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My heron, my river

My herons and my river have been a huge force in re-stabilizing my life here. The herons and I have an interesting relationship. I’ve noticed that they don’t pay a lot of attention to the other people on the path, but we seem to have a real attraction to each other. Maybe it’s because I’m one of the few people who actually stops and stares at them, but they really seem to notice me (even on days when I don’t stop and stare). I figure it’s fair enough if I’m staring at them for a while that they’ll get upset, squawk and fly away. But often they either fly right ahead of me and land on the riverbank or they pop up right beside me from the water’s edge and fly away.

Yesterday I walked by Henry Heron (yes, I’ve named them) and as soon as I got beside me he flew away. I was sure he was gone, but instead he flew about 30 feet upstream and landed on a rock right by the edge of the water in a prime heron watching spot. This picture was taken with my iphone, I was maybe 20 feet away.

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He stayed there the entire time I stood watching (and taking pictures). As I continued up the path I came across the second heron (Heidi Heron). She was standing right beside the water on my side of the river – usually they’re on the far side of the river away from the people. She flew downstream right beside Henry. Then they both turned and flew upstream past me. Henry stopped a little farther up and Heidi took off. I figured she was off fishing somewhere else for the day.

I continued on my walk and as I crossed a narrow bridge in an area where there are NEVER herons I saw this: (can you see her? she’s hiding in the top right part of the picture)

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A most unusual place for one of the herons to be. Dottie the Dotted Dog and I stood on the bridge for a long while and watched her march up and down the water.

So, what do these herons mean? They make a point of making sure I notice them when I’m out walking. Why are they so insistent that I see them?

On purely a personal level, for a long time they helped ground me and bind me to home. I’d take a picture of Henry or Heidi and text it home to my dad. He would go out on a walk and take a picture of the heron that lives on the slough near their house. It helped remind me that no matter how many miles apart we are, we are still bound together. They were my birds of un-homesickness.

Spiritually, herons remind us of self-reliance, self-determination and independence. They remind us to go with the flow of life (ha! a big one for me now following my path of least resistance). A lone hunter with the ability to stand steadily on it’s own (amazingly long) legs – a reminder that one does not need a large amount of support to have the ability to stand on one’s own.

The Heron symbolizes balance – the ability to be strong and secure on the ground yet fly with grace and ease in the sky. They will wait patiently by the water but when they see what they want they go after it with no quickly with no hesitation. They represent the need for solitude as well as the one to explore (which is a big part of my morning walk). Herons are able to walk into deep water with no fear knowing that they will remain balanced on their own two feet.

So, pretty much exactly what the goal of my river walks are – to ground me, to remind me that I can stand on my own two feet. To encourage my self-reliance, to know I can walk into the water and remain balanced.

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You need to slow down for a minute there…

I didn’t get out for my morning walk until 4:20 this afternoon. When I did finally get there I had a lot of anxious thoughts swirling around in my brain and a lot of nervous energy I wanted to walk off. I got onto the path and Dottie immediately ran off to do her first of what would likely be 10,000 piddles. I let the flexi-lead stretch out and walked slowly past where she was doing her business.

An older gentleman approached me on the path and stopped and said “You need to slow down for a minute there.” I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, so I asked him, he said “well, your dog wants you to stop so she can do her thing.” I laughed and said that she would be doing her thing every 10 feet down the path, but that yes – he was right. I should slow down.

I actually outright stopped for a minute and let Dottie sniff around while I looked at the river and took a few deep breaths. Wasn’t the reason I was here to slow myself down and reground my self and relax? So, why was I rushing?

When Jenna was little I used to take her in her stroller along on my walks with Dottie. Jenna would make me stop at every garden and smell all the flowers. Sometimes it would drive me nuts because I just wanted to walk and have quiet and think. But part of me knew she was spot on – that we needed to slow down and smell all the flowers that we passed.

This man pointed the same thing out to me again today. Slow down, don’t rush things, let them unfold.

I decided to spend the rest of my walk listing all the things I am thankful for. I let that dog sniff and smell and poke around and I counted blessings. My heart felt so much lighter and happier when I was done.

In my list of gratitude was the good fortune of running into that man on the path who helped focus me on the reason why I was there.

I needed to slow down for a minute….

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