by JoAnne Dodgson, Ed.D.
mentor at the Wise Woman University
author of Walking the Spiral Path: Awakening Power and Passion
A wild ancient stirring rippled through the flock of blue herons standing at the river's edge. Compelled into flight by an irresistible calling, the restless flock of birds rose into the air on their broad elegant wings, beginning their migration south. They flew for many days and many moons and many miles, following an instinctual knowing imprinted deep within. As they crossed the great waters, a storm blew into their path. Gusty winds raced in from the north. Lightning flickered and flashed. Thunder rumbled and rolled across the sky. Pelting rains and swirling whirlwinds pulled one of the herons off course. Struggling against the storm's unbridled forces, the blue heron finally gave up, exhausted, and plummeted toward the ground.
The castaway heron awoke some time later, dazed and disoriented. She ruffled her feathers, stretched out her wings, and came to stand on her long spindly legs. Looking around with her piercing gold eyes, she was startled to find herself in a strange land. The landscape and plants looked oddly familiar, yet she sensed something very different from the ways of the world that she knew.
The heron began exploring her surroundings, intent upon finding her way back to her flock. She took slow graceful steps, poking her long beak here and there, sensing and seeking as she walked the land. She headed up a hillside, hoping the expansive view would help her get her bearings.
Along the way, she saw two sandy pyramids towering above the grass. Curious, she leaned in to take a closer look and discovered a village of ants. In the meadowlands between the two ant hills was a turbulent sea of commotion. Countless blue ants and black ants were scurrying around, apparently engaged in a vicious fight.
“Hello!” called out the heron. No one seemed to hear her. “Hello!” she called again, louder this time. A blue ant marched toward the heron.
“There's no time to talk!” he shouted to the bird. “We're fighting for our lives. And you're standing in enemy territory. You better get out of the way.”
A black ant ran to the heron, shoving the blue ant aside. “Don't get too close to them,” the black ant warned the heron. “They're dangerous and despicable, those blues.”
“What are you fighting about?” asked the heron.
All movement around the sandy pyramids abruptly came to a halt. All ants stood still at attention, stunned and silent. The blue ants stared menacingly at the black ants while secretly trying to remember why they'd started fighting in the first place. The black ants glared back at the blues, struggling to recall what they all were so angry about.
A large black ant marched militantly toward the heron, stood up in front of her feet and turned to face the black and blue crowd. “No time for soul-searching, comrades!” he shouted. “Don't look into the enemies eyes. Remember, this is war!”
“That's right!” yelled a black ant from the back of the crowd. “Surrender or else!” he screamed, shaking his fists at the blues.
“Is that a threat or a promise?” a blue ant defiantly shouted back.
Tensions increased as insults and pebbles were hurled back and forth between the two sides. The black ant standing near the heron looked at the inquisitive bird. “What can I tell you? We just gotta' fight. It's the only way to get any peace around here.” He turned back to face the agitated mob.
“Let's have more war!” he bellowed, raising his fist triumphantly into the air. A howling roar rose up from the black and blue crowd and the violent skirmish instantly resumed. The heron stepped back from the frenzy, turning around and walking away.
She continued up the hillside, hoping to meet someone who could help her figure out where she was and how to get back to her flock. Near the hilltop, she crossed paths with a caterpillar crawling through the grass.
“Where are you going?” asked the heron, noticing how malnourished the caterpillar looked.
“My dear friend, can't you see?” The caterpillar wearily pulled himself up to the top of a rock. He stood on his back legs and peered down at the heron. “I'm walking a spiritual path. I'm heading toward enlightenment.” Bowing to the heron, he opened wide his many arms. “Come join me, my friend. I can show you the way.”
“But, Caterpillar, I'm surprised to see you out walking about this time of year,” said the heron, intrigued. ”Why aren't you wrapped up inside a cocoon?”
“Oh, no, no, no, no, not me,” scoffed the caterpillar, shaking his head. “You've heard about those caterpillars who retreat inside cocoons? It's trickery, my friend. They've been bamboozled.” He leaned in close toward the heron. “Those other caterpillars,” he whispered, “they believe in magic.” He stepped back, his eyebrows raised, a look of apprehension on his face. The caterpillar paused for a moment, letting the blue heron absorb the shocking news.
“They really believe that once they're inside a cocoon that everything will change,” the caterpillar continued to explain. “They say it's some kind of mystical metamorphosis. They'll tell you it's a natural thing. Magical change that happens without pain or struggle. Can you imagine that? Those caterpillars really think they'll manifest butterfly wings just because it's their destiny or something preposterous like that. Oh, no, no, no, no, not me!” he proclaimed. “I'm not that kind of caterpillar. I'm taking the high road. I'm heading for enlightenment. And, trust me on this, not just anybody can get there.”
