Friday, October 15, 2021

Friday Ramble - Memory


This week's word has been around since the thirteenth century, coming to us from the Middle English memorie, the Anglo-French memoire and the Latin memoria/memor meaning "mindful".  Further back are the Old English gemimor meaning "well-known", the Anglo-Saxon gemunan meaning "to bear in mind", 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 this week's wordy adventure 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. Consuming a few omega-rich meals before starting out on such a long voyage is a sensible thing to do.

I have already written here more than once 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. It was 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 love Ardea herodias and stay home in winter rather than flying south, the right expression for a gathering of our favorite birds is surely "a memory of herons". In the depths of the long white season, we think of them and smile.

3 comments:

Jennifer said...

Just lovely. "A Memory of Herons" sounds perfect.

Barbara R. said...

Thanks for your memory being shared here, now whenever I see our lone herons, I will wonder where their sedge might be, certainly in your memory at the least!

Mystic Meandering said...

How beautiful - remembering "peaceful places in troubling times". And for sure a "memory of herons" would be magical and soothing... Love the photo too: a melancholy memory...