer of 2021, to be able to stand on a mountain and gaze at a distant horizon, feel the expansion in myself, I know that for most of the time, was helped me was giving my attention on our walks to even the small things. These didn’t have to be as brilliant as a kingfisher – with attention, the bark of a tree, a berry, a small white flower, can take you out of yourself.
I paid attention because I wanted to write about them in my blog
(www.katemillerwriting.wordpress.com) and in 2021, for the first time in a long while, I think, I really opened my eyes and looked.
Yesterday, new year’s eve, we walked with friends to Waterford and went into the little church, a glowing jewel of beautiful art
The daylight was fading and the church warden kindly switched on the chancel lights, which made the glittering mosaic angels behind the altar come to life.
Each has a banner above their head, with a message: