Ducks on a Lake

The first image in the opening credits of Twin Peaks is a bird atop a tree. Everyone knows that, but what was the very first image in the series itself? Was it Pete Martell gone fishing? Or was it perhaps Josie Packard applying make-up in front of the mirror?

Not quite: it was another image of birds: ducks frolicking on a lake.

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This was not, by far, the last appearance of the Anatidae family of birds (ducks, geese and swans) on the show. Twin Peaks is home to many species of animals, sometimes featured in stuffed form, from deer to rabbits, from owls to pine weasels. But in this open air menagerie, ducks hold a special place, as their appearance within the pilot’s very first image proves.

Before going any further, let’s read what David Lynch himself has to say about the question of ducks, and more specifically, the position of their eyes:


When you start looking at a duck, you see your eyes moving in a certain way. You see textures, and colors, and shapes and you start wondering about a duck, about what it can teach us about any kind of abstract painting, or proportions, or even sequences. It’s always interesting that the eye is in the perfect place. If you move it to the body, it would get lost. If you move it to the leg or the beak, it’s two kinda of fast areas competing, even though the eye is the fastest, it’s the little jewel… I believe every film has ‘the eye of the duck scene’, but it can fool you which one it is

The Eye of the Duck

In a sense, Twin Peaks itself could be compared to a duck. I would argue that the eye of the duck would be the Red Room sequence(s) (Laura in her plastic bag is too close to the beginning and Dale’s possession by BOB, too close to the end, “fast areas” according to Lynch in the video linked above).

If the Red Room can be associated with Twin Peaks‘ eye of the duck, Lynch also claims that the mystery surrounding Laura’s murder was The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg (I go through some of the many references to fairy tales that one can find in the show in my book Unwrapping the Plastic). His creative differences with ABC led to the revelation of Laura’s killer, which was much too premature according to Lynch: “It’s a whole bunch of things that came together. I for sure was against it, and I always felt that it’s a story of the little goose that laid the golden eggs and you don’t want to kill that goose—not for a while, anyway”.

Interestingly enough, he had used such an image in the show itself. The idea of the golden egg is indeed what one finds on top of Big Ed’s Gas Farm:

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This place is something between a gas station and a farm, i.e. something between nature and culture (very reminiscent in its design of the famous 1940 Edward Hopper painting entitled Gas and its clear demarcation between civilization and the forest). Energy radiates from the golden egg laid by the goose atop the sign just like it also emanates from the gas used by the cars that arrive to filltheir tanks.

Here is what Helen Valborg, a Theosophist, had to say about eggs (from HERMES Magazine): “To ancients in all lands, the egg was the symbol of generation and immortality … in Egypt by the winged egg floating above the mummy, carrying the soul to another birth … The alchemists spoke of the philosophical egg which combined all the elements of life, the container of thought and matter… the Cosmic Egg of Hindu tradition“. Inside the egg takes place “the necessary process whereby the One becomes the Many“. As such, it seems that one should not underestimate the importance of this symbol in Twin Peaks, a duck of sorts. Once again, as with so many elements of the show, this can also be read as something that explains the necessary mental evolution of its characters, their process of individuation. The egg/mind, like the alchemist’s athanor (furnace), is the place where lead is transmuted into gold.

This has been taken further by the Freemasons who adopted the Egyptian idea of a winged egg – named Kneph – and used it in their own collection of symbols. One wonders if this is not what the South Dakota version of Dale Cooper is looking for (what he ‘wants’). It would make sense that he would be trying to find a way to carry his soul “to another birth” and reach immortality, since he is afraid of going back to the Lodges.

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The fact that his version of the egg is black and drawn on an Ace of Spades playing card also makes sense. First, this card is traditionally associated with death and the bad Cooper is not afraid to kill whenever he needs to (or is it whenever he wants to?). Additionally, beyond the egg, the question of the bird appears central: “Often connected with the Spiritual Egg is the idea of a sacred bird that drops the Egg into the waters of space or chaos… In Hindu tradition the ‘Swan of Eternity’ lays a ‘Golden Egg’ at the beginning of each Mahamanvantara (an astronomical period of time measured in Hindu mythology). This Swan is the sacred Kalahansa, the Word. Its egg is the Word made manifest“. According to another Theosophist writing for Hermes Magazine, Kalahansa is “the Dark Swan of Everlasting Duration which manifests as the White Swan of Eternity in Time… Kalahansa is black, representing Divine Darkness, the plenum of all potentiality. Imagine a mighty cosmic bird with black wings, which corresponds to infinity and eternity… The Great Bird of Life is the primordial sacred bridge between kala and khandakala, the unconditionally Timeless and conditioned Time“. Recall here the specificity of time in the Lodges.

