I glanced in the window. Stopped dead in my tracks. Backed up. Stared. I’d passed this shop dozens of times; had even gone inside once. But the bird on display was new.
The color caught my attention. It was the identical shade of my Bali Blue Bed. I never liked blue until that bed, handmade and painted by Ketut’s father for his family of nine children, became my prized possession. Then it had to be THAT blue. This bird was THAT blue.
The size was good, too. It was big. For some reason, probably hearkening back to childhood when I had to dust every small knick-knack and treasure my mother collected over the years, l preferred large accessories.
My delight ended there. The design of the bird didn’t appeal to me. It wasn’t a noble Garuda, the heraldic national emblem of Indonesia. Its beak was too long, its wings too short, and the tail was so flamboyant as to be an embarrassment to the humble creature. I shrugged and walked on.
A few days later I was in the vicinity of the shop. The color grabbed me again and I stood transfixed. What was it about that ungainly thing? The fact that it was blue and big wasn’t enough. It was unsophisticated, provincial, not my style. The word folksy came to mind.
I couldn’t exactly say when I became obsessed, when I began to want the bird. Was it the fifth time I stopped at its window? The tenth? On that day, I went into the shop to ask the price. It wasn’t shocking. Or was it? Was the color really right? Was there a chip in the paint under its wing? By the time I left I’d talked myself out of wanting it. Almost.
A couple of weeks went by. I was distracted and had no cause to be in the neighborhood of the shop. Then, in a flurry of rearranging things in my house, I moved a lamp. In the now empty space on top of the bookshelf I saw the bird. It was the perfect spot, the exact amount of room needed to exhibit him to full advantage.
I couldn’t get to the little store fast enough. I burst through the door and caught a flash of color on a high shelf. It was my bird with different plumage: electric green, and touches of THAT blue. My fickle heart fell instantly in love.
At home I unwrapped my prize and set it carefully in place. About that time, Ketut appeared.
“Heron,” he said. “Bad design.”
As soon as he named it, I saw the likeness. Of course it was a heron. They were everywhere in Bali and the craftsmen here carve what they know. He reached up and I saw what he saw. There was a gap where the tail joined the body.
Ketut disappeared and came back with a drill.
“Ummmm, are you sure, Ketut?” I had to bite my tongue and sit on my hands to keep from stopping him. Where was my faith? But leave it to the son of a woodcarver to know what to do. In the capable hands of Ketut, my bird was made perfect.
The story could have ended there. But this is Bali. Instinct told me there was more to Mr. Heron than just a pretty bird. The fact that at first he hadn’t appealed to me at all, and later was the most beautiful thing I’d ever laid eyes upon, defied logic. Most things magical aren’t logical, and Bali is an island steeped in magic. So I googled: totem animal heron. Laughter, then tears, followed the tingling, goosebumby sensation that accompanies a touch from beyond. This is what I read:
If Heron is your Animal Totem
You love to explore various activities and dimensions of Earth life. On the surface, this may seem like a form of dabbling, but more than likely you are wonderfully successful at being a traditional Jack-of-all-trades.
This ability enables you to follow your own path. Most people will never quite understand the way you live because on the surface it seems to be unstructured without stability or security to it. It is, though, just a matter of perspective. There is security underneath it all, for it gives you the freedom to do a variety of tasks. If one way does not work, then another will. This is something you seem to inherently know.
You do not seem to need a lot of people in your life, nor do you feel pressured to keep up with the material world, or to be traditional in your life roles. You stand out in your uniqueness, and you know how to snatch and take advantage of things and events that the average person would not even bother with.
Anyone who knows me must agree that the description could hardly be more perfect.
Years ago I learned about totem animals and have often wondered if I had one. There are online questionnaires that profess to establish your totem by the answers you give. I did a couple and never felt a connection with the results.
But the heron knew, didn’t he.