Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Sign from Above: The Message of the Great Blue Heron


We are on the pregnant cusp of spring and summer where I live. All of the flowers and trees are full to bursting with color and fragrance. This morning as I sat on my deck drinking coffee I heard a cacophony of birdsong in layers. My mind was already on overdrive. I have a job interview today and I don’t know if I want the job. Is it right for me? How can I know? I wanted to simply enjoy this moment on the deck without the chatter of what-ifs that had taken hold of my morning solitude. 

I closed my eyes to quiet the thoughts. I could hear the robins and stellar jays in the background as the crows inserted their loud, rhymic caw-caw-caw like a trumpet on top of a gentle piano melody. 

The sun was warm on my face and the lake to the north and east of me was still and quiet. After I finished my coffee on the deck, I took my dog Freckles down to the lake for a walk. As I waited for Freckles to explore the grass at the edge of the lake I closed my eyes again to hear the birdsong. The red-winged blackbirds like to hang out at the edge of the lake with the waterfowl. The birdsong had changed; now the caws of the crows dropped into the background and the high-pitched trill of the blackbirds along with the slow heavy honk of loitering geese took center stage.

As Freckles and I walked, something drew my eye upwards to the top of a giant conifer across the road from the lake. High up in the branches I saw what I thought might be an eagle, but as my eyes focused more I could see it was a great blue heron. She was looking east towards the other side of the lake. Compared to all of the birds bustling around me, the heron was serene, perfectly still. She seemed to be at one with the lake. 

“Hello Heron,” I said out loud. I have a long relationship with Great Blue Herons. They have been my favorite bird for many years because they remind me, at always just the right time, that I need to be still. For all the years I’ve walked along the lake, the herons have been there, sometimes hiding in the reeds, occasionally flying slowly overhead like pre-historic creatures, reliably perched on the driftwood by the marina, and today, high up in the cedar tree.

I am in transition again — looking for the perfect job. I am happy right now and I fear that taking the wrong job will take me away from this happiness. The stress of it, the obligation, the pressure I put on myself, will drag me down into the chaotic trenches that I so desperately climbed out of just a few years ago. And, I want to work. Working fulfills me. It energizes me. Many days I long for the creative outlet that I get from creating projects, writing proposals, solving problems. But today I am worried. 

I watch the red-winged blackbirds perch on the shrubs on the shore of the lake for moments at a time before they reverse dive into the sky circling a few times and then coming back. They sing their high-pitched Spanish trill as they dive back down to their branches. And the geese meander back and forth across the grass, wandering dangerously into the road, stopping cars as they make their slow, choppy journey to the other side.

All the while the heron sits above, waiting, watching. She’s too far up to see the fish in the lake. Is she watching for her mate? Looking for a new place to fish? Maybe she is taking stock of the day ahead, quieting her mind before she enters the fray of life down at the water’s edge. 

As I watch the heron I am reminded why she always speaks to me. I want what she has. I want the presence and patience to settle, to step away from the hustle and bustle down at the lake’s edge. 

I turn on the path to take Freckles home and I feel peaceful. Like the wise sage she’s always been, the great blue heron reminded me that the quiet presence she possesses is also right here with me. It was with me earlier this morning on the deck when I closed my eyes to turn off the chatter. And it is with me right now as I look towards the future, unsure of what the perfect job is. 

I think of the heron in the tree, patiently waiting for the right time to come down. There will be a moment when that heron decides she is ready to join the others at the water’s edge. She will leave her peaceful perch and find her place among the geese and ducks and blackbirds. And I too will find that moment. The perfect job will come. I will step back into the chaos. And I will try to remember the lesson of the heron — the peaceful presence is always here with me. 

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