Every morning I cross the Taff on my way to university. Sometimes it’s high and fast-flowing; sometimes it’s grey and unassuming; sometimes it’s shrouded in mist. This morning, it was wholly unexceptional; I nearly missed the flash of bright kingfisher perched on a branch at the river’s edge below me. I’ve never seen one in the flesh before. They are so blue. They are bluer than blue. This one was bigger than I thought they generally were. He perched there long enough for me to take his picture, and then (presumably satisfied with the attention) flew off to carry on his morning.
My weekend has been preoccupied with birds. Yesterday, we took Greg’s mum to an ‘Owl Experience’ in North Somerset for her birthday. She got to hold and fly a variety of different owls, from a tiny little owl to a huge eagle owl named Hercules. The barn owl called Cherish, the falconer informed us, was a TV star; she’d been on a wedding show on Channel 5 and regularly flew down aisles, delivering ribboned envelopes containing gold rings. Apparently, Cherish flapped so hard during one wedding that she blew all of the candles out. Since she was hand-raised, she also thinks that she is human and is extremely vocal about it. The most silent of fliers, we found, was certainly the loudest voice among us.
My dad loves feeding the garden birds, too – and he’s set up a bird feeder outside the patio doors so he can a) watch the birds eat, and b) watch the cats watch the birds eat. He reasons that there’s no way that Squeak, Tilly, Twsh and Moz can approach such an exposed position, and he quite enjoys tormenting the (very pampered) set by letting them have a close look at what they can’t have. It might be cruel if it wasn’t so funny. Tilly and Twsh – who are sisters and not much more than kittens – in particular are fascinated by the birds. They sit by the window, chirruping, and occasionally paw at the glass. The birds – blue tits, sparrows, chaffinches – carry on eating undisturbed.
There are plenty of bird poems out there to enjoy, from the obvious to the unusual. There’s Maya Angelou’s caged bird and Emily Dickinson’s hope. There are love poems like Craig Arnold’s ‘Bird-Understander’ and the deliciously acerbic ‘Feathers’ by Lorraine Mariner (one of my favourites). Rhian Edwards – whose most recent work comprises some stunning bird poems – claims that one cannot go to Aberystwyth and not write about birds. We bought Greg’s mum the award-winning non-fiction book H is for Hawk so she could read about author Helen MacDonald raising a goshawk named Mabel.
And birds have been popping up and flying into my poems recently, too. The very kind Roy Marshall recently featured some of them on his blog. My encounter with the kingfisher this morning reminded me of the last stanza of one of these poems. It’s called ‘My Colours’ and I wrote it shortly after getting a tattoo. I wanted to shout about all the facets of my self, my body and my spirit. I wanted to show my colours. I wanted to surprise, to excite, to shock – and I wanted to celebrate most of all.
Love, when I show you my colours
I am a riot, a cacophony, a bird of paradise, a polka
on mosaic tiles, a gilded kingfisher diving blue.
That’s what that little colourful bird made me want to do this morning. And my, there is plenty to celebrate. Greg and I are getting married. Though I promised to share my dirt, the kingfisher’s blue is rather too bright to muddy today.