The caterpillar stared intently at the heron, assessing the bird from head to toe. “Well, you're quite big and gangly,” reported the caterpillar, his bushy forehead furrowed into a frown. “You're searching for something, that I can see. How tragic. You've lost your way.” The caterpillar's voice faded away as he fell into a trance. After a few moments, he suddenly opened his eyes. “Well, you're sure lucky I came along,” he exclaimed, grinning charismatically. “I can help you. Things will get better, you'll see. Just follow me toward, my friend. And there might be a chance, granted it's remote, but there could be a chance, it's a slight one I must admit, but it just might be possible, if you're worthy and faithful and do as I say, if you're willing to suffer and sacrifice and all that, then there's a pretty good chance that you'll too reach enlightenment. You might even get close to being as enlightened as me.”
The caterpillar looked down on the heron. “But you'll have to fight against your instincts,” he insisted, pointing at the bird, pointing out all she was doing wrong. “Forget all that nonsense. Silence those deep inner callings. They'll just prey on your mind. Change is not, I repeat, it is NOT, a natural thing!” the caterpillar declared, gesturing wildly with his many arms and legs. “Warm and cozy cocoons? Lush creature comforts? Mystical, magical transformations? They're just devilish temptations, my friend. Suffering builds character. Sacrifice is the key.”
The caterpillar crawled down from the rock, exuberantly waving his arms. “Follow me!” he called out, beckoning to the heron. “Come walk a spiritual path, my friend. Trust me, I'll show you the way.” The caterpillar limped along so absorbed in his monologue that he didn't notice the heron turn around and walk the other way.
The blue heron headed toward the riverbank, thinking about her flock, curious where they were and wondering how she would ever catch up. As she looked around for clues, for anything that would help her find her way back home, she heard cries coming from the water near the sandy shore. She poked her beak among the tall leafy reeds, wondering who was so distressed. An emerald fish slowly swam to the surface, looking up at the heron with sorrow-filled eyes.
“What's troubling you, Fish?” asked the blue heron.
“Oh, life is so hard,” the fish whimpered. “I'm miserable. And if you'd been through what I've been through, you'd be miserable too. But you'll probably never know how painful life can be. Just look at you. You've got it all. You're tall. You've got legs. You've got wings. And what about me?” The fish hoisted her body up out of the water. “I've got scales and gills and short stubby fins,” she reported glumly, assuming the heron would look down upon her the same way she looked down on herself. “I'm stuck here in all this water. All I do is swim and swim and swim, upstream and downstream, over and over again.” The fish's emerald body shook with sobs.
“I wish I could be more like you,” said the fish, blinking back tears as she looked up at the heron. “I've tried to be more like them,” she admitted sheepishly, pointing her yellow fins at the turtles on the shore. “Of course, I failed at that too. But I just can't bear to go on being a fish. What am I going to do?” the fish cried, floating belly-up in her pool of tears.
The heron stood by quietly listening and watching, feeling rather perplexed. “But, Fish,” she said, with kindness in her eyes, “why would you ever want to be someone other than just who you are?”
The fish coughed, choking on some water she'd inadvertently swallowed. “Well, I want to BE somebody,” she adamantly cried. “I want to feel special. I want to make a difference. I want to be somebody who somebody loves. I really wish I could be free. But, you know, it's a waste of my time talking about all this. Because it'll never ever happen. It's too late. I'm just a fish. I'm just an old green scaly fish. Why me?” she wailed, floating listlessly below the water's surface. The fish slowly drifted out of sight, sinking into her sea of sorrow.
The heron continued walking along the riverside, the callings for home growing stronger inside her. She dipped her long beak into the river for a drink and noticed lights shimmering in the water. With her piercing gold eyes, she looked underwater to see where the light was coming from, but the source didn't seem to be there. So she raised up from the water, looked overhead, and saw three full moons rising, glowing on the horizon.
The blue heron stood at the riverside, reveling in the beauty of the moons. Then without even thinking about it, she spontaneously started to hum, softly and discreetly at first. Her humming grew louder, more colorful and creative, with lively rhythms and elaborate melodies. The musical vibration inside the blue heron's throat kept growing and expanding until her radiant song could no longer be contained and held back.
With joyful abandon, the heron exuberantly sang out her blue heron song. She passionately danced her blue heron dance, splashing in the river, leaving playful tracks along the shore. She sang to the moons, celebrating mystical wildness and beauty. She danced rhythms of peace to the black and blue ants. She sent shimmering waves of compassion to the emerald fish, honoring the extraordinary diversity of life. She sang to the caterpillar she'd met on the hill, weaving musical notes with fibers of trust in the potency of magic and fearless, self-empowered change.
And there inside the rhythm of her blue heron song, she felt whispers of sweet rememberings - the soft rustling of feathers, the majestic sensation of winds beneath her wings. She stepped to the river's edge, boldly opened her wings, and lifted up into the air to fly.
The blue heron flew for many days and many moons and many miles, following the instinctual knowing she carried deep within. As she crossed the great waters, a storm blew into her path. She soared with the winds racing in from the north. She sang gratitude to the showering rains. She danced with the lightning and rolled with the thunder. When the storm clouds passed by, there just ahead, filling the sky, were herons as far as she could see. The blue heron joyfully joined up with her flock, passionately weaving her way into the flowing tapestry of undulating wings.
Copyright © 2006 by JoAnne Dodgson