The Heron Tree

There are two Herons who live nearby, somewhere along the River Tolka.  One has a single leg and a particularly brooding hunch, which have earned him the rather un-charming appellation of Mr. Grumpy Stumpy.

For weeks I’ve been watching them and thinking about them. Last night over dinner, in a discussion of Chinese 5-element Theory and Water, the Frenchman (he’s particularly Heron-like and one of his best sonnets is about an urban Heron) and I discussed the birds.

So when I cut through the city park on my way to the market this morning, I was surprised by a flutter of movement at my left side, mere steps away from the busy, traffic-congested avenue. A Heron rose up. Is that you, Grumpy? I asked. Good morning!

It is painfully Spring-like here, and the Celtic festival of Spring, Imbolc, is only a couple of weeks away. The birds are singing songs I only hear in April or May in the States. The daffodils are pushing sharply upwards. And this morning I noticed tiny Yarrow leaves along the sidewalk.

I had not gone two paces since I greeted what I thought was Mr. Grumpy Stumpy when another Heron came from the left, flying swiftly and low, branches in its beak. Oh, I thought, so that’s why you two are near the road — time to build nests — but I watched as it ascended the large Cypress tree right in front of me.

Excited at the prospect of watching their Spring preparations and eyeing the magnificent proportions of the tree, I took another step forward.  But as I did so, I heard the faint rushing of wings behind me and turned. Another Heron landed on the ground, some 10 paces from me. I was smiling at him when another landed near to it. Ah, are you the proud parents-to-be?

Again the rushing of wings! And I turned back and saw a third Heron. It landed about the same distance away on my other side. Three of you! Lucky morning! I didn’t dare reach for my camera. I simply laughed out loud when a fourth and final Heron landed to my right.

I was standing in the middle of a circle of Herons.

It must have lasted fifteen seconds. I looked up at the passing bicyclists and early-morning walkers, none of whom seemed to notice this. Everything moved and nothing moved. And at once they all rose together, wings beating, and flew far off into opposite directions.

I shook my head and turned back towards to the market. There was a stillness, a mystery, which was suddenly punctuated by a high and peevish wailing from the Cypress tree.

I walked over in search of the baby Heron and craned my neck skyward to see two nests. The sound was coming from the smaller one. My wait was brief: two Herons came sweeping back and up into the nest and the baby lifted itself in awkward welcome.

In animal medicine, the Heron means so many things that I need to be aware of at this time. Patience. Inner wisdom. Comfortability in Uncertainty. Self-reliance.

What animals have been crossing your path lately?

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