Ryan: How Did We Not See This?

Today I had a closeup encounter with a heron during my morning walk. Herons are notoriously shy birds, so I’m usually disappointed when they fly away before I can get close enough to really look at them.

For whatever reason this heron gave me the benefit of the doubt and remained grounded, observing me as carefully as I was observing him. His head cocked to the side suspiciously and one leg slowly raised and stretched forward in a slow motion step away from me. His wings expanded outward in a preparing for take off posture, then slowly lowered when he didn’t perceive any immediate threat from me. He grew comfortable enough to resume fishing, locking in on subtle movements in the water, plunging his head under like a missile and emerging with his meal.

As the minutes rolled by, I noted the engineering marvel of his anatomy, perfectly designed to fish and fly. The undeniable, almost eerie, focus. The knowledge that this animal never questions his place in the natural order, but represents an important cog in the machine nonetheless.

A passing car spooked the heron and he took flight, lifting off the ground as if by magic. The shadow of his massive wingspan passed over my head like an eclipse. He was both majestic and oddly prehistoric.

Around the age of eight, I went through a very common dinosaur phase, when I couldn’t get enough information about the massive creatures that dominated the planet millions of years ago. Much of my education about dinosaurs came from the comic books and cartoons that I loved, and most of those stories depicted dinosaurs as overgrown lizards, suggesting that maybe one day a living dinosaur would be found deep in a jungle somewhere.

It wasn’t until later that pop culture finally recognized what scientists had been theorizing for years. Birds are dinosaurs, hiding in plain sight this whole time. And as I watched that heron glide over my head, I was reminded of every pterodactyl from every lost world story that captured my imagination as a kid.
How did we not see this? It seems so obvious now. And it makes me think about other things that seemed so irrefutable until they just...weren’t. When a new truth replaced an old idea that we just “knew” was correct, and the new understanding was as deep and clear as the knowledge that a bald eagle and the velociraptor from Jurassic Park are not so distant cousins.

You have to eat every few hours or your body will cannibalize its own muscle tissue to survive. Or maybe the human body was perfectly designed to endure food scarcity and thrives when eating less often? How did we not see this?!?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and you know it’s true because General Mills prints it on every box. Or maybe manufactured products are more about money than health, and animals in nature are better role models than the Lucky Charms leprechaun? How did we NOT see this??!!???

Food is something to manage and count and track and measure if we want to be lean and healthy. Or maybe we are meant to eat intuitively and with gusto just like that heron. I’m willing to bet he was not flying off to a Weight Watchers meeting because his fish had too many points! HOW DID WE NOT SEE THIS?!!?

Intermittent fasting works because it just makes sense. How did we not see this? “Conventional wisdom” is loud and sometimes overpowers our inner voice, but when we learn to listen to it, the truth is undeniable. We see it now.