In late spring of 2008, I moved from a drafty backwoods cabin to Mystery Bay, where I lived until fall on a 25 foot sloop named Espejo bought for 400 bucks at a derelict boat auction. It was what you might call cozy. By which I mean tight quarters. I used a hurricane lamp for light and a Carlo Rossi (Paisano) mini-jug for, um, sanitary concerns. For more pressing concerns I would typically row back to shore, or in dire cases I had a bucket. Which still needed to be rowed to shore so I figured cutting out the bucket whenever possible was the most efficient and least unpleasant method. Fortunately, that summer was one of considerable regularity.
The boat was moored at the south end of Mystery Bay, near Nordland, Washington. Every day I rowed the hundred yards back and forth between Espejo and a dock that the oyster farmers there kindly let me use. It was a rejuvenating and meditative exercise when the weather was fine. But it was in Western Washington, so. During the mid to late summer, phosphorescent algae were in bloom, and I would extend my night-time rows back to Espejo, watching the electric green slide from my oars and tracing the paths of otters as they swam beneath me. It was a trip.
In the early summer, a friend started to join me on my oasis on the sea. I would wake up near dawn, use the jug, and throw open the hatch to have a peek at the weather. As soon as my head popped out, a belted kingfisher, sitting on my spreaders, would begin chittering away at me. “This is my boat!” I’d respond. But he didn’t care. I was interrupting his hunting.
In Greek Mythology, Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, who ruled the winds and kept them locked in the caves. Alcyone was so distraught over the drowning of her husband, Ceyx, that she threw herself into the sea to die. Touched by her bond of love, the gods granted Alcyone and Ceyx life again together as seabirds. That’s right, as kingfishers. However, Alcyone laid her eggs around the winter solstice, when the winds raged and the seas boiled. Her nests were washed away. Her cries touched the gods’ hearts, and they granted two weeks of calm wind and seas around the solstice for her to make her nest.
When I see a kingfisher on one of my romps with Cedar, I think of this story. It is a reminder that there can be found calm inside a tempest, and rough weather ends, if only for a while. I eventually developed a reciprocated respect for my mast-top friend. He no longer flew off in fright when I climbed up on deck, and I began to enjoy our early morning conversations.