Each morning that I ride my bike to work, I cross a very old stone bridge. Everytime I cross the hump of the bridge, I stand up on the pedals and look downriver. And on most mornings, a heron stands right at the edge of the icy, rushing water. The first couple of times, I parked my bike and walked back, hoping to take her photograph. But she startles when she sees me and flies away.
I was disappointed at first: I wanted to capture that sight and always have it and be able to prove that I saw a heron fishing in a wild river in Devon. But I have learned to treasure the glimpse that I have when she is there. The beautiful silver and grey and slate-blue and white plumage, the yellow beak and legs, burnished with cool winter morning sunlight. That utter stillness and concentration, yet awareness of everything round about. Her beauty and elegance. The graceful silhouette of her body and neck against the rocky bank and gnarled tree roots. And always the river flowing, coming from it’s source, rushing, hurrying to meet the sea.
When I see the heron poised in the river, I hold the moment. The moment where here I am, riding through a cold winter morning with a chill wind on my face. All at once, I know all that the river has to tell, I can understand all that the trees have to say and I feel the deep, deep peace of the heron. If, as Mary Oliver says, prayer is the doorway into thanks and a silence in which another voice may speak, then this is my morning prayer.