Reflections on a lake and a blue heron

Lake Bob Sandlin Valentine's Day 2013


I stood on the dock in  a windless mid-February day and looked at water as flat as aeons of my progenitors believed the face of the Earth. When I dropped a line with a bobber on it into the dark green water, it nestled next to the surface refusing to budge or to entice any creature from the deep.

The far distant dam stood firm in its resolve, aware of the cycles: drought, storm, pestilence, love, ambition. It gave no homage to the traffic on the main highway only a quarter mile as the grackle flew, a thoroughfare of haste, of revelers on St. Valentine’s Day, who thought their plans the work of angels, hastily concocted for nefarious ends, disguised as party-goers.

At the cove’s opening a skiff broke the plane as two captains plied their oars into the cool abyss.

“Did you see that?” she said.


“I think it was a great blue heron.”  She pointed toward the setting sun.

“I see him now,” her comrade said.

The regal bird swept over the tree tops, slid along the pale mercury, plucked a fish from its home, rose again.  He settled on a dock barely thirty feet from the skiff and threw his head back, devouring his latest snack.

“Wow,” she said.

Her companion nodded.

Lake Bob Sandlin Valentine's Day 2013 (2)

The heron was a statue, somehow aware of the intruders to his domain, unconcerned, his eyes dark pencil points.

“Do you think he knows we’re here?” she asked.

“I think he works strictly from instinct. Awareness has nothing to do with it,” he said, his college education raising its head.

The bird’s eyes turned to flames as he flapped his wings, rose above them, circled and swooped by the skiff almost within their reach before he skimmed the water.  He came to rest on a dock across the narrow neck of the inlet, poised to strike again. He glanced at the couple in the boat.

“I think he winked at us,” she said.

“It was just a reflex,” he said.  But he took up the oars and put his back into it as he rowed toward open water.

I watched the drama, chuckled at the two sailors fleeing.

Then the heron looked at me.

(Stephen Woodfin is an attorney, the author of six novels and a respecter of great blue herons.)

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