Yesterday afternoon, the skies cleared, the sun re-emerged after a good 4-5 days of absence. The temps rose above 10 degrees, and a friend and I decided to take one of our spur-of-the-moment "v-cations" (as Eliza used to say).
We contemplated lunching at the local Chinese restaurant where the cooks are nice enough not to prepare MSG-laden food, but then the idea struck me to go to the Boat House, a restaurant/bar situated along the Ohio River. The afternoon sun radiated off the snow and water, and the window-enclosed addition to the bar provided a setting as close as one could come to actually being outside on this deceptively warm-looking afternoon.
There was no traffic along the river, except for the Great Blue Herons who were out in abundance, gliding gracefully up and down the river. I absolutely stand in awe of these large graceful birds; for many a year, they've been a source of great inspiration for me, especially when I didn't feel like I could stand on one leg, support myself, and maintain my balance (figuratively.)
(We watched numbers of these majestic birds flying along the edge of the water, just like the one pictured here.
Photo credit: unknown)
I have to my friend with a heap of patience, for when one of the Great Blues would fly by, I would immediately lose our thread of conversation. I am always mesmerized by these birds, and as one would come into view, I fixed on it until it was out of sight.
Then I witnessed something absolutely amazing! One was flying up the middle of the river when I saw him approaching the water as if to land. There were small ice floes there that he probably thought would support him, and as he got very close to the water, he looked as if he were going to dive for a fish, but much to his surprise, I think, he completely submerged under the water. He re-emerged quickly thereafter and began to attempt to take flight. With his neck fully extended toward the sky, he started flapping his wings in an effort to lift his body out of the water. It was very obvious the task was a daunting one, for he couldn't ascend high enough to start flapping his wings in forward motion. At that point, he went back down. I sensed his panic, as well as my own.
The huge bird again stretched his neck at a 90-degree angle to the sky and started short, rapid mini-flaps with his wings. Again, he really looked like he was depending on the strength of his neck muscles to help him get high enough for his wings to move without hitting water.
(I'm sure the two men seated a couple of tables down from us were pretty much unaware of what was going on. They had not noticed any of the many GB's that had flown by during the time they sat there, talking about something immensely boring and political.)
OK, the next part of the story might seem a little bizarre for some, but as I watched the bird struggle to regain flight, I felt a surge of energy inside me leave my body in a beam directly aimed at the GBH. I could feel the vibration leaving my body through my third eye, and I could hear myself telling the creature how close he was to gaining enough height to fly forward. I felt like an energy-possessed cheerleader, assuring him he could make it - he was so close to taking off! And sure enough, he struggled a few seconds longer until he could start flapping to lift himself up and start up river.
That's not the end of the story, however. I "re-entered the atmosphere" long enough to catch my breath and continue the conversation with my friend, only to "feel" the bird once again, as if he were calling my name. As I turned to look at the river, my GBH friend had turned from north to west and was flying directly toward me --dead on, directly toward me! He flew past the river's edge toward the Boat House and then dropped down on the bank just below where I was sitting. I heard him calling, but I didn't see him for another 5 minutes or so until he took off flying south. By that time, my friend was as engaged in what was happening as I, and as the heron went down river, both of us just sat for a few seconds with our mouths wide open - -We had just had a most special encounter with Mother Nature and her incredible fisherman, the Great Blue Heron.
(photo credit: unknown)
My close encounters with Great Blue Herons are too numerous to relate here, but suffice to say, I've always thought of this majestic creature as one of my totems, a guiding animal spirit. Their connection to both air and water provides good balance for me as a Virgo (a double Virgo, at that) who can use a little urging from time to time to take a break from her Earth pull.
And, I like what Ted Andrews says about the Great Blues in his book, Animal-Speak: The heron's long legs "...are symbols of balance, and they represent the ability to think and evolve. The longer the legs...the deeper life can be explored. The long thin legs of the heron reflect that you don't need massive pillars to remain stable, but you must be able to stand on your own. This is especially significant for those with a totem of the great blue heron, as it is a lone hunter....GBHs stand out in their uniqueness, and they know how to snatch and take advantage of things and events the average person doesn't bother with....The GBH is powerful in flight...it takes aggressive movement toward opportunities that present themselves."
I watched the heron yesterday rely on its instinct and strength to rescue itself from the icy waters. I feel blessed and energized for the unique experience of our connection. I can't stop thinking about what I witnessed, both with the bird and within myself.