There is something about the heron, poised above the water, beautiful and still, intent on killing. A little place called Loch Dam near where I am at the moment almost always has one - this one, in fact - waiting among the reeds. I like to watch it.
Here is part of the reason why.
Slim cathedrals like herons above the cities, seen clearly
From the highway, the loveliest is in Chartres,
Where stone stifles desire.
This is a phrase from Adam Zagajewski's poem The Churches of France. It captures the connection, as transferred into an English setting, between the heron by its lake and the cathedral brooding above Durham, the same stillness, the same admixing of stone with desire.
For the wondrous Annie Proulx, here in her short story Family Man, the heron becomes the inaudible voice of lost youth:
The noiselessness of his youth except for the natural sound of wind, hoofbeats, the snap of the old house logs splitting in winter cold, wild herons crying their way downriver was for ever lost.
The word heron is an old one, and has hardly changed as it has slid across Germanic and Romance languages. The Old English name for it was hrágra, and in the speech of Shetland it remains haigrie. The Latin ardea is also beautiful.
The poem that best captures the heron is by Jean Sprackland. Called The Source, it is a
call to imitate the bird so that we too learn the source of the cool truth of a river:
Want to learn the source,
the cool under the surface fire?
Watch the heron:
he snatches the silver voice
from the throat of the river
and swallows it live.
How quick the water heals
and speaks again. …
Follow with your rod and line,
tear a wound
and drag out an echo.
Not a bad description of how to think or write.