The Great Blue Heron and The Editor


If tent caterpillars were something of a leitmotif for the earliest blogs, this entry’s icon is the heron. This poetic bird is both above and below, both transcendent and inside the natural world. Obviously, there is everything to say about the wonder felt for the great blue heron.

History of the Heron

The word heron is old and of uncertain origin. It appeared in the English language around 1300 A.D. Some say it may have originated from the Latin aerius, meaning aerial, or from Old French’s hairon.  The species called the great blue heron — Ardea herodias — was originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th century Systema Naturae.

This highly mobile bird is cosmopolitan (almost). Additionally, the heron exists on all continents except Antarctica, and it is present in most habitats except the coldest extreme of the Arctic, the high mountains, and the dry deserts.

No one eats the heron.

Associated with water, but essentially a non-swimmer, the heron feeds on the margins of lakes, rivers, swamps, ponds and the sea. Earth-bound, the neck and beak kink into an S-shape, but upon lift off, with wings outspread, its legs and feet held backward, its long neck retracts.

Literary Affects

In Surfacing, Margaret Atwood calls a heron in flight a “bluegrey cross” Similarly, when the central character Yasmine in Dionne Brand’s “Ossuaries” crosses the Niagara River into Canada, her arrival is heralded by this quintessential image:

“Call it heron, great blue, long-legged migrating alone

North, it broke off, it took air,

Flew into an apostrophe,

Heading to the wet marsh of another lake.”

I love how she makes the bird into a punctuation mark.

The Symbolic Heron

The image I chose for this page is not the heron in flight but the motionless bird mirrored in shallow water.  Calculating, probing, peering beyond the surface, this bird is a cryptic symbol of editors. We also take a wide field of view , do a lot of foot stirring, and move our heads from side to side to read the depths.

Therefore, the surface is my computer screen, a portal through which I communicate with you. The text is our mirror, both of us working on it from our two sides.

The heron’s other doubled self–a shadowy mirror.