A Sanskrit term meaning “Swan of Time”, Kalahansa is identified by ancient Hindus as the first cause of the universe by metaphorically laying a cosmic Egg in space. The Theosophist Helena Blavatsky states: “Kalahansa has a dual meaning. Exoterically it is Brahmā who is the Swan, the ‘Great Bird,’ the vehicle in which Darkness manifests itself to human comprehension as light, and this Universe. But esoterically, it is Darkness itself, the unknowable Absolute which is the Source, firstly of the radiation called the First Logos, then of its reflection, the Dawn, or the Second Logos, and finally of Brahmâ, the manifested Light, or the Third Logos”. Helen Vallborg adds: “We have two aspects of the swan: the dark swan whose wings appear at the head of the caduceus (the staff carried by Hermes in Greek Mythology) and the swan which becomes white when light is created… The first is Hansa-Vahana or ‘He who uses the swan as is His vehicle’. It is Darkness itself, the Unknowable. The second is Kalahansa, the vehicle of the One Ray”.

The following quote from Vallborg should be of special interest to Twin Peaks specialists: “Kalahansa, the initiator of cycles, the Swan of Eternity, lays the Golden Egg at the beginning of each manvantara. The Swan, spanning the elements of air, water and earth, ignites the fire of a new beginning and a proliferation of being“.

She continues: “Kalahansa, the Great Swan whose arched wing hovers over the illusion of manifestation… is an extremely complex symbol of transcendence, of spirit in the world, of cycles and of creation“. It is “a creature of  the air (“from pure air we have descended”) but obtains its sustenance on water and land… The white plumage of the swan bespeaks the milk of spirit and thought brought to earth, the swan can discriminate between it and the water upon which it floats… Before the world took form, the cosmic ocean was a sea of milk, but in manifestation the ocean became water, the lake and the pond”.

Another possibility, alongside Kneph, concerning what the bad Cooper wants can be found in the following quote regarding ants (the drawing could also be of such an insect): “The fourth principle, completing and dynamizing the triad of wisdom, compassion and sacrifice, is the principle of metaphysical continuity between the highest and the lowest. ‘The highest sees through the eyes of the lowest’ is an ancient Hermetic axiom. Therefore, God sees through an ant. The Divine Mind is related to the mind of an ant“.

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After 25 years, we now get a new season of Twin Peaks, which begins with strange advice from the Giant to the good Dale: “Listen to the sounds”. A weird series of sounds is played by a gramophone, sounds that might be produced by insects perhaps. Only, when one changes the speed of the recording (from 78 rpm to 33 1/3 rpm – the sequence, shot in black and white, might have taken place in the past, at the beginning of the 20th century,  when gramophones were still the main sound storage media), here is what one hears:

Listen to the sounds

Ducks 2

Ducks on a lake!

And here are the ducks heard in the sequence above, just before Cooper declares “Look at that! Ducks on a lake!”:

Ducks quacking

One cannot deny a strong similarity between the two types of sounds. It does seem that the gramophone plays the sounds of a duck quacking at a high speed (78 rpm) – perhaps because of the time distortion linked to life in the Lodges?

phonograph 1

Duck sounds? “There is a high noise to signal ration, and hence one cannot really listen to the deepest voice in oneself, the Voice of the Silence. One cannot listen to the music of the spheres. Occult healing of soul deafness can come through the Great Bird… The AUM, the Great Bird, represents that which is beyond all processes of change” (Hermes Magazine)

Is it possible that the archetypal sound would be that of a duck? The very same duck/goose/swan that laid the golden flying egg that the bad Cooper wants so badly? By playing the sounds for him on the gramophone, was the Giant trying to warn the good Dale about his doppelgänger’s evil plans? Is that the word “Quills” written at the top of the gramophone’s horn?

Finally, the Giant also says: “Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone”. This is possibly a reference to the British folk duo Richard and Linda Thompson and their song “Bird in God’s Garden”. Those who have read my book are aware that I have long been convinced that the Red Room is a secret garden of sorts, a Temenos closely associated with the idea of Paradise (from Persian, meaning “walled enclosure”), one in which the bird-like entities of the Lodges dwell (“where we come from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air”).

Detail form Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting pinned next to David Lynch’s desk in the documentary The Art Life.

Reading the lyrics of the Thompsons’ song underlines what I asserted in my book. They also largely correspond to the good Dale Cooper’s situation, estranged from his own country, doing his best to return to Twin Peaks, the place that gives access to God’s Garden via Glastonbury Grove:

I am a bird of God’s Garden
I do not belong to this world

I am a bird of God’s Garden
I do not belong to this dusty world

For a day or two I have been locked up
in this cage of my own body

I did not come here of my own
How can I return of my own

He who brought me here can take me back again
He who brought me here will take me back again

to my own country

richard and linda.jpg

Richard and Linda Thompson – Bird in God’s Garden

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