Summer is for Herons

Summer is waning.

Summer is for herons, who sit on old stumps and dead trees casually flung out over the side of the river. The little white ones are charming exclamation points, their long thin necks speckle the shore; they prefer the reeds and inlets. The great blue herons are main events and I saw a pair this summer flying slow across the river. The lead bird had its neck scrunched up near its body and then with a magnificent flap extended its neck forward like a sword. The night heron is the one I look for. It likes to stand hunched over and very still on a branch that extends into shallow water. When I pass by in my boat it does not care. I slow down and peer. There is no tension. I saw one flying and expected the long neck maneuver but there was none. The night heron is more compact and world weary. It peers back.

Summer is waning and the water is heavy with green algae and weeds. My path up and down the river will shift soon with the patterns of school bus mornings and yellow foliage and fog. For now, the herons are knee-deep in mud, I’m afloat, and we’re keeping watch under a late-summer sky.