Friday, November 02, 2018

Friday Ramble - Memory

This week's word has been around since the thirteenth century, coming from the Middle English memorie, Anglo-French memoire and Latin memoria/memor meaning "mindful".  Further back are the Old English gemimor meaning "well-known", the Anglo-Saxon gemunan, the Greek mermÄ“ra meaning "care", and the Sanskrit smarati meaning "that which is remembered" - in the Vedas, the word smarati is used to describe teachings handed down orally from the ancients and never written out. At the beginning of it all is the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root form (s)mer- meaning to keep something in mind.

One of the late autumn entities that always tugs at my heartstrings is the last heron of the season, he or she haunting leaf-strewn shallows in solitary splendor and hoping to find a few fish, frogs and/or water beetles to fuel the long trip south. It's an arduous journey from here to there -  all the way to the southern states, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, and the Galapagos Islands. Having a few omega-rich meals before starting out is a very good thing.

I remember a long ago autumn morning in northern Ontario when the heron migration was in full swing, and the great birds gathered in predawn darkness to feed before flying onward. Hundreds stood side by side in the foggy waters of the Mississagi river near Iron Bridge (in the Algoma district), and as I crept along the shoreline for a better view, their silhouettes appeared one by one out of the mist. It was wild and uncanny, haunting and absolutely magical.

There is enough enchantment in such tatterdemalion snippets to last many lifetimes, and I would like to retain the memory of that morning for the rest of my earthly days and beyond, no matter how many other mind scraps embrace the void somewhere along the road.  I've always loved the "Great Blues", and I revisit the scene often in my thoughts—it is always a place of tranquility and stillness. We need as many peaceful places as we can find in these troubling times.

For whatever reason, archaic English refers to a group of herons together, not as colony or a flock, but as "a sedge of herons".  Every summer I watch herons fishing in the shallows along Dalhousie Lake and think that if there were no other teachers about, I would be just fine with a sedge of herons to show me the way.  I don't usually think of a group of Great Blues as a sedge though.

For those of us who stay home and don't fly south in winter, the right expression for a gathering of our favorite birds is surely "a memory of herons".


Barbara Rogers said...

Ah yes, the wonder of one multiplied must be amazing.

Anonymous said...

How interesting! I never think of Great Blue Herons as migrators. I have always lived where they were year-round. The thought of them flying off in winter, to places so far away tugs at my heart. The changing of the seasons bring such news.

Tabor said...

I think it would be really cool to see a flock of them flying south...but they are pretty solitary.

kerrdelune said...

Absolutely right, Tabor, herons are solitary birds - the only time I have ever seen more than one in the same place was that night near Iron Bridge when the migration was in full swing.