When despair in the world grows in me…I go and lie down where…the great heron feeds. I come to the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief…For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. – Wendell Berry
The heron returned to my neighborhood pond on one beautiful breezy June afternoon. My last post about this visitor generated much discussion with family and friends. They remarked on the lessons I needed to learn from my spring guide to heed her lesson to BE. So, when the heron returned two weeks later, I took note and paid special attention to her presence.
After her previous visit, I decided to research the symbolism of the heron. From one website, the heron is symbolic of many of characteristics – Calm, Grace, Solitude, Patience, Intelligence, Being Present, Determination, Independence and Resourcefulness. The site goes on the note that – “the heron is at home in three elements: Water, Earth and Air.” This speaks to the heron totem as appealing to people who “are either very skilled in a myriad of different elements, or they are branching out in various skills, and the heron is offering confidence in the process.” People who see the heron as a guide can find themselves ‘”in-between’ phases, places or people in life, the heron can give guidance on how to easily move through those ‘in-between moments of life.”
“Whoa, OMG”, whatever other head slapping description one may want to apply, crept over my being like a guardian angel whose wings brushed a bit too closely. I shuddered in delight at the synchronicity of many relevant meanings to my current state of being in life. This visiting heron had already lured me in. Reading about the symbolism of this elegant bird captured my imagination more fully. As I read on, I learned the heron is not as peaceful and noble as s/he appears at first glance. When hungry, stillness is used as an advantage to take prey by surprise. The website author noted that his heron observations were made at a friend’s pond. That heron’s visit was less welcome when the heron robbed the friend’s investment in stocked $300 koi fish.
I went to my deck to relax after a rushed lunch. I ate too fast and a small piece of broccoli got stuck on its way to my stomach. The discomfort that followed made me lose my appetite. I chastised myself for once again rushing through one thing to get onto the next task of the day. So, when the heron returned that June afternoon, I greeted her in silence and reverence. There are no koi in our neighborhood pond. There are some fish, turtles and frogs. These other creatures that share the pond were not a consideration. Thoughts about the heron’s eating habits never entered my mind. I focused on her noble qualities and grabbed my “good” camera, just in case.
In my life that day, a pause was in order. On the deck, I busied myself with some reading and journal writing. I glanced up at the heron from time to time. She stealthy patrolled the perimeter of the pond, wandered over to a muddy place, scarfed down a worm or snake and finally settled into some grasses along the bank of the pond. She amused me in between my leisure work for over an hour. I never thought of the pond as her dining place. She wasn’t just hanging out, but was observing food that would satisfy her hunger.
Finally, I decided I had been still long enough and needed to get some “real work” done. The heron was on the same wave length. She moved suddenly with speed and pounced on something at the edge of the pond by the tall green grasses. It looked large. I grabbed my camera and extended the lens in telephoto mode. As I looked through the viewer, I was stunned to see she had a large bull frog dangling from her mouth. I had no idea if the photos would turn out. I had no tripod to steady my hand and I’m blind as a bat at distance. I was mesmerized as I watched her deliberately and skillfully immobilize the dangling frog by breaking its legs first then dropping it on the grass and stabbing it quickly with her beak. While I felt sorry for the poor frog, I was intrigued with the purposeful ritual the heron was going through to prepare her meal. I also realized she was preparing to eat one of the nocturnal creatures who kept me awake at night. When the frog was clearly dead, the heron then washed it in the pond and managed to swallow it in one gulp.
I can’t believe I ate the whole thing
The drama which interrupted my peaceful afternoon observation of the calm, tranquil, patient heron reminded me of qualities that I read about on another website. The heron’s stillness allows an alertness to be able to pounce on opportunities when least expected.
As I looked at the heron’s neck, the bulge recalled my lunch experience of a few hours earlier. Her neck transformed back to it’s original shape effortlessly in a mater of seconds. After my rushed lunch, I had felt discomfort for what seemed like hours. I had not been still nor approached my food as deliberately as the heron approached hers. I opened my fridge and grabbed what was easy to eat quickly with little thought or preparation. I mindlessly consumed what was on my plate – which led to the discomfort I felt as I distractedly swallowed whole pieces of food. Stillness, observation and deliberate preparation are often the best way to capture what we need to nourish us.
That night, the bull frog chorus seemed a little deeper and maybe a bit mournful. I haven’t seen the heron since then. I continue to wait. In the meantime, I pause, observe and prepare for an opportunity to learn whatever life lesson may appear as I linger in my “in-between” moments in life.