Saturday, January 15, 2011

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

We are used to seeing snow white egrets on the island, most often standing by the side of the road, artificial looking, like those plastic pink flamingoes that some folks stick up in their yards. Why artificial? Because somehow we can't quite believe that anything so improbably graceful can be real.

White egrets, yes. Black herons we almost never see.

Today I came upon a black heron (Hydranassa tricolor?) as I walked the beach. It was standing on an outcrop of rock at the Palm Point, gazing at the sea, like Keats' stout Cortez, "silent on a peak in Darien," beholding the Pacific.

I approached. Closer. I could tell that the heron's glistening eye was aware of my every step. Closer still. Why was I so intent on disturbing the bird's repose. I don't know. I simply wanted to be close, I suppose, to stand there with the heron, searching the sea "with wild surmise."

With an almost imperceptible shove, it lifted into the air, like a rowboat pushing off from shore, just floated upwards, as apparently effortlessly as a balloon. Did its wings move? Yes, of course, but with such graceful languor I have no memory of them moving at all.

Floated like a cloud, the long, thin legs trailing behind.

Landed twenty meters along the shore. In the direction I was walking. We played tag. As I approached, the heron advanced. It was as if it were showing off. See how blithely I scull the air, how casually I refute your law of gravity.

"What goes up, comes down," I thought smugly to myself. We'll see, the heron seemed to reply when with one last push it took flight out across the waves until it disappeared, a vanishing black dot against the sky.