In New Zealand, the pukeko is celebrated. You see them captured in photographs, ceramic tiles, even in the leadlight window beside the front door of my friend, Wairarapa storyteller, writer, counsellor and celebrant, Gaye Sutton and her partner Michael. Their property is named after the bird.
Yet at home in Australia, this bird is merely a swamphen: unseen, unloved, unlauded. There are often several swamphens stalking around a pond not far from where I live. I pay them scant attention, apart from laughing at their comical gait. I did notice the recent brighter blue plumage of the male–Spring seems to have coloured him a little more lustily.
Although I won’t start collecting pukeko salt and pepper shakers, the commitment to a bird I frequently dismiss reminded me of the power of celebrating something small, ordinary or usually unnoticed. A teacher I met some years ago, a wise man on the subject of attention and its extraordinary power, revealed that he tried to find a new way of caring for his wife each day, something that would freshen their relationship and allow it to move beyond the mundane. Maybe I will experiment with the local swamphens and see what happens if I treat them with a little more of the reverence my friends in New Zealand offer this bird.