The Rest of the Story


My latest poem “I Have Danced with a Heron” is written entirely from a real experience which is a little different for me as most of my poems, while informed by my experiences are usually written more along the lines of concepts that I play with in my mind rather than any one direct moment in time.
I grew up in a small city in northern Ontario called North Bay which is located between two lakes, Lake Nippissing and Trout Lake. When I was fifteen, right around the time I started writing I lived very close to a park and beach on the shores of Lake Nippising and I would often go there to write. There was a flat rock in a small stand of trees where I would sit and look out at the water, letting my mind wander with the breeze and slow motion of the waves. One night, as it was sitting there a great blue heron flew in close to the shore and landed in the shallows. I watched as he walked back and forth, with these very, very slow measured steps, eyes fixed on the black water, his long, supple neck suddenly dipping then rising back with a shiny morsel quickly swallowed. 
I watched him (I don’t know why I say “him”, I have no idea to this day if it was male or female but it felt like a him) for about a month, just the two of use sharing the night. I started to think of him as my friend, I even started talking to him softly from my thinking spot, telling him all of the shit that was drowning my very confused adolescent mind. One night I was standing on the shore itself rather than sitting in my grove when he came in for a landing. I don’t know what exactly made me do it, but I took off my boots and socks, rolled my jeans up to my knees and slowly waded out. I remember the moon had paved a silver highway on the water, so bright I could see almost perfectly. I moved as carefully as I could, which is quite a feat as I am big and rather clumsy but that night I was silent. He knew I was there, he looked at me and ruffled his wings a couple of times as I approached, I stopped each time not wanting him to fly away. I got about four or five feet from him and he was magnificent, feathers liked blued steel, slender lines, a moving river reed, poised and perfect. I unconsciously started mirroring his movements, he stepped, I stepped, he turned, I turned until we were performing this complex dance together. This went on for about an hour, just the two of us, the water silver and black, a gentle breeze, a time that forgot about time and just was forever. In the end, I bowed and he nodded his head and I backed slowly to the beach. I walked home carrying my boots. I didn’t want to go inside though, I didn’t want to lose the stillness inside of me, I didn’t want light and tv and family sounds, I wanted to be still, because I was never still, I am never still, my mind is always roiling, loud, full of noise and unruly thoughts. I wanted to hold on to the perfect, deep quiet my friend had given me as long as I could so I sat on my stoop and smoked for hours. 
The memory of that night will live with me always, it changed me in small, subtle ways, shifting things deep inside if me. It has been many, many years since I last saw the heron and I miss him often, but he gave me something very profound that I can never articulate and that I will never be able to thank him for so I wrote this poem. Maybe through these simple words he can change something inside of one of you out there. They really are a monument to a friend, and later on, I think I will speak them to the wind and hope he hears them and likes them well.

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3 Responses to “The Rest of the Story”

  1. yu nowho Says:

    precious moment
    graciuosly shared

  2. emisformaker Says:

    If it was distinctly blue, it was a boy heron. The gals are grey and smaller.

  3. Moonhead Carter Says:

    memories of the dance speak of warmer days
    today’s bright sun is inviting but
    the wind off the lake would freeze bird and man like a snapshot
    each new facet revealed through your art
    is a cherished insight

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