The heron

There is a pond by the highway.
In the fall, the water goes dark and glassy as the sediment sinks. The turtles burrow into their mud, and the trees that ring the water ignite in adamant orange, purple, red, and yellow before they are stripped by the coming cold. Then the frost takes charge, and the pond grows more and more opaque as it accepts load after load of ice and snow. Trees slowly topple off the bluff and are frozen in the act. Tracks appear, but only at night when no one can see who makes them.
Months pass, and then the first thaw shows itself in neuron-shaped blotches on ice. Once, I saw the tracks of a rabbit who dashed straight to a thin spot, straight to his death.
The water moves, and then the ice gives in and the rocks are engulfed in the exuberant gush of melting snow. When the flood runs out, the reeds come up, and then the lilies. They flourish. The fish and frogs disturb the surface of the water, keeping it rippling as they feed; and then the heron returns.
He’s a foolish bird, who looks like every other heron that ever existed. His face is blank and stylized, just barely avoiding idiocy by good design. His nobility is all exterior, like the nobility of good architecture. It’s all about balance and proportion. Its immobility is essential.
I drove past, once, in the pouring rain, and the stupid creature stood there still on his rock, blank and thoughtless, accepting his fate. Why should he come in out of the rain? In a shelter, he’d still just be a heron, and why does a heron need to be dry? What difference does it make? He knew that it would pass.
We are not so well designed as the heron in his unthinking immobility, his unthinkable nobility. Every season that comes, every painful gush and ebb, every punishing frost and every deadly thaw, we run to shield ourselves from the downpour.  We leave terrified tracks, like the rabbit. We burn and wither like the maples. And we return in the spring, rising back to life, returning to health, rippling the water, raising our heads up above the flood. We flourish.
I know it will pass.

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