Tag Archives: synchronicity

Defying reason

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.

Diversion: Houses and herons

My grandfather, who has been dead almost 60 years, lives on in the house he had built, a historic building that carries his name. And he lives on in Google, in the many archived electronic versions of his writings on neurosurgery. Leah told me she’d Googled him a couple of years ago, and a few entries had popped up under his name. When I Googled him a couple of days ago, I intended to see if I could find any internet images of his house. While there were no images available there was information about the house, and there were also pages and pages of his work, archived electronically, as well as writings about him. A paperback called In Memoriam: [his name], [his birth and death dates], caught my attention. It was from Amazon.uk.com, and it could be had for the princely sum of almost $50 (with the appalling exchange rate for the euro), and on an impulse, I bought it.

After I paid, it occurred to me that despite the moniker “paperback,” it’s probably his obituary, out of the newspaper, and if so, I already have a copy, folded neatly into the Bible I inherited when my mother died. Coincidently there were four Bibles, and I knew which one I wanted, the one that had belonged to my great-grandmother, with her name neatly inscribed on the front, and the date, 1887. I was afraid my sisters would want that one too, and I have never been one to argue over material things. However it was the oldest, the most worn, with yellowed pages and a ragged cover, and so I got my wish. I inherited, too, a silver dragon bowl from China (there is a fine story behind that bowl and the book my great-great aunt wrote about my great-great grandmother’s missionary trip to China, which has had a surprising resurrection, and is available still in multiple copies through Amazon.com — not reprints, I suppose, just version still extant, still circulating some 80 years later.)

But back to my grandfather and the Google search: As I scrolled through the list of entries under his name, I found a geneology of my mother’s father’s side of the family going back centuries, and made by my cousin (the son of my grandfather’s brother). I think the most common girl’s name in the family is Elizabeth, and that’s interesting because my daughter’s middle name is Elizabeth (but named after my great-aunt on my mother’s mother’s side of the family).

And there, in that family tree, was my mother, her date of birth, and her date of death, and a live link that led me to the last letter she wrote before she died, which I typed for her because she was paralyzed. And there was her voice again, so bright and filled with life, apologizing for writing a “Dear everyone” letter, relating her life since the last communication as though her journey through the cancer were just one wild and never-ending adventure, joyful, with a certain happy ending.

Beneath her letter was Dad’s notice that she “has been asleep for a week now,” written a day or two before her death, and the words, “Her passing will leave an unfillable void in my life, she had such enthusiam and interest in all things and people.” It was followed by his brief and factual notice of her death, sent the morning she died. Beneath that was a notice from the Inflammatory Breast Cancer listserv, noting her passing.

I read it, and then I took Zeke to school, and on the way back from dropping her off, as I drove the exit ramp to the road that would take me to work, I looked left, and saw a heron on the winterbrown grass, so close I wouldn’t need a zoom to get a decent picture if I had had my camera — which I didn’t. I thought of Loren’s heron pictures, how clear and precisely they capture the details of the great blue heron, the curve of the neck, the long decorative feathers that sweep down from the back of the head, the cool yellow eyes. I could see all those details as the heron turned his head and watched me drive on to work, and then the details blurred as I felt strange tears of surprise and grief and joy, all at once, fill me and overflow.