The Night Heron and the Red Dragonflies in the Rice Paddies


Treat yourself better, take a walk, to the riverside!  Closing your stiffened body in, toward your soul.  The human bodies contained seventy-percent of water, and taking a stroll, isn’t that for the sake of softening the body and calming down the mind?  And, just like that, I’d slowly, become, a part, of that painting of nature scenes.

not my photo…

In front of me was the clouds from Guanying Mountain, with the clouds that came from Danshui, facing the wind that came over, from the Taiwan Strait, I’d walked along the trails of the mangrove forest.  Although I’d, intentionally, lightened up my steps, I’d still managed, to wake up that owl that’s, drifting off into dreams.  The name of “night light bird” was, on the warning signs, it’s black crowned night heron, Nycticorax nycticorax.  Such a poetic name, a bird that flew in the darkness!  There is, such a bird after all!

As I was really young, I’d heard from mom about the black crowned night heron.  And the image would, imprint in my young mind.  Before I sleep, I’d always, crawled, all over mom, refused to, just close my eyes to sleep.  And mom would always smile on, as she’d patted my head, touched my face, stroked my eyelids, spoken lightly, “Crowned night heron, go to sleep, go to sleep, crowned night heron………then, the image turned from my childhood years into on the evenings I’d stayed up to cram for exams in my fifth grade year, my mother said to me with this sadness in her voice, “You’re like the night heron, went to school early in the morn, and in the midnight hours, you still hadn’t returned home yet.”
not my photograph…

Mom is the night heron!  The earliest to wake up, the latest to bed, she’d followed along my father to work in business, and, after she’d cooked supper, she’d carried my younger sister out on her back as she trekked the night roads, to deliver the suppers for me and my older sister who’d still, studying hard, cramming at school.  Our school was in the suburbs, and there would often be stray dogs, once, she’d gotten chased to the point she’d fallen to her knees, and all of these, my mother selectively forgot, just remembered her daughters as the night herons, that we’re working all night long, to study, so pitiful.

Mom’s the real night heron!  It’d been trying on you, mom.  My footsteps woke you up, I’m so sorry, mom.  No wonder the mangrove close by started speaking, “My strong shoulders can become a nesting place for all the birds, the cool shades at my feet allowed for the fishes to swim.  You humans, isn’t it enough that you’d, cut me open, and made me into bridges, you’d dug into the softened earth, and alerted my tenants, so awful are you all.”

At which time, the mimosa by my feet spoke on my behalf, “I’d understood what his footsteps were saying, he’d never stepped on my body, the infant of the fields can vouch for me.” All of a sudden, there came, a red light flash from the tall, tall grasses, circling, over my head, and, I’d felt, that familiar moving sentiment, it’s, the long-time-no-see red dragonfly.

“Long time no see”, it’s the greetings of my older generations.  Long time no see, red dragonflies of my childhood.

not my photo…

The green grasses, with the red dragonflies, the colorful childhood slowly, became lucid again.  We’d all called my maternal grandmother “Grandmother from Waipu”, and, almost half of the summers of our childhood years are spent there.  Waipu is right next to the longest creek, and, there was, a path paved with mimosas toward the creek, o the evenings, the dews accumulated, to fertilize those shy weeds, attracted the red dragonflies that lived in the fields, and over the creeks to rest and to reproduce.  I’d hurried before the sun rose, with the wooden sword my second great uncle used to protect himself as he’d gone out to check the fields, gently, spread apart the grasses, inquired, “My red dragonfly, still fast asleep, in the distant starry lights.  This was, my private little secret garden, my one and only, red dragonfly.  I knew, that as the roosters called, the very first ray of the sun illuminated the world, making the field green, the river white, as the smokes rose out of the farm houses, my red dragonfly shall, fly toward the skies with the mooing of the cows, the sound of the hogs, fighting over slumps.  They will become, red dragonflies of themselves, also, belonging, to every one of us too.

My maternal grandmother rose, as early as those red dragonflies with the sunrise.  She’d become, that smoke, rising from the stoves, watched over, this farm house of people.  Look, she and my second eldest uncle smoked up the weeds, to chase away the flies by Mr. Ox; taught my fifth uncle to chop up the yam leaves, and leftover from last night, to make it into slump for the little pigs, and kindly, handed me a raw egg with a small hole, as she’d taught me how to suck out the whites and the yolk without breaking the shell, she’d used the thin light from the door of the chicken coop, to see if chickens are hatched.  As the chicks hatched, they’re yellow, and flurry, and when I made the calls, they’d all, gathered up, and fought hard, over the rice pieces, then, kissed my cheeks, with their chicken beaks.  Even that proudest rooster, he’d allowed me, to borrow a few of his most colorful feathers from his head, to make it into a toy.  My toy was, the coolest, jumpiest, in the free time between class, I’d managed, to kick it up real high, giving justice to the feathers, from the rooster’s head which I’d plucked from.

I’d also followed by my grandmother as she’d planted down the vegetables, using that ladle to scoop up water from the ditch close by, there were, tadpoles, fishes, I’d even managed to, scoop up a fish that’s the size of my palm from there, grandma said, I’ll take it home in a while, and fry it up for you.  The water was crystal clear, with the clouds up high reflected, and, it’d also, reflected my excited reddened little face too, as well as the mimosa as well as the red dragonflies close by too.

My grandmother died when I was in the first year of middle school, and gone are the days of my childhood’s summers.  What’s weird was, those red dragonflies also, vanished, from my world, they’d never even, made their ways into my dreams.  Until I’d, finally, made it, to the Creekside, experienced the morning dews, and met up with the mimosas, then, magically, those red dragonflies started, flying all over again, inside of my mind.

Taking that slow and long stroll by the waterside, the night heron mom, the red dragonflies, as well as grandma, walked alongside me now.

So, this, is the loss of one’s own childhood innocence, you’d spent your childhoods in the countryside, at your grandmothers, and, she’d shown you a world of wilderness, of experiences, that you will never forget, but, you’d lost sight of that, after your grandmother passed away, and you’d, worked hard, to try to find that childhood you once cherished so much back, but were just, never quite able to…


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