Saturday, June 19, 2010

Of Herons and Summer Waters

The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)
Dalhousie Lake, June 2010

She is standing among the rocks near the Geddes bridge, where our own Mississippi river enters Dalhousie Lake after its tumultuous journey down the gorge from the High Falls power station. The water is too deep here for heron fishing, but there are shallow pools of water between the boulders, here and there a choice morsel of minnow, a frog or a fingerling moving about in lazy circles. The rocks give flickering shelter from the intense sunlight; the river's headlong journey under the bridge and out into the lake is almost trance inducing in its hypnotic rhythm.

Bedrich Smetana's symphonic Moldau (Vitava) comes to mind - the Czech composer gave his river a theme of its very own, a rippling leitmotif which emerges again and again from other elements of the score: the river's beginnings, its passage through forest and farmland, its triumphant sweep through Prague, and its joyful song of homecoming as it joins the Elbe. There are scenes of life along the riverside and snippets of Czech folklore: hunting horns in the forest and village wedding celebrations, visions of moonlight dancing on the river, a nocturnal dance of Rusalkas, the haunting water-nymphs of Slavic folklore who enticed mortals to their watery doom. OK, mine is a just little river, but oh, how she sings in summer....

I have been wondering if this summer of 2010 might not turn out to be "the summer of the heron". Herons and bitterns have been turning up in all sorts of places this year: in flight above the Clyde and Mississippi rivers, on our favorite lake in the highlands (above), on a friend's artfully reed fringed pond, standing majestically in a favorite fen at twilight - the great birds are often in my dreams too.

If there is a deity of these northern wetlands, it is heron with her golden eyes, her focus as fierce and intent as any lens, however powerful. Watching, it seems to me that in heron's gimlet gaze is a bone deep knowing of this rich, ecologically diverse and fundamentally wild commonwealth I call home.  Long after my molecules have dispersed back into the cosmic sea, I shall probably be here in spirit.  In some as yet unknown measure, I shall be here and rambling about (or flying) in this place, for I could be nowhere else.

Had I but a fragment of heron's patience and focus and dignity, I would be a happy camper indeed. Lacking those qualities, I am merely her ardent devotee.


Anonymous said...

Once more you have inspired me to make time today to visit a quiet urban lake 30 minutes drive from here.

I probably see herons or pelicans but there will be something else.

Than you, Cate, for the quiet and beautiful gifts you bring to each day.

Anonymous said...

I am so envious that you are able to view these wonderful birds "in the flesh."
Thank you for taking the time each day to send off something wild and wonderful your readers.