I went running before dawn and took a break on the wooden bridge over the Taff river. Immediately I searched for her grey, shadowy figure, usually standing solemnly by the river bank.
I was looking for the heron, my silent acquaintance on my usual jogging route to the river for more than two years. Always, she greets me with her stillness, so persistent it that compels my admiration — how calm a mind must be to conjure up a presence as serene as hers.
But I failed to spot her. With a pinch of disappointment, I started to stretch my legs — my usual exercise on the bridge. All of a sudden I caught her ascending silhouette against the pale sky. Soaring unevenly with her wings flapping hard, it was an ungainly climb. Behind her, a seagull chased her like a bullet. In a blink of an eye, the pursuit ended — the heron escaped into the obscurity where the river bends its course, and the triumphant seagull, following a downwards trajectory, alighted in the shallow puddles by the bank where the heron had sojourned.
For a while I stared into the furthermost reaches of the river, gasping at the plight of my friend the heron. I have become used to seeing her standing there, poised as if the world surrounding her were an unchangeable reality, and have adored her placidness, from which I drew comfort and strength. Never have I seen her in such a dire predicament.
The heron, too, has a moment of fear. I acknowledged, momentarily feeling lightened. We humans may be constantly stressed and burdened by fears and worries, but Nature too has its misfortunes. Quite often they are as severe as a life-and-death struggle: falling to predation, starvation, climate change, river flooding, storms, earthquakes, and so on. Adversity and distress are a universal theme. We are not alone.
As I took my departure, I realised that tomorrow the river will run the same course, and I will see my friend the heron again. Adversity would be overcome by her endurance, and she will once again stand as poised as ever. For that, I admire her even more.
Just before I trod off the bridge, a dog ran into the river and chased the seagulls away.