THE BLUE HERON
By Ruth Minshull
Impatiently, I punched the OFF button and turned away from the television. Too much bad news, I thought. There must be some good things happening in the world.
I stepped out on the deck of the Florida condo where I was staying. The sun, low on the horizon, spread its gleaming, image across the surface of the Gulf. I decided to take a short walk on the beach before night moved in. It had been a gorgeous autumn day, with a soft breeze gentling the brilliance of the water. An artistic arrangement of wispy clouds promised a spectacular sunset.
Despite the fact that hundreds of people lived in nearby buildings, I was the only person on the beach. I suppose they’re all preparing for dinner, I concluded. Whatever the reason, I welcomed the uncommon solitude.
I strolled west, hoping to see the blue heron. I had walked the beach many evenings around this time, and had often seen him (or her) standing in the same place. I didn’t know why he was always there, but I always felt a thrill at the sight of this majestic bird.
When I reached the location, I scanned the entire area, but failed to see him. Well, maybe the heron has changed his agenda, I thought. Disappointed, I started to turn back. Then I saw him. He was standing so still in the dusky twilight–his long pale legs blending in perfectly with the background of white sand and sea grass–that he was nearly invisible.
Thrilled at the encounter, I remained motionless as we gazed at each other–I with pleasure, he with guarded tolerance.
Our confrontation was interrupted by the sound of a sliding door. The heron turned expectantly as a man stepped out onto the second-floor deck of a nearby condo. With practiced care the man flung a small fish out over the railing. The heron caught it expertly and flapped off a short distance to gulp it down. Soon the bird returned; the man came out again and threw another fish. This time the heron grabbed it and flew off. The provider went inside and closed the door. Obviously this ended a nightly routine.
On my returning walk. I was bouyed by a sense of well-being. It was gratifying to know that here in this unremarkable place on the coast, an elegant feral creature had worked out an agreeable dinner arrangement with an alien life form.
I thought of my impatience with the newscaster earlier. Such diligent purveyors of bad news seldom tell us that between New York and Hawaii, Miami and Alaska, many millions of ordinary American people go about their lives, sharing smiles, sharing potlucks, trusting each other, lending a hand, kissing away a tear, helping a child launch a kite, giving hugs of comfort, holding doors open, cooking therapeutic chicken soup, loving one another.
Of course, the newscasters can’t tell us about these people because they’re not shocking; bleeding or dying.
But it helps to be reminded, now and then, that there are heartwarming events going on around us–if we look for them in the right places.
One such place is outside a certain condo on the Gulf coast, at dusk.
(c) Ruth Minshull 2013
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