The Great Blue Heron and The Editor

heron

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.

heron
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” http://margaretatwood.ca/books/surfacing/. 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.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVsNnrEJxB0

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.

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

 

 

 

Grammar Brainworms: A Taxonomy of Bugs and Nouns

As my proofworking.com website winds its way through the interweb, I’ve had grammar brainworms all week that I blame on those tent caterpillars.

When I look at a

proofworking: they eat, they edit
nest of caterpillars

I see an arboreal hair-net. I know that inside that concentrated dark centre the bagworms squirm. Interesting that the nest completely covers the end of a tree branch. At this point in time, it is stretched beyond reckoning and I’m horrified to report that the black spot in the belly of the tent — the mass of larvae (up to 300 eggs) — grows bigger by the minute. These little critters were born to eat! They get their nutrients by consuming the green foliage in the tree. Since I am bad at identifying leaves too, I really have no idea what type of leafage we’re talking about here. Ash? Aspen? Who knows. So, I rummaged around beneath the branches and found a pair sporting a sweet little hinge-system at the top.

grammar
dropped leaves from “caterpillared” tree

After I took the leaves inside and left them on my desk my little housebound cat found them and went buggy. Excited by the smell of nature coming inside, he raced around, sniffed, wrestled the leaves to the carpet, stomped on them, rolled over them, and left them for dead. This is what remains:

grammar
chewed and crumpled leaf

The Grammar of Nouns

Notice above how the words “ash” and “aspen” are not italicized. They are specific proper nouns but I haven’t researched them yet to find their Latin names. When I include the Latin for tent caterpillar (Malacosoma) it is always typed up in slanted font, aka italics. This special typeface makes the word slither across the page. But generic words like “bugs,” “trees,” “unmentionables” often disappear into the sentence, unhighlighted, unnoticed. These are of course still proper words but they’re classified as common nouns because they name a class of objects.

The Grammar of Bugs

The Latin grammar for tent caterpillar further divides and subdivides.  Malacosoma just represents the genus of the beast; in addition, there is the family — Lasiocampidae. The terms genus and family, part of the biological classification set up by Carl Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae, also includes species (and sometimes subspecies).

A Taxonomy of Bugs and Nouns

Fascinatingly, common nouns further subdivide into concrete nouns like caterpillar and larvae and abstract nouns like love, happiness, bliss. Because the latter nouns — states of being — are often in flux, their taxonomical break-downs depend upon the individual, and its species.