The grass grows, a faint green wash across the hills. Where the heron stood two weeks ago, the color rises vibrantly out of the decay of dead weeds. I look each day as I drive the exit, my eyes scanning the patch of weedy grass, and always the bird is absent, as I would expect it to be. Loren wrote in a comment, “It almost defies reason.” For me, it does defy reason. I have a physicist father, a neurosurgeon grandfather. I come from a line of scientists. The heron’s presence, always precisely connected to my mother, is a mystery.
Oh, it’s not that herons are never present on unimportant days, or when I’m not thinking of Mum. It’s just that those herons appear where expected, standing in the river, flying over the heronry that’s off the main freeway across the gap. I see them and think nothing of it. It’s when they appear in odd places, at significant times, that I am halted and drawn into the mystery of their presence. One of my favorite nuns here, a woman from the Phillipines who had spent a year or two in Ireland on retreat, told me during my first weeks in RCIA that the Irish nuns she met all had a strong connection to animals. “The heron fits so well,” she said. Her immediate acceptance of the heron as an aspect of the divine drew me in, although it was perhaps in a different way than she might have expected.
Then, today, I was glancing at my stats (not an obsession, just a curiosity, because I like to see what search terms pull people in, and some of them are funny and some curious — like the sudden influx of readings from a listserv on teaching in response to my entry about multiple choice grading: what’s that about?) and there was someone searching for “What does heron signify” and just out of interest, I Googled it. And there was another interesting synchronicity: The heron sometimes is associated with meditation for its habit of standing motionless for long periods. My mother, who meditated almost every day for the last 30 or more years of her life, loved a bird that evokes meditation.
It almost defies reason. No. For me, at this point, it does defy reason. And I’m not worried about it, anyway, whether it’s a coincidence, just me paying attention because I have been awoken to the importance of herons in my life, or whether there is something beyond reason in it. It just is. And that’s enough for me.