Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Great Blue Heron

The Great Blue Heron

We finished the morning talk and were given an hour for silent meditation. It was the annual retreat for the Xaverian Brothers' Faculty and Staff at the Dominican House of
Studies in Dover.

I filled  a cup with coffee and started down the driveway to a spot where a small pathway opened up to the left.  It consisted of beaten down grass with lots of colorful oak
and maple leaves, indicating that it was the less traveled (but nevertheless still used) pathway. The descent was slow but persistent, as if it said "Keep walking, there's going to be something wonderful here". 

After ten minutes, I could see ahead of me an opening in the trees.  Then I saw that I was approaching a river, most probably the Charles River, since this was Dover, the watershed for Boston's greatest and most famous river. But here it was only twenty feet wide and less than two feet deep, but still flowing slowly, left to right, towards Harvard and Back Bay.

At the very edge of the river bank was a long new bench, six feet wide with sidearms.  Al Fornaro was sitting  at the left end facing downstream. Al is the Xaverian Football and Weights Coach, built like John Hannah, with chest and arm muscles near bursting out of his Xaverian Tee shirt. Al was silent as I sat down at the other end, and respecting his lead, I spoke no greeting to him. 

We sat there for fifteen minutes and although I had no way of knowing what Al was thinking , I tried to focus on my in-breathing,  out-breathing while shutting down entirely the angry engine within which surged to fill up every vacuum with hostile thought.

I sat looking downstream using the binoculars I had brought, until suddenly something moved into view.  It seemed to be a bird, possibly a very large bird, flying upstream towards us at a height of about five feet over the river.  Something inside me urged me to speak out to Al, but something stronger and better ordered me to keep my thought to myself. By now the bird, getting closer, could be seen to be a Great Blue Heron. I sat very still, and on it came. Soon it passed us within ten feet of us.

Photo credit: © Eric Rosenberg

We continued to be silent, and after ten minutes or so, I rose and left.


Five years later, I was in the AD's office talking with coaches, when Al walked in.  When I saw him,usually only when he was busy at football games,  I remembered the Blue Heron, so I asked, 'Hey Al, do you remember the Blue Heron?'

"Do I remember it? I think of it every single day" he smiled.

                                                                            Charlie Mc