So many of the late arrivals tonight are egrets, the Cattles long in among the reeds and brush sharing space, only reluctantly, with the ibis.
It is their snowy cousins who arrive as the horizon is a fading band of orange gold dissipating under the faint, unyielding eye of Venus, and seem shocked when they are turned away with flap of wing and cry, warned by the perching anhinga that in this preserve the inn fills quickly, and in January there is no nearby manger to be found, so you’d best make avian friends, for morning arrives all too quickly enough.
A singe egret sits calmly
on the lowest branch of a long barren tree, where hours from now a thousand birds will arrive for still another evening and night.
He stares at me as I am mindfully vacuuming, watching carefully.
I pause and ask if by chance he is a Buddha and he lifts his long neck and peers around in all directions.
I repeat my question, and he lifts one wing, which I know to be his way of saying, “I, like you, am imbued with Buddha nature, and I with mother nature as well, and if you doubt me ask one of the countless Bodhisattva who will arrive in hours to study the Dharma well into what will be a wet night.
The sun slowly starts it’s daily retreat, setting the thinning clouds ablaze.
The birds return, ibis, egrets, anhinga and kite and even the limpkin march slowly across the lawn to the preserve that abuts our yard.
They take up their perches on the trees and bushes and on the limpkin’s call begin quietly to recite their evening prayers as we bow our heads in reverence to their faith that the new morning will soon dawn for us all.
It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.
I would much rather be home, listening to Joan Osborne on the CD player, lying on the couch with you sleeping across the sofa curled under the cotton throw coiled against the winter battering the windows ca tucked into your knees.
Instead, I sit on the bed CNN droning in the background and stare out at the Hoyt Cinemas the marquee blank but blazing over the barren street with the occasional car sliding by in oblivion.
In Paris the air traffic controllers have joined the strike much to the mirth of the citizens of London but I will have to postpone my trip or perhaps just spend a couple of days wandering the Cotswolds roaming among time worn tombstones nestled in the shadows of ancient churches.
In six hours I will run along the bay, under the watchful eye of early diners in the Marriott coffee shop and the lone egret standing at water’s edge watching the giant bird with unmoving wings reach out for the sun.
First Appeared in The Distillery: Artistic Spirits of the South, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1997.