Catherine Ann Lombard, M.A.

A Heron's Visit

Dec 31, 2010

The world outside my window is white. Snow is falling, has been falling for days now. Every twig on every tree is adorned with crystals. The sky is pale, tempered with a haze of blue and all is frozen still. How amazing water is—frozen, steamy, wet. From my window I look upon a meadow where mothers plod pulling sleds laden with their bundled children. Dogs frolic and jump, catching invisible snowballs. A cyclist slips silently by. Occasionally, the northeast wind whirls the dry snow around my garden into spirals of fine mist.

The Christmas emails are arriving in my inbox. From Ireland, Italy, England, the US. I wonder how to respond. Do I write back with an innocuous Merry Christmas and say nothing more? Do I tell of how tired I am, how old I sometimes feel these days, how hard I’ve been working? Do I cover up my fears of never being able to learn either Dutch or German with how great my life is going? Do I tell about my wonderful holiday in Turkey which really was a pilgrimage spent in monasteries in 45C (125F) degree heat without air conditioning or fan? Where does the balance of this past year hang? What is the hope that I hold onto while crossing the threshold of 2011?

Recently, Kees and I were talking about birds. We have a small birdhouse in front of our kitchen window that has become a local diner for robins and sparrows, chickadees and finches. When the yellow-beaked, shiny blackbird overtakes the place, we run outside and chase her away. I was watching these birds flitting from branch to birdhouse, thinking about how much more trust I wanted in my life. “Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet God feeds them. Can any of you, however much you worry, add a single cubit to your span of life?” (Matthew 6: 26, Luke 12:25-26) This trust has always been one of the points of contention in our marriage. Kees and I have come from such distance places of its understanding. As a Benedictine monk for 19 years, Kees has always flown with the birds with the faith that God will provide everything. As an American, born and bred with the idea that hard-earned money means success, I struggle with being satisfied with just enough. We’ve been together twelve years and are finally reaching closer to this center of trust, and the excruciating balance one must walk between God’s will and our free will.

We sat sipping steamy cappuccinos and mused about this balance, and how our search as individuals inevitably leads us towards our definition of ourselves as a couple. Our lives are but a delicate balance of snow crystals hanging on tiny tree branches. Of relationship. Of knowing and not knowing.

That night around 10 pm while the snow swirled in whirlpools of dusty flakes, a giant heron came and sat on our hedge. Where had she come from? Once I spied a lone heron on the bank of the meandering Dingle River five kilometers from home. Could this be the same bird? She fluffed her feathers fat for insulation and tucked her head under a powdered wing. I watched amazed. Was this a sign? A sign to say that I could trust as much as a heron in a snowstorm far from lake or sea? I watched her stretch her neck and turn a pointed beak first up then back and down again. What did she search for? What could she eat? All fish lay frozen under ice. She seemed to grow bigger aloft my hedge, alone and cold, so far from home. I knew her better from California estuaries; her wings outspread to catch the sun at water’s edge. I feared her death upon my hedge and wondered then what would I do?

But then she flew, a low and wide flight into the blue night and snow so wide and white. What would I do, what could I do … but trust?

Everyone knows the Christmas story of how three Magi followed a star to a poor stable in Bethlehem. Three Kings from the East trusted that the bright Star shining high above would lead them to a King. But they did not know the King would be a Child. Upon leaving that Child, they trusted their inner Wisdom and did not return to King Herod who longed to know where the Child lay, only to destroy him. Trust the Light high above you. Trust the Wisdom deep within.

Come. Take my hand. Hold on tight. The heron is in flight. We have each other and Love is All.