The egret, it seems to me, is a bird for the future.
It is not that I think the future is exactly like a pretty little heron with an awful squawking voice. It is just that its name and some other things about it seem to be looking forward.
For one thing, we always greet the future with a bit of confusion. And egret is greet with a bit of confusion.
For another, its name comes from Old French aigrette, diminutive of aigron, ‘heron’, but doesn’t it look like vinaigrette – a kind of salad dressing – without the vin? The aigre in vinaigrette (and its source vinaigre) means ‘sour’. So if you take the vin (wine) from vinaigrette, what you’re left with is a little sour. I don’t think that the future will be a little sour and without wine; I think this bird just reminds us that without wine, things can get a little sour. So add a bit of wine in the future and you will still be in your salad days.
For another, egret sounds like it should be an eaglet, a juvenile raptor, lone and threatened and set to become a large, voracious, revered, rapacious, endangered predator. But actually it is a fairly innocuous thing (unless you’re a fish, or own a fish pond) that, even full grown, would easily fit standing under a table and perhaps even under a chair. Not such a threat.
And not so threatened. A century ago egrets were in danger because of the harvesting of their feathers for use in such things as dress hats and uniforms. But collective action by concerned people made a real difference; with the aid of legislation, rapacity was forestalled and egrets are no longer threatened – although loss of habitat due to encroachment and similar changes could still hurt them. Like the future, maybe: the threat is not overt aggression, just the creeping ignorant comforts of humans.
Egrets are nice, egalitarian birds. They take turns caring for their nest eggs; when one comes to take over from the other, it may even hand over a stick, like passing the baton. They are pretty birds, too, as said: they’re herons, lean with needle beak, and elegantly lovely plumage. Especially the snowy egrets.
Snowy egrets. It’s snowy here today. But snow greets you often in the dimmer half of the year around here. So it goes. I live here happily; I have no regrets.
There’s no regrets – there’s snowy egrets. Sounds good, no? That’s the other thing for me linking egrets to the future: they’re regrets that don’t start. That’s the best way to approach what’s coming. If you see a regret coming your way, just knock it off as soon as it starts and have a bird instead.