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I have always been known for my ‘eclectic’ approach to decorating. And since I’m a bird freak, it should come as no surprise that many of the ornamental bits and bobs (Gill’s Englishisms have rubbed off on me) in my house are bird-related.

By far my favourite item is the large wooden blue heron planter that has graced my front walk. It is quite realistic — so much so that more than one slightly inebriated guest (or family member) has been startled by its presence. The past few years, it has been showing its age, what with the summer rains and wind and the occasional snowfall before my fall gardening chores were completed. Mr. Heron sought sanctuary during the winter in my garage, amid the woodpile, chipmunks and windshield wiper fluid. Each spring, I dutifully dragged him outside and thrust his legs into the ground. This was no mean feat since the sculpture was taller than I am.

One winter a few years ago, with Gill’s arrival from the UK imminent, I had an inspiration. Some might call it a nightmare, but there you go. I wrapped the bird’s body in burlap, fastened the burlap with red duct tape, put a jaunty Christmas toque on its head and attached an antique sled to a silver rope under its wings. It made a very fetching Christmas Goose (liberal interpretation). More than one passerby commented, “You’re so creative!”

Gill loved it so much she took pictures of me sitting on the sled and sent them to all of her friends with the caption: “See? I told you the woman was crazy!” As you can see, the heron was an integral part of our family folklore.

Two years ago, I looked out my front door to see the heron had been beheaded! Yes, its long neck(with head still attached) was lying on the walk. I ran screaming out the door, cursing the rotten kids that had no doubt done the fowl (pun intended) deed. Since I have no tools (except my deck-scraping butter knife and hammer), i rushed to the next door neighbour, heron neck in hand and begged for his help. “No problem,” he said. Apparently it didn’t phase him that his next door neighbor had a six-foot long wooden bird neck in her hands. I guess he’s lived beside me long enough…

Like a true knight in shining armor, he drilled, screwed and whacked the head back in place. Well, MOSTLY in place. The heron had a slight neck crick from then on. But it added a certain playful, whimsical air to the bird.

But the heron was not long for this world. The day after Halowe’en this year, I looked out to see two of his battered wings lying on the walk. It could have been vandalized by local kids angry that I didn’t give out treats this year. More realistically, it was likely the terrible wind and rain storm that “ruffled its feathers”. As I examined the carnage, I saw the extent to which mould and rot had overtaken my prized bird. I finally had to admit the heron had reached the end of the road. With heavy heart, I dragged him to the curb for garbage day. When L’il Sis saw it, she asked,”Mom, what will you do without your heron? It’s been a fixture here for years! You’ll never find a replacement.”

“Odd you should mention that,” I assured her. “Just last month, I was shopping in a little store near here and saw the most magnificent heron sculpture…so I bought it. It’s very extravagant with its wings fully extended. Definitely a statement piece!”

“Hmm…I’ll bet it is. The statement being ‘a nutcase lives here’.”

But the saga does not end there. A couple of days ago, while walking The Pig, on the next street over, what did I spy on the street but MY HERON’S HEAD??!! It was lying where it obviously fell off the garbage truck, splintered, scraped and somewhat mangled, the beady eyes pleading with me. I couldn’t leave it there in its misery. I scooped the poor thing up and took it home. I was planning to give it pride of place in our living room — the ‘Room of Death’ as we call it. We have Poochie’s ashes in an urn on the mantel, L’il Sis’ first dog’s ashes in a box on the coffee table, The Book of Poochie on the table, a clay model of a canary’s foot (named Jermaine, after the famous Jackson brother), and a photo album of all our pets (a weighty volume). It is in no way a somber room. It is a source of humor and comfort for us.

When I told Gill the news of the heron’s demise and ‘resurrection’, she suggested gleefully:”Ma, you should put the head in the ferns by the window. It would freak the dogs out and, with any luck, terrify the neighbours!” And so the heron head looms in the fern, with us forever, as befits its exalted status in our lives.

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