Heron Keeps the Secrets of Magical Writing
Yesterday was a day of dark storm clouds broken by sudden sun openings. Although I felt weak from a lingering flu, I picked up my camera for a short walk to see for myself what all the drama was about.
From the bridge over the Willamette River, still golden cottonwoods lit up with sunlight while thick, black clouds roiled behind. The light quickly changed to shadow and then the sun came back again, so my vision seemed to move between the everyday world and that Otherworld always waiting for a turn of the head, the shift in light that would reveal that world where every object is imbued with its own spirit and is waiting to speak to you about whatever is in your heart.
As I was crossing the boardwalk between two ponds, I stopped to frame an image of leaves, water, and reflections when I was startled by the banking flap of enormous wings. Great Blue Heron had flown directly into the focus place of the photo I had framed.
Instantly, I thought of a fragment from Ovid’s Heroides
“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook always be cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be fish.”
Great Blue Heron Flew Into My Cards Today
Each card had a different animal on it, and its qualities translated into human terms in a little accompanying book. When we had a chance encounter with an animal in either the real world or through dream or another chance encounter such as the logo on a truck that arrested our attention, we would say that the animal “flew into my cards today.” We would look up the meaning of the card and through drawing and journaling think about the lesson or insight the animal was bringing. I consider this to be High Play.
I didn’t actually know anything about the symbolic or shamanic meaning of cranes or herons in Western traditions, so I did due diligence when I got home and looked it up.
I learned that herons and cranes were important in Celtic mythology. One reason was because those bird species lived in a misty environment between land and water–the marsh. Just as an hour of quick-changing sun and shadow shifted my seeing between worlds, so does the heron live in that liminal place at the doorway to the Otherworld.
I really love the other reason, too, which I learned from Anna Franklin’s excellent online site, Power Animals, Allies and Totem Animals, “The Celtic god Ogma was said to invented ogham [an ancient British and Irish alphabet] after watching the flight of cranes, the shapes of the birds against the sky giving him the idea for the angular letters.” As a poet and writing instructor, the idea of my writing springing from the shapes of birds against the sky is deeply satisfying.
I have been thinking pretty much non-stop lately about the Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal and the classes my sister and I are creating. The appearance of the Great Blue Heron literally flying into my focus tells me we are on the right track.
Your Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal is your Secret Book, your Book of Dreams where you draw and journal in that numinous space between land and water where the heron lives and feeds. We look at the outer world with our inner eyes, and when the heron flies, we understand the writing their stick legs and archeopteryx shapes make against the sky.
The Science of Shivers
Robert Moss, in a book of his I’m reading right now called Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life, says we must develop the Science of Shivers, “which involves learning to recognize and respect what is going on when something exceptional is in the air and your body responds even before your mind can make sense of it.”
When the heron flapped giant silver wings into my lens, folded up and settled on his log in the pond, I got goosebumps all over. I definitely felt the necessity of responding to this vivid visitation in my Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal; this time as this blog post.
Moss says, “Feeling is your clue to meaning.”
Do you know the poet Mary Oliver? What she doesn’t know about the Science of Shivers doesn’t need to be known. Most of her poems creep up on me and give me the shivers–including those about Great Blue Heron:
Heron Rises From the Dark, Summer Pond
By Mary Oliver
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings
and she turns
from the thick water,
from the black sticks
of the summer pond,
rises into the air
and is gone.
Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is
that death is a hole in the ground,
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed
back into itself–
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the fallen gate.
And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle
but the common thing,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body
into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.
Watch carefully then tell me: who flew into YOUR cards today?
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BOOKS I REFERENCED IN THIS ARTICLE
Note: I have personally read all of the books I referenced in this article and can recommend them to you as good companions on your Journey.