Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Light and Shadow

This morning on my walk I find myself irritated after a long night of restlessness. It's early, barely light, and a guy on a scooter on Two Rod seems to be making an unreasonable amount of noise. People are still trying to sleep, I mutter inwardly.

Also it's chilly. Sixty degrees. I threw on a light sweatshirt, but I'm annoyed that I didn't put a layer underneath.

Truth be told, several of my close friends are dealing with some serious life issues right now. Stuff happening that causes one to succumb to fear and worry. If I had to face these things, I think, I don't know if I could handle it.

And I notice how uncomfortable I am with my uncertainty. All I can do is listen. I can love them and be available when needed. But it seems feeble in the face of life-altering circumstances that are seemingly everywhere right now.

I notice how uncomfortable I am with the knot of fear lodged in my third chakra, center of personal power. How distressed I am at my inability to calm the thoughts chasing themselves around in my head all night long. This sinking feeling of powerlessnes. I try to allow it, to sit with it -- what else can I do at four o'clock in the morning? After a (long) while, daylight is seeping through the blinds. With a sigh, I'm up and looking for my sneakers.

At the pond I find two herons. One is on my left, over in the shadows. Perched on a fallen limb, all scrunched up, looking annoyed. I used to wonder if this bird was even a heron because, with it's shoulders pulled up like that, it's signature long and graceful neck disappears. I have a theory that they assume this position when they're on guard, vigilant. They look like they're not taking any shit from anyone today, so think twice before you get too close.

Over on the right, standing among the sunlit lilly pads is another heron, standing tall in her full glory. At ease. Nothing is bothering her. She looks this way and that.

I shake my head and summon a wry smile at this reflection of my psyche today. Troubled and restless, but wanting to be at ease. Tense, armored against that invading sense of futility and, even worse, the accompanying self-judgment. We are trained to be like that heron basking in the sun -- not to trouble anyone with our troubles. But guess what? Life is not always sunhine and lilly pads. It's ok to glower.

Today I give myself permission to glower!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quadruple Sighting!

OK, this is not going to be a blog exclusively about herons, but I was gifted with the sight of four of them this morning!

First, I'm standing on the dock, amused by a small fish that is following a turtle through a mucky maze of algae. The turtle turns right, the fish follows. This cracks me up. I watch them for a few minutes, then quietly sit down, hoping not to send them scurrying into the depths. This is when I spot the first heron, flying low over the water. She may have been watching me, watching them.

Next, I spy heron #2. I can't see her feet; she's over there in the tangle of fallen trees, so she could be standing either in the water or on a tree trunk. She is a soft gray, just like the bleached wood in the early morning sun. She hangs out for a while then alights, meeting another heron (heron #1?) mid-flight. The two of them disappear around the bend.

I'm wondering how these turtles suspend themselves in the water the way they do --heads poking up, looking intently, shells hanging at maybe a 45 degree angle below the surface. Motionless. No paddling to keep them afloat. Must be something with their breathing. Pathetically, I know I'll be looking this up.

My gaze wanders along the shoreline. And there's another one. Standing in deep water. It almost looks like she's floating, like a goose or duck. But no, she's still as a statue, only accasionally turning her long beak this way or that. She doesn't seem to be hunting. Just surveying her territiory. Eventually she takes flight too, landing in someone's back yard, as far as I can tell, under a big weeping willow.

So that's my signal to leave. Further along my route is the Highland Street pond and from across the street, between branches, I see something out of the ordinary in the grasses sprouting up along its edges. I cross over, keeping behind a tree so as not to disturb. Another heron! This beauty is large, very tall, perhaps a male? From this vantage point, much closer than my spot at the dock, I can see the powerful yellow beak, the long neck, the individual slate-blue feathers of his folded wings.

I'm regarding him wondering if he's aware that I'm there. Ha! I lift one foot, and he's off. I hadn't even taken a step! Huge wingspan lifting him off onto the shadowy treetops.

Maybe it's the full moon, maybe it's the turn of the earth toward fall. But the herons are out, just like we are, soaking up these precious summer days. I don't know why I'm so fascinated by these creatures except that they're so unusual, and they woke me up to the rhythms of the earth and the value of aligning with them. Learning about these cycles, how the ancient cultures all over the world honored them, somehow brings order and meaning -- and aren't we all longing for that?

Joining the rhythm of the universe pulls one into the flow of something greater than our daily list of things to do. It offers lessons in how to be in the tumult of the troubling times we live in.

An hour with the herons somehow brings healing. Breathing deeply, (like those turtles?!) I bring newly-regained peace and perspective into my busy day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Dreaming Heron Moon

My calendar refers to tonight's full moon as The Dreaming Heron Moon, noting that, "like the heron, this Aquarius full moon brings the energies of both air and water. Birds of the betwixt and between, most herons hunt at dusk and dawn, along the edge of water and land." (Llewellyn's Witches Datebook, 2012, p. 91)

Dusk and dawn -- potent times of transition -- are the best times for spotting the elusive heron. She teaches patience, stillness, grace. Whether in the air or on the shore, she teaches us to be still, to explore the constantly shifting borders between here and there, then and now.

One recent evening I was able to pause at length, sitting on the dock on the resevoir, as the sun set between moody clouds. One moment they were tinged with blush; the next, deep lavender. After a few moments of meditation, I open my eyes to find darkening clouds amassed like the gaping jaws of a dragon, with fiery "breath" blazing across the sky.

When the summer stars blink overhead, I scramble up. Time to get home. Dusk is coming earlier now and I start to fret. High summer is turning toward first harvest. Then I remind myself to align with this rhythm. Breathe. We still have many more long evenings to read out on the porch until the fireflies blink under the bushes and across the lawns.

Pausing at twilight teaches us to yield to coming changes as seamlessly as day gives way to night.

Kristen Madden, author of this little piece in my calendar, says of the heron that she "can lead us through the veil between worlds and allow us to commune with the Divine." May tonight's full moon open that portal for any who wish to enter!