THE GREAT BLUE HERON

Standing knee-deep at the edge of the lake
the lone blue heron watched me walking by.
His neck was curved, his long dagger-like beak
pointed downward, his onyx eye fixed on me.
"How long it takes you to pass!" he exclaimed with a sigh.

Doubting I had heard the heron speak,
I continued on the pedestrian path, not breaking my stride.
Then a voice both male and female called out,
"Men are such slow, ungainly creatures . . .
I pity you, poor plodding human . . .
You are earthbound,
made to walk graceless upon the ground
and never soar through the heavens
on long-feathered wings such as mine."

I halted in amazement that it was the heron
who had spoken. Yet taken aback by his insolence,
my spirit aroused by the harshness of his words,
I was about to answer with a piece of pedantry,
to toss him some stale handful of gibberish,
when my heart opened and the words
"Forgive me!" came forth from my mouth.

Arching his neck more sharply
and pointing his beak more inwardly,
the heron plunged the dagger point into his breast.
The blood spurted out,
pouring down crimson over his speckled feathers.
I stood frozen in shock and fascination.
Three times with quivering neck
he drove the knife-point home,
his beak shining with blood, his legs trembling.

As I moved closer by a few tentative steps
he went over on his side,
his legs folding in, his neck going limp,
his wings twitching open as the splash came up.
He just floated there on the surface of the lake,
rocking slightly, a limp and lifeless thing.

With brimming heart and eyes, I moved gently closer,
and squatted down into the water
disturbing the red cloud of his blood.
My hands went tenderly under him
when suddenly he rose up like a fountain coming on,
his head and long neck erect, his wings
exploding open with a cascading rush of water.

My heart leapt with fear and love
as this majestic bird arose into the air,
his whole form radiant in the sunlight
flapping his large wings and flying off gracefully
across the lake.  I watched as he disappeared
into the mist still clinging to the other shore.
I was desolate now, aching and alone,
relieved when I heard his call and saw him
rise above the mist into the upper air
lit by the sun.  

But I stood in discontentment,
wishing I could join him, longing for his return,
and when at last I moved on, consoled by the thought
that if I frequently walked this same path
I would in all likelihood see him again one day,
I moved with a new rhythm and a natural grace.