Across from our balcony is a palm tree. I have no idea why, in Sydney, people plant palm trees! This is NOT a tropical paradise! But more of that, anon!
Where was I? yes… across from my balcony is a palm tree with a hollowed out trunk, abut three-quarters of the way above the ground. I would always look at it thinking that some birds would surely love to make their nests there. Sure enough, late this Winter, a pair of kookaburras swooped around checking the real estate out. What they saw must have appealed, because come Spring they were continuously coming and going. My son and I had a vantage point: we would spend time -peeking at first, then getting bolder and standing on the balcony quite loudly discussing the new neighbours. We watched as the baby kookaburras peeped and cheeped, observed their grey down, we saw them grow bigger.
Very soon, the adult couple took to resting on the railing on our balcony. They would take it in turns to sit there. They would swoop down into the hollow and get on with their little household chores and then fly back again. Sometimes one or the other would come, and at other times they would both come. My son got busy with his camera, and they would sit there unabashed, while he crept as close as he dared to photograph them. What I found eerie was that they never, ever, made a sound.
I thought back to another house I had lived in. All Spring and Summer, we would have Kookaburras sitting on a particular branch, just above the swimming pool, sometimes up to a dozen of them, cackling away, cutting up the quiet of an afternoon. They sounded like old women, making fun of us and being quite rude about it, I felt. But these two, never uttered a single screech.
One morning, I heard some unusual activity in the kitchen and went in to discover my husband and my son quietly excited. One of the birds had flown into the kitchen, and past, and was currently sitting in the laundry.
And as I went in towards the laundry saying that this was unacceptable, adorable as they were, they were not welcome, inside, he flew out and sat on the kitchen window sill. On the inside window sill. Being a very rational person, and not wanting to hurt his feelings, I said, “thank you for your visit, now please go outside and sit on the balcony railing, please do not stay indoors.”
My son, who was busily trying to photograph him, said, ”Shush, you will offend him”
But after a moment the grey bird with a flash of blue flew out and sat on the balcony railing. I thanked him, and closed the window reflecting how easy it had been to convince a bird, but the males in my household?……
I was, of course quite charmed that I had these visitors as long as they did not set up parties of raucous laughter, and made my balcony uncouth with their poop. Also, of course, I told my sister about it. As I was telling her about it, suddenly, I heard one of them sitting on its perch, chortling. I was taken aback at how “human” it sounded. I narrated this back to her( we were on Skype).
My sister is a Tarot Card Reader. As I was quite happily telling her this charming story, and expressing my (grateful) surprise at the quiet of these birds, she suddenly started talking about animal spirits and totems, and checked my flow of narrative. She pointed me to a web link, and peremptorily ordered me to read it. Would not take “later” for an answer. So I did.
What jumped out at me was the line “The kookaburra encourages us to use laughter as a form of healing.” Now, I am not sick, or convalescent. But I had over the last few months or, even a year, noticed that I do not laugh as much as I used to. Nor do I smile as much. There was a time, when I was always irritated, and if anything occurred to make me smile, I would consciously turn away from it, perhaps, due to circumstances, feeling that to succumb to laughter right then would be a weakness. Perhaps, that had slowly gelled into a non smiling countenance, and an inability to recognise the ridiculous. I had acquired the dubious distinction of being able to read Oscar Wilde from end to end, without breaking a single smile. Recently, when I speak to people, I have had to train myself to say to myself, “ And now, smile” because I keep forgetting.
But, for most of my life, I have laughed a lot. Falling off my chair laughing was a common occurrence in my life. As I read the web page, I remembered how, growing up in India, a song that had lived within me had been “Laugh, Kookaburra laugh! Kookaburra gay your life must be!” And I remembered that I would sing the song out loud, when I felt upset, and would feel better in an instant. It was perhaps not my favourite song, but it was one I often hummed far beyond my nursery days.
So, I took my sister’s/the kookaburras’ advice. That afternoon, I spent a few hours watching videos on YouTube. She pointed me to: Rowan Atkinson
Which took me on to more. :
And “A Bit of Fry and Laurie” and many others.
I pulled down a couple of Georgette Heyer novels and read them, and when I reached the funny bits I forced myself to laugh out loud. Pretty soon, I was chortling and sniggering away at the life like caricatures and I even guffawed out loud at the TV show “Modern Family”.
I remind myself each day to smile, unnecessarily, and unpunctually. I laugh out loud, even if the joke is small. Laughter, and a sense of the ridiculous is a big part of me, and denying it had, possibly, frozen that part. I hope, that if there is any darkness within me that needs healing, the laughter is working. It has only been a few days, but my smile muscles don’t feel rusty any more. Thank you, Kookaburra. Thank you, Sister.
The birds are not very visible any more. Instead of their almost constant presence on my balcony I have only seen them twice since. Both times only for a flash as they sat there quietly, and then quietly flew away. I hope wherever they are, others are taking notice and allowing laughter back into their lives.
Yes, Dear Ornithologist, I know there may be other, scientific explanations for their arrival and departure. This is the one that worked for me.
The psychology of laughter.
The health benefits of humour and laughter