Meditation and the Great Blue Heron

I am spending the weekend with my friend B, who is nearing the end of radiation treatment. She lives on a small farm on a two-mile gravel drive, which they share with a handful of neighbors, each a half mile to a mile away. This morning I woke up early, unable to sleep–presumably due to repetitive worry over things not all that important that I can do nothing about–but now I think perhaps because I was called from sleep to don my sneakers and quietly slip out the door for a morning walk.

It rained last night and all the blades of grass, leaves, petals, edges of bark, spiderwebs, and globes of fruit dangle with droplets of water reflecting and magnifying the lushness around.

Pine trees lit with rain along the driveway.

Pine trees lit with rain along the driveway.

Since I arrived a B’s I have wanted to see a deer and before I headed off on my walk, I had sat with my cup of coffee in silence on the deck waiting for one to show up. Now, crunching down the road, my footsteps declaring “Stay away,” I give up my dreams of large fauna coming to say good morning. The sky is soft gray, and along with bird song is an intermittent but regular sound of raindrops falling. The colors are muted and I try to breathe them in down to my toes.

Yesterday, B asked if I’d been to the pond and I said not in a long time, so I head up the hill thinking that if my shoes get wet, I can always take them off. This is the kind of random thought that’s easy to brush aside.

First sight of the pond in the misty morning.

First sight of the pond in the misty morning.

Now this is just lovely, I think, then see that there are benches in front of me and a small deck with a ladder descending. Further to my left another 100 feet or so, is another sitting area that B’s neighbors have carefully established for . . . well, I suspect for a place both to sit and reflect and to watch the kids swim safely–I deduce this because there’s a water gun tucked into a bit of siding behind where I lower myself. Will I get wet sitting on the wet bench? Brush that aside, too.

I sit for a few minutes then decide to go ahead and try my meditation, thinking what better place to be mindful and to let go all that clutter that kept me awake last night. I close my eyes, breathe slower, feel the air, begin to focus on the bird sounds in the facing woods, separating them. I move to metta, first myself then my dear friend, “May you live free from danger. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”

To my right the softest sound of something walking pulls my attention. I half open my eyes, cutting them to the right, just in time to see a Great Blue Heron pass at my side a mere four feet away. With barely a change in my posture, I reach for my camera and press the lens into an opening in the lattice behind me, just in time to capture the great bird walking away.

Great Blue Heron passes me on its way around the pond.

Great Blue Heron passes me on its way around the pond.

I turn around and tears fill my eyes. I can’t breathe. I don’t know what has happened. Is it a sign from god? A gift from the animal world? An answer to the metta prayer? My cousin would say, “It’s Casey, he came to say he loves you.” I don’t know anymore than anyone else what it means when grace wraps us up, only that everything stutters to a stop and for a moment we are left gasping.

Here’s the call of Great Blue Heron:

3 thoughts on “Meditation and the Great Blue Heron

  1. Most beautiful, Jane! Reminds me of a Dostoyevsky quotation Richard Rohr uses as headnote in his most recent book: “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. . . . Love the animals, love the plants. . . . Things flow and are indirectly linked together, and if you push here, something will move at the other end of the world.” From The Brothers Karamazov


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