Blue Heron of the Fountain Valley

He’s a pencil sketch implausibility
of a bird, high-stepping it out from
the rain-drenched rushes of the
pond’s edge, his neck a skinny
swoosh you could almost miss,
making the parabolic drama
of that bill the more startling still.
He reacts to some invisible shift
in the wind or stirring in the
pond-scrabble round his magnified
praying-mantis legs, and in remarkable
silence, lifts off. Dusky azure
wings like the twin flags of some
long-submerged sea nation somehow
carry him airborne, and I have to
stop to stare at the spectacle.
Because how can it happen, really.
This creature with its ponderous
belly and windshield wiper appendages
is a bird only by some zany evolutionary
accident, a hasty experiment concocted
in the bowels of some crumbling biology
basement of the Protozoic period. But
this accidental bird has lived (and flown)
in this valley for as long as I can remember,
a shy and delicate forager touring
its inlets and backwaters in a kind
of abashed and melancholy solitude.

I picture him sometime long ago with
a mate—a heron-girl to write home
about, gloriously leggy and mad to
bear his gangly offspring—but something
happens to take her from him (maybe
a strangely cruel winter in the valley
or the arrival of a swaggering heron
rival from the southwest). Whatever
it was, though, it was a sadness
beyond repair. Blue Heron could
not fathom starting over, so he
haunts this mountain valley of
wetlands, river tributaries, and
ribbon of cottonwoods with a heart
as freighted as his un-aerodynamic
plumage, circling its jagged oblong
of territory on aging wings and
contemplating the nature of this
freakish universe from his murky
hermitage, wondering if the joke
just, after all, might be on him.

1 Discussion on “Blue Heron of the Fountain Valley”
  • This is a beautiful piece, Janele! What a beginning: “He’s a pencil sketch implausibility of a bird…” And it only gets better from there on in.