Late each afternoon, as the earth turns and brings respite from the blue-white heat of day, the egrets abandon their daily pursuits and take to the wing. A band of lemon yellow suffuses the horizon as dozens, nay, tens of dozens, of slender white birds fly in waves over the casas and condos, haciendas and houses of Mazatlan.
Above the small convenience stores called “super markets,” past the Montana papeleria that sells single sheets of paper or single Band-Aids, still in business despite the behemoth office supply store a half block away around the corner, over the vendor with his two-wheeled cart of tejuinos and large bottles of hot sauce, the egrets fly west into the setting sun. Drafting off each other in “vee” formations, they fly between the Norfolk pines and the coconut palms, all in the same direction, hurrying before deep lilac and mauve push tangerine to the horizon and chase darkening lemon in pursuit of the vanishing sun.
They fly silently, leading with long beaks and trailing equally long legs, their long tapered wings carrying them swiftly to a nighttime destination known only to them. I sit in the twilight courtyard with the residents and guests at Burgos condos and watch the daily migration. Often my first glimpse of the birds is a reflection in the shaded windows of the complex. I look up and see them flying low over the two-story buildings.
When I first saw them and learned they were egrets, I wondered what they did with their long necks while in flight. Each evening I watched them, looking for the necks. Then, finally, I saw a fleet at a propitious angle, and could discern those necks folded back on themselves into a snowy white “ess.”
No one in this group knows where the egrets go at night. I considered various options to learn the secret whereabouts of their evening sanctuary. I pondered how to follow the flock before the indigo blanket of nightfall covered the land. The birds fly too low and too swiftly to track. They abide by their own compasses, and do not follow the streets of cobblestones, coarse pavers, and yellow-striped asphalt that delineate pathways for earthbound men.
I spent long minutes at Starbucks while Google Chrome downloaded Google Earth. Perhaps an aerial view, a “bird’s eye” view, will reveal some water sanctuary of which I was not aware. Google Earth showed me man-made canals for the exclusive use of palatial haciendas with private boats, and beyond that, the great and ever-rolling Pacific Ocean.
Then I explored closer to home: why do I want to know? Surely by the time the birds arrive there, wherever there is, the light would be too dark to photograph what must be a mind-boggling number of sleek white birds standing upright, long graceful necks posting their whereabouts.
And then I decided I don’t need to know, don’t want to know.
All we creatures, all the creatures of the earth, need our private sanctuaries, the places we go to rest, regroup, recover, and recharge. Like the egrets flying to their place of refuge, we all need that secret destination, even if--perhaps especially if--it’s only a quiet place in our minds.