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Heron Harem

Dreamed 1981/6/14 by Chris Wayan

Wood silhouette of a crested heron with raised beak; dream figure by Wayan. Click to enlarge.

I work as a government official. I'm pretty high up in the civil service hierarchy, particularly for a Great Blue Heron, which I am. We still face some specism, but there's no question it's improved in my lifetime.

One day, I'm told of a new policy I think is appalling--not just stupid, but morally wrong. My boss warns me "Blue, they mean this one. If you don't enforce the new rules, you'll be fired."

Shocked, I blurt "But--then I'd have to sell my famous bird collection!"

"BIRD collection? You don't like to face it, do you?" says my boss. "You pretend to be something more, but you're just a bird yourself! You have some nerve keeping other birds as pets!"

He's never come out and said it. I've always sensed a certain distance between us. I thought it was prejudice. But it's moral disapproval!

And... looking at it anew... maybe he's right. They aren't intelligent species, I'd never do that, but... still. I've denied my feathers, tried to live like a human mandarin, as one of a cultured and scholarly class. My pet birds were meant to prove that.

But making the point I'm not like other birds, trying to set myself up above others of my own kind, has actually made me MORE vulnerable, not less--with all my pets to support, I worry more about being fired!

Courage is partly economic. And I'd have defied more bad policies and stood up for what I believe more often, if I hadn't amassed that expensive avian zoo.


Uh-oh. What is my bird-collection? I get a queasy feeling it's my art, writing, dreams. When I'm a dream myself. And this dream warns I'm creative partly out of ego--to be doing something most folks can't, to set myself apart. And yet, despite the dream's warning, I never have been able to give up my addiction to creativity. And it HAS kept me poor, overall, like most artists--and thus cautious on the job, when I've had one.

Tragic? I don't know. Perhaps inevitable. Try escaping your nature.

Oh. The heron silhouette illustrating the dream was cut with a tiny handsaw out of thin plywood called doorskin, then rubbed with linseed oil to show the grain. Years later I built a bas-relief birdcage for the harem and made the jailer a great blue heron (with inauthentic crest; it's a dream, right?) with a marble for an eye.

Crested heron cages other birds; a dream painting by Wayan. Click to enlarge

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