The Sentinal

by Patricia Sullivan


Ominous clouds threaten a late summer afternoon, transforming this day of bright sunshine.  Darkness invades the landscape. Ordinary tree branches become frightening monster tentacles, the kind of monster known only to nightmares, those who chase us through awful dreams when we can’t run.

The sentinel is not afraid.  Assigning himself a post on an old dock by the pond, he will wait out this sudden storm as a watchful sentinel.  His usual guttural squawk is silenced.

We have become accustomed to seeing this great blue heron flying over the water, massive wings spread wide, neck folded in. He has always evoked a sense of proud beauty and great freedom. Not today.  Tall skinny legs held tightly together, great wings folded, he looks like a young schoolboy caught without a raincoat on a stormy day.  I’m not sure he would appreciate our staring at him from an upper window.  We turn away.

Perhaps this great bird is instinctively performing sentinel duty, needing to protect us from the wild ravings of Mother Nature. How to tell him that we appreciate such watchful loyalty?

The next day dawns into bright sunshine. Tree branches are non-threatening in the light of day and nightmare monsters have vanished. The dock is empty. Our silent sentinel has completed his watch.