In the early 1980s, during another partial solar eclipse in Houston, the sight of crescent-shaped shadows beneath live oak trees enchanted me. The memory never faded, and I was eager to revisit the experience during this week’s eclipse.
As neighbors gathered, buckets of water, colanders, saltine crackers, and even Pringles potato chip cans worked perfectly well as viewing devices.
Still, the trees were my favorite.
Even on concrete, the little crescent moons they shed were well-defined.
When rising winds tumbled their branches, the shapes shifted in unpredictable ways. Here, a school of angel fish crosses their concrete reef.
Captivated by shadows on the ground, I hardly noticed the murmuring above my head until it grew louder and more insistent.
Scanning the branches, I discovered I wasn’t alone. Other watchers had awakened and had begun to stretch, scratch, and perhaps even think about fishing.
Whether the herons felt the rising wind, sensed changes in the light, were attuned to the slight drop in temperature, or simply were curious about the humans below, they chattered and stirred until, as the moon moved away and the bright afternoon returned, they settled in again on their branches.
Tonight, the humans have gone, the slivered moon has set, and the herons are calling through the darkness. At first light, they will return to the trees and spend the day drowsing there among the branches. While their habits are less predictable than an eclipse, no glasses are needed to see them, and no years-long wait is required.