Called By the Heron

Last Saturday, I felt incredibly drawn to go for a walk at Heather Farm park at dusk. As I gathered my stuff for class, I decided to grab my camera just in case. I'm glad I did. After class I was tired, but I drove to the park anyway. Something was calling me.

As soon as I arrived, I felt exhilarated. The sky was bright blue and free of clouds. The sun was shining and warm and there was that lovely fall chill in the air. All around me were yellow, orange, and red leaves. I reveled in the splendor of my favorite season. I photographed trees, smelled the dry grasses, and listened to ducks call back and forth to one another.

Then I got to a special section of the trail where I always see interesting animals. Sometimes it's turtles or geese. That day, I saw a kingfisher, the bird above. It let out a shrill call after I said hello. It stayed for a few minutes while I tried to get a better angle for a photograph through the bushes. Then it flew off. I thought that might be my only up-close encounter with nature, but I was mistaken.

All I had to do was walk a few feet ahead, and keep a sharp eye on the reeds. I'd seen a heron nestled amongst the reeds once before, and ever since I look to see if I'll glimpse another. I did that night. And I know that it was this heron that was calling me to the park.

It is a black-crested night heron. I was in awe of its beauty and the way it sat perfectly still. I was about four feet away from the bird and it didn't fly off. It allowed me to take several pictures. And then I stood watching it for at least 15 minutes, if not longer.

I felt an immense calm come over me as I stood with the bird. It acknowledged me and then sat still, looking out over the water. It did not care about the people and dogs walking by, some of them raucous and oblivious to the amazing creature lurking just off the path. At one point, it became so relaxed it closed its eyes as if it was going to sleep. I could not believe the bird felt safe enough, even though I was standing right there, to close its eyes. It was an amazing experience.

Finally, I said goodbye to the heron and finished my walk. I believe the bird's message for me was to slow down and take time to just be present. That's exactly what it was doing...just being present to the water, the reeds, the people going by, the air, the calm of the coming night. When I stood with it, my mind was blank, as if I could do nothing but just be present to the bird, the reeds, and the water. It was a profound lesson, and one I will not soon forget.

The heron's picture adorns my desktop right now, its piercing orange eye reminding me to slow down, breathe, and just BE. I am so grateful for having met it.

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