heron

By the end of the week, on Friday, I was feeling nature-deprived. In the car on the way home from chinuk lolo I said to Sanguinity, “On Sunday we could go for a hike in the Gorge.”

“We could do that,” she allowed.

“I want to.”

She agreed right away. It was that kind of I-want-to in my voice.

On Saturday, while Sang was teaching in Salem, I ran down through the college canyon. Well, mostly I walked, especially once I was on the trail and looking around. I became aware of how much I was telling myself stories in my head that I already knew, about what plants were growing near each other, what was in season, what birds were on the water. Sometimes I find it comforting to know all that stuff, feel local, narrate it to some invisible audience in my head. But now I was sick of it and felt a strong desire to learn something new from walking through and watching. Anything new, just something.

The salmonberries were ripe, but the thimbleberries hadn’t turned red yet. A juvenile mallard swimming with its parents was still in its fluffy plumage, but not for long. The turtles were sunning on their usual log; the bee tree was busy.

I continued down across the landbridge and into the lower canyon. As I crossed one of the small footbridges I saw a heron out of the corner of my eye. It was close, a few arms’-lengths away, and standing still. Clearly it did not want to be noticed.

And that seemed to be enough for me– discovering a new heron hangout. I don’t even know if it’s a habitual one, like the spot further up by the peninsula. The itch for something new was scratched. It was even okay to skip the hike on Sunday for the sake of getting the tomatoes, basil, and peppers into the garden before it really was too late, instead of just feeling too late.

When I mentioned the heron to my dad in an email, he wrote back: Great blue heron’s 2nd defense, if not being observed fails, is to stab the attacker’s eyes. We had to wear protective goggles when banding g.b. herons in a nesting colony. Even nestlings know, “go for the eyes.”

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