Yesterday, along the Barrow River, I saw a heron standing on a weir, solitary and still, and then rise up and fly away in a slow and dignified movement. This last week of October was a special time for the ancient Celts, and so I was glad to have this encounter, because herons were special creatures for them, dwelling between the different realms of land, water and sky. Maybe because of their solitary and independent nature, herons were also seen as messengers from the gods.
Certainly, moments when we come across beauty in nature often feel like blessed moments, which lift the heart, especially as we stand in the stillness looking after them. And when Mary Oliver saw a heron rising up, she reflected on life rising up from the depths of pools in which we stand. It is only from developing a capacity to be still, from having our own wells, that we can really relate with wisdom to all that happens in our lives. We have to descend before we can arise.
So heavy is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings
open and she turns
from the thick water, from the black sticks
of the summer pond, and slowly rises into the air
and is gone.
Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is
that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed
back into itself –
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle, the fallen gate.
And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle
but the common thing, this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body
into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.
Mary Oliver, Heron Rises from the Dark Summer Pond