Thursday, July 01, 2010

Shiraishi Nature-The blue heron

By Amy Chavez

With the evening breeze,
the water laps against
the heron's legs

Thus goes one translation of this poem by the famous haiku poet, Yosa Buson (1716 - 1783).

Every evening I watch the aosagi (blue or gray herons) gliding in the air around the port. They are beautiful birds, with elegant necks that curve over swan-like, and long, sexy legs (yes, I am looking!). I've always admired their excellent posture. Standing on one foot is possibly the key.

They wade out into the water at low tide, fishing. They stand silently, waiting. Then reach down, put their beak into the water and pull out a very astonished fish. Grasping the struggling fish, they point their beak up toward the sky and let the fish wriggle its way down the tunnel of death. I watch as the lump of fish passes down through the throat and disappears — now that's fresh sashimi!

Observing their hunting methods, I can see why the heron is described as "a symbol of patience," in the "bird tattoo index" on the Internet.

The morning heron in our port, however, is quite different. A departure from the type that inspires haiku, the morning heron is lazy, knowing he can get his breakfast easily by hanging out near the fishing boats. As fishermen sort through their previous night's catch, they occasionally toss the small ones to the herons.

The most strategic place for being the first to spot these freebies is from the top of my boat, which is parked next to the fishing boats. I can understand why the herons like our boat — it has an awning over the back of it, which from the air looks like a giant, purpose-built blue heron landing pad.

Imagine if you were flying around the port and suddenly spotted a large, overstuffed sofa below. This heron platform is coveted by the birds in the same way you covet those few comfortable chairs at Starbucks.

So they land on the awning, stand there for a while, and crap. So much that our boat has become an avian toilet — an avian "Doo-doo Drop In."

The Avian Toilet is much easier to use than an Asian or a Western toilet. No squatting is necessary. And no sitting down on the job either. You just stand there and when it feels good, do it. I wouldn't mind so much if they'd just use the toilet slippers I set out for them.

I wonder if Toto has considered incorporating the convenience of the Avian toilet into new toilet models. It would eliminate the need for heated toilet seats and the toilets would be far more environmentally friendly because when it rains, they become self-flushing.

But, in the meantime, as the stuff piles up on the awning, I might have to start asking the men who come to clean out our pit toilet every month if they'd clean the Avian toilet too. If not, I fear:

With the morning breeze,

the guano laps against

the heron's legs.

But I got to thinking that maybe I could turn this Avian toilet into a money-making business. Perhaps you have heard about an ancient geisha beauty secret that uses nightingale fun. No, nightingale fun is not doing something really exciting with nightingales. "Fun" refers to their droppings, which are used in beauty creams and treatments. Now, I'm sure the nightingales don't mind having a part-time job on the side donating their fun to the beauty industry. But I do wonder why the Japanese haven't tapped the blue heron market. C'mon, these are big birds — They have big fun!

We're talking big splotches of white. That's either big fun or herons are just sloppy painters. But there's enough fun on the top of our boat to make an entire gallery of Rorsplotch paintings.

Unfortunately, nightingale fun is very expensive. This might have to do with the collection method — imagine putting buckets under telephone wires every day hoping to catch a few drops of the stuff. It might be cheaper to lie under the telephone wire with your eyes closed. Who knows, it could be the next eco-tourism thing.

Still, most people would choose to go to a spa to have this treatment done. There is one in particular, Shizuka New York Day Spa, in New York City that offers such Bird Poop Facials for $180 (more than ¥16,000). Such a lofty price reminds me of that John Keats poem, "Owed to a Nightingale."

When I open my spa here on the island, I'll have the advantage of being able to offer affordable bird poop facials because of the sheer volume of heron droppings at my disposal. I'll advertise: Blue Heron Spa: "Look your best, even when you're feeling blue!"

And when I welcome people to my spa, I'll say, "Here, just lie on this awning, and I'll be back in a half-hour." When they leave I'll say, "Thanks for dropping by!"

If my spa fails, I'll have to do something else with the heron droppings. Bird droppings have nitrates which are also used to make gun powder, so I suppose that is another business I should be looking into.

With the morning breeze,
the guano laps against
the powder kegs.


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