Blue heron on the rocks. Sounds like a drink you’d order in an eco-bar. Some little hole-in-the-wall place in the bowels of a dank city, no sign outside, known only to the cognoscenti, where those too long deprived of woods and waters and fresh air come to drown their troubles.
The pinups on the wall would be posters of mountains and wildflowers and smog-free blue sky. The jukebox might play such tunes as “Burbling Stream,” “Wind Through the Pines,” and ”Bullfrogs On the Bayou.”
A place of rescue and refuge where a man, wearied and numbed by the concrete and glass and crowded sidewalks, feeling like a rat lost in a maze after the day’s grind of traffic and all the buying and selling and deal-making, could stumble in, blink a time or two, then belly up to the bar and order: “Gimmie a blue heron on the rocks…and make it a double!”
There have been many occasions during the various incarnations of what I euphemistically call my career, when I have been that drained and bewildered town-trapped man. Had such a watering hole been available, I would have become a daily patron…
Yes, dear folks, this is the real me. No need to smoke leaves from those funny weeds that grow up the road. Just put me out in the yard with the dog early in the morning, before I’ve yet achieved my usual caffeine buzz, and my squirrelly brain is apt to go skating off on some bizarre, fantastical tangent simply because I glanced up the river and saw a familiar feathered fisherman standing patiently at the head end of the island.
The rising sun was just brushing its warm light across the water. Tendrils of fog still swirled in the shadows. The nearby world was green and soft and filled with a comfortable quiet broken only by the ringing lilt of a Carolina wren in the thicket by the driveway.
As I watched, the heron stepped onto a rock, then stepped back down into the shallow water. And kept he kept repeating this over and over—up, down, up down. I wondered if the bird was undecided about getting his feet wet? Or was he just acting like I often do in the mornings?
I understand such early-morning indecisiveness because I regularly find myself vacillating over the most mundane matters…do I want one handful of raisins in my oatmeal or two? It’s as if my brain, not yet fully committed to reasoning or reaching a decision, gets stuck in dithering mode…should I pour my coffee into the blue mug or the red one?
I’m not even gong to ask if anyone else has a similar affliction. But trust me, there are often times just after I arise when I stand in the kitchen and have to ask myself—what am I trying to think about?
Fortunately, a half hour and a cup or two of coffee and I’m up to speed, everything functioning as well as can be expected. And apparently, something finally kicked in with the heron.
After standing immobile for perhaps a quarter hour, looking upstream and down, but never into the water, the gangly slate-colored bird shook himself and seemed ready to get down to business. He hunched and began stepping slowly upstream—careful, his posture alert and coiled, ready to strike, as he was peered intently into the murky shallows.
Sometimes, the best fishing of the day comes with the burgeoning light. As a fellow fishermen, I understand such matters from long experience on many streams. Just as I understand that mornings on the water are best enjoyed in solitude, without an audience.
I turned, whistled softly to the dog, and we headed back inside.