Friday, October 16, 2020

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 water beetles to fuel the long trip south. It's an arduous journey from here to there -  all the way to the southern states, Cuba, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Venezuela, and the Galapagos Islands. Having a few omega-rich meals before starting out is a very good thing.

I have already written here about a long ago autumn morning in northern Ontario when the heron migration was in full swing. The great birds had gathered in predawn darkness to feed before flying onward, and hundreds stood almost side by side in the foggy waters of the Mississagi river near the town of Iron Bridge. As we moved along the shoreline, their silhouettes appeared one by one out of the mist, and it was breathtaking, wild magic of the finest kind.

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, 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".

6 comments:

Lilian Nattel said...

Thank you for this beautiful ramble

Barbara Rogers said...

What a wonderful moment to remember. And thanks for the roots in the languages. It's Noah Webster's birthday, or maybe yesterday. A true lexicographer!

Mystic Meandering said...

I love, love, love your photo! The word it evokes for me is melancholy. I have not seen a Great Blue Heron in a long time. Such graceful, elegant birds. I miss seeing them. Too much development going on, eating up our open spaces... Thank you for writing about your experience with this great wonder...

Tabor said...

We have our one lone resident heron on the river. I enjoy him/her but it really avoids me like the plague...so I rarely get good pictures and certainly not the lovely mystery photos that you got!!

Kiki said...

What a delightful, beautiful and thought provoking ‘ramble’.... go on, ramble some more - I can take it. And a mighty fine pic you took too. It contains the sense of what you described so well. Thank You.

Guy said...

A lovely photo, we are so lucky to have the chance to see Herons in many of the sloughs by the cabin.

They are always a treasure, even if they gobble the salamanders at a prodigious rate.

Guy