When I set out to follow the belted kingfisher, I started with the intrigue of a definition. Halcyon is the kingfisher. The kingfisher is halcyon– calm, peaceful, and happy. Could the bird with the ratcheting call, raggedy crest, dagger bill, and fishing prowess lead me to happiness? This predatory bird of awakening seemed an unlikely guide, yet I’ve learned differently over the past decade. For me, there can be no better teacher in all of nature.
And halcyon days? Those are the ethereal, shimmering days when all is aligned in life and we long for every coveted moment to never end. Sailors came up with the term, “halcyon days,” to describe a break in the storms over winter solstice, when according to Greek myth, Aeolus the God of Winds calmed the seas, so that his daughter Halcyon and her husband Ceyx –both transformed into kingfishers–could nest in peace.
Halcyon days are always bracketed. The kingfisher teaches me that the halcyon path is one of twists and turns, appearances and vanishings, troubling obstacles and unexpected wonders. That bracketing can be as thrilling as riled waves on the Oregon coast, or it can indeed be a troubling time.
Now as the forces of darkness, greed, and plunder threaten our beautiful, breathing and only planet Earth, I turn again to the kingfisher. On the other side of this bracket lies the next dazzling set of happiness. And perhaps this time, those elusive halcyon days might prove as transformative as the mythic kingfishers–of lovers turned to birds destined to live forever.
Do we simply wait out the storm? No. The kingfisher keeps flying and calling in phrases that reverberate like river heartbeats. Now is not the time to curl up, close our wings, and shudder in the darkness.
Instead, we have to spread our wings and fly harder than ever before. And on that flight path? We gain strength from the dazzling beauty around us in nature and in people who are loving, kind, funny, and good. Like all birds that fly for the sheer joy of it, we ought to take time to swoop, dance, and spin. And like the kingfisher that perches on a tree limb above a wild lake, our flight must include rest and rejuvenation.
In that spirit, I pose a challenge for myself. How can I best fly today? What can I do to call out in my voice and join with others who care for this breathtaking planet? Even one small action matters. The kingfisher teaches me something else. Find strength in nature. Go outdoors. Cherish the small miracles every day in every bout of weather–wind, rain, waves, frost, and idyllic crisp fall sunshine.