Sunday, September 16, 2007

Big Blue

I saw a blue heron today.

He was in the pond shallows, standing among ducks, preening himself.

I wonder if he knew how out of place he looked.

There, swimming around him, with their short squat necks and legs and bodies, were ducks and ducks. One was white, but most of them were mallards or wood ducks.
And there stood the heron, serene amongst their small quarrels and spats.

He knew I was there.
I was not aware of his presence until I was halfway down the hill. When I glimpsed his slender body and elongated neck, I sat down where I stood, without thinking about who saw me or how I looked.
I just sat.

For a moment, we were both still, his head turned to one side, one eye appearing to be fixed upon me. I took a bite of my apple and chewed, hoping that he would stay where he was. After a moment, he went back to his preening. I watched as his long bill chewed at and teased the feathers on his throat, over and over. It seemed to make no difference in his appearance, but he moved systematically down his body, smoothing a feather here, ruffling the feathers in another area. I inched my way down the hill, closer to the pond. At times, he would catch my movement out of the corner of his eyes, and once again he would freeze, staring at me. Little by little, though, I came close enough that if I had wanted, I could have hit him with my apple core. I dropped the core into the bushes and stood, my hands in my pockets, just watching the large bird. For some reason, I wanted to be closer to him. I had a flash of how it would feel to hunt an animal, and I breathed thanks that I did not need to kill for my next meal. Slowly, I crept down a path near the pond until I could go no farther in the bushes. Then I stood still, watching and thinking and memorizing.

The ducks remained oblivious to my presence, but when I looked at the heron, I knew he knew I was there. He curved his neck, making a deep noise within his throat. It seemed like a warning, but whether it was to me, or the ducks around him was a mystery. As I stared at the heron, I wondered where he had come from, and where he was going. I wanted to know what his voice sounded like, how he looked when he swam, how he took off from the water, and if he tucked up his legs when he flew. I almost wanted to frighten him so he would cry and take off and soar. But I knew I could not do that. I knew that his peace and serenity were too great for me to dream of disturbing him.

The heron lowered himself closer to the water, bending his legs, and dropping behind the bushes, out of my view. It was my turn to act, my line.

I turned and crept back the way I had come, taking care not to make noise on my path out of the bushes and up the hill.

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