Watching a Kingfisher on the Waveney at Bungay

You need to stay still to learn
Anything worth learning.
In the forest, by the river,
At dawn, or dusk or midnight,
Sit down, be quiet and
Soon enough, you’ll hear
And see your fill.

Sit longer and your body
Will begin to speak to you;
Longer still, your heart;
Sit four days, your soul,
Maybe, or the soul of the place,
If you’re lucky.

Dream in the same spot for a month or two
And perhaps there’ll be something to report.
Those that live their lives
In one place, with eyes to see
And ears up for hearing –
They’ll have something to say
To pay attention to.

We fly-by-nights and flit-by days
Hear only the crash-bangs and thunder,
See only the lightning-flash and fireworks,
Don’t notice the darkening river or
The pale-becoming Earth.
Full of our own chattering,
We cannot hear the long
Slow roar of the oak or the yew
And the great granite headlines pass us by.

We are not slow enough,
Nor wise enough, nor brave.
Mindful only of our babbling,
We report the news of our own madness
While the song of the world goes unheard.
Not silence, but the endless, soaring
Melody of anguish and wonder
InĀ  a key we dare not unlock
Or fathom or enjoy.

Sit in the same spot,
At the same hour,
For nine years or more.
The news you have to share
Will be rich with that music,
Food for the starving souls
Of the blind and deafened
Adversaries we have,
In our foolishness, become.

I watched the kingfisher fly low upstream over the river;
It stopped on a tree-stump and fished for a while,
Then moved along to a jetty,
Then to an alder,
Then to a poplar,
Before I lost sight of it,
Only hearing the intermittent splash
As its magical, beautiful body
Struck the water and then
Seeing the extraordinary flash of blue
Return to the bank to sit vigil again
Over the slow, still water
In the August afternoon.


14 thoughts on “Watching a Kingfisher on the Waveney at Bungay

  1. Thank you for sharing these wonderful observations. To be still, to listen to the world of nature, is surely one of our greatest blessings, so much to learn from just watching, and listening.

  2. Fine writing, Tom. You are so right. So beautifully said.
    (Oh, to have my life to live over again….to be wise enough to be still, to watch, listen, learn the messages of the earth. What else is there? Really.)

  3. So preachy, so patronizing, so smug. Don’t use ‘you’ and ‘we’ – you don’t know me, I’m not part of your ‘we’ that you so sweepingly describe. Speak for yourself, with humility, not condescension.

  4. Very nice piece, Tom. Shared it on Facebook.
    Brings to mind that (Buddhist?) saying, something to the effect of: “Meditate 20 minutes a day. If you don’t have time for that, then meditate 40 minutes a day”. :-)

  5. Ah! It’s good to have this reminder! I try to stop, to be still… But often I forget in the humdrum world of earning a crust..
    Beautiful words Tom x

  6. P.S. Your kingfisher looks so different than ours with its speckled head! Lovely to see the variety within a species… :) Here we have the belted kingfisher with his ruffled crown. Such a magical bird

  7. So beautiful… But such a hard thing to do for most of us, being still, listening, watching, learning. Always on the run, never truely here, always somewhere else.

  8. beautiful poem. Reminds me of my husband George, who used to do just that – sit by the river, in the forest, at dusk. Thank you!

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