For some reason, the weight of intertwining issues had sidled, then slowly nuzzled up to me over a few weeks and was now nestling, snugly between my ears and even, at times, in my bowels. Why was I feeling unhappy? Why was this strange, invisible weight lying over me like a shot-filled duvet, pliant yet unmovable? I told myself what I would tell others: stand back from this. View your life, your situation, from the shoe’s of someone else. Goodyear Welted ideally, but we shouldn’t be picky. ‘You have a beautiful wife and fantastic children. You are living in a pretty English village with friends and family nearby. You have a new job, which although in the Capital, gives you flexibility, a good living and a new lease of life. What’s to worry about?’
Ha! I worried about the worry. Now feeling guilty that I was doing exactly what I chastise my worrying wife for. Perhaps, I was becoming so Middle Class in my Middle Age living in Middle England that I was searching for something bigger, deeper, more purposeful. Middle Life Crisis. Already? Didn’t Giles Coren write scathingly about this just the other week? It’s so European, so effete. I’m sure I agreed with him at the time.
But that wasn’t it. This wasn’t so deep. At least, not philosophically deep. Yet it was deep within.
I went for a walk. No map. Just legs, moving, onward. Walking where they took me. Onward.
Through the estate. To the Green Lane. Past a church. Down a bank. To the towpath. Approaching dusk, I danced between puddles and the hedgerow, along the canal. In the distance a slight, yet audible, mesmeric rumbling from the main road, slowly dimming with each step. I approached a bridge. Slender, long; from iron and concrete, not pretty, but offering a perspective view as it stretched away from me towards a distant steeple and old mill. The Quarter Mile Bridge they called it.
Intuitively, I moved forwards silently, not disturbing the peace that now closed in around me.
No revelation. No descent of inner calm upon me. Just a dart of blue on the edge of my vision. What was that blue? Azure? Too pale. Sapphire? Too dark. This blue had a familiar iridescence that I couldn’t immediately place.
Again. Below the bridge this time, yet gone more quickly than eyes could follow.
A Kingfisher, delicately alight on a branch by a hole in the bank, like an orchid’s flower held to its stem with a mere pinch. Eyeing me as fixedly as I was it.
Taking the same path, I returned. Up the bank by the overgrown kettle-hole and warren, pausing by the church once more to look back on the way I had come against the incoming tide of dusk.
The Kingfisher had been there all the time whilst I worried about my trivialities. Looming financial crisis? Lacking a clear purpose in life? The right job? What’s the worst that could happen? Looking for food. Avoiding danger. Raising its family. Conversing with swans. I resisted coming over all bucolic but knew something had clicked. I paused in the moment to enjoy the ecstatic ordinariness of the situation. The joy of ordinariness that has endured and is there now, if only I had stopped and noticed it.
From now on, I would.