The sound was like that of a heavy blanket folded over a clothesline with the winds causing it not to flutter, not to flap, but to do something more, with its weight held nearly horizontal by the gale, threatening to pull the entire assemblage from the ground.
Since the rest of, well, everything around me was still and silent, the maelstrom caused me to involuntarily move into a crouch, my head spinning toward the sound while my body prepared to move away from it.
Ten feet to my right, a great blue heron emerged from the creek that ran some 5 feet below the surrounding land. Boxed in with a downstream bridge, the steep banks, and upstream brush, the bird had no option but to rise vertically, its great wings beating the air with a surprising amount of power.
It rose, and whether it was aware of me I do not know, though I suspect it was. With what I knew to be the subtlest of adjustments to just a few muscles, it banked to its right and flew into the open field that lay beyond. In the seconds it took for me to follow it around the surrounding hedge, it was out of sight, up and over the trees that bordered the tillage.
Until that moment, I was enjoying a quiet walk at the base of a hill in northeast Alabama. With the excitement past, I continued on my way, blessed by those few seconds of unexpected beauty and grace.
For the other map geeks among us, I’ve shared a map and satellite view link below to show where I was. On the west side, I was just a few feet south of the bridge at the north end of the Bethel Creek Loop Trail. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, it’s a great walk!
Location on Google Maps