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Great Blue Heron: Only in Dying, Life

Many years ago, I went into what looked like an antique store, off the plaza in Santa Fe. Inside, a museum-like world of ancient treasures.

I got talking with the owner, who unexpectedly took two objects out of a desk drawer and handed them to me. Suddenly, two 25,000 years old black stone statuettes in my hands. Deep black stone goddesses from Old Europe that fit like they belonged there. A stunned sensation. A fierce split-second desire to run, to never be parted from them again. I’d spent my life seeing such things behind glass in museums - but to hold this palpable ancientness was startling like lightening is startling, and unforgettable.

After a few moments I handed them back. He casually dropped them back into the drawer, saying that he’d just sold the pair of them, brought the price down from the original $100,000, for both. A merchant’s mercenary satisfaction.

I’ve never forgotten the amazed, holy feeling of two stone goddesses from another time, another world, there in my hands.

Today, I drove up the canyons to get to the Moraine Park outside Estes Park, seeking to get of my minds' preoccupation with work. Once there, meandering in bright, cold spring sunshine, following a winding, deep-flowing creek across the elk-fields. Crystal clear snow-melt water gurgling past low overhanging mud banks. Sunlight turning the water that subtlest light-shot olive green. Dark fish about the length of my hand gliding by in deep pools. Elk trails and spoor all around.

Being there, sanity, that sacred spaciousness, washing back through me. I went along, reentering the World, the brittle crunch of dry grasses underfoot, a solitary bird call some way off, the surrounding hills that flat, dark wheat color, or the dense darkness of high mountain pines.

Suddenly glimpsing something in the grasses by the water. Coming closer; gasping. There on the ground, a long, multi-jointed leg bone with a really huge bird's foot on one end. Then, ah! the other leg and four-toed foot, and then, oh! a wing lying on the grass, then the other: great dark blue-grey wings. Nearby, the head, all bone and blood and wading bird’s long dark orange beak, attached to a neck as long as a snake skeleton. Smaller loose feathers everywhere, caught in hollows, tossed about in the blustery wind, stuck on dry grasses. Had to be blue heron.

Looking, walking slowly around it all, over and over again. Taking in the leg, the other leg, their scaly surfaces like a reptile’s, the great long beak, the slightly webbed feet with curved black nails; the endless neck, covered in remaining strands of sinew - trying to absorb the sudden realness of getting out of my car and then a few minutes later stroking the semi-soft, scaly, cold, padded inside of - a herons’ foot!

Like that other time: so suddenly jolted outside of the known world: I am holding goddess figures from a time almost before time. I am touching a great blue herons’ foot… I am blessedly alone out here in the bright wind, the openness of this wide mountain valley, and I am touching, holding, exploring, a herons’ foot, stroking a herons’ beak, being with this wild, dead being now in other-world, that was clearly killed by a predator quicker than she.

Eventually I return to the car. I have been given myself back again. I am whole again now for a while, and blessed with wonder, with the unfathomable presence of the Real.

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