Sunday, January 4, 2009

Do not disturb

The temperature last Wednesday morning was above freezing, but a brutal north wind made it feel much colder. I kept putting down the hood of my jacket, thinking, Oh, it’s not that cold, and then a gust would hit me and I’d put it back up again. My eyes were streaming before I’d walked a quarter mile, so I was continually debating whether it was worth pulling one of my hands out of its warm pocket to wipe them.

It was especially windy at the lake, so I headed around to the little lagoon that’s sheltered by low ridges on two sides. The wind was whipping through the top branches of the trees but down at the bank the air was fairly still. I could stand there and enjoy the reflections on the rippling water, a natural kaleidoscope enhanced by the light of the rising sun.

I was strolling along the water’s edge, enjoying the respite from the cold and noting that all the birds seemed to have decided that this was not a day for early rising, when suddenly a great blue heron rose up out of the lagoon and flew silently out over the main body of the lake. He had only been about 25 or 30 feet away from me, but I never saw him until he took off.

Great blue herons are always a pleasure to see—they’re so big, and they fly so gracefully—but I immediately felt guilty for disturbing him. He had obviously been looking for a place of shelter himself, and my appearance had destroyed his temporary refuge. Of course, he was probably engaged in making life less happy for the little fish in the shallows, but I still pitied him as he disappeared into the cold, and I wished I could give him back his peace.

If there’s one lesson I keep relearning on my walks in the woods, it’s that life is a continual search for the lagoon. Everything alive seeks comfort, peace, a sense of safety. Those things are as necessary to survival as food and water. To steal sanctuary from another creature, even if we do it innocently or inadvertently, is a crime against him.

Video uploaded by mcnod at Youtube

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