They stand upon their pelagic kingdoms, looking past watery acres and the silvery minions flashing their livery beneath the waves. Noble and chaste, they balance on the currents with a white, feathery poise.
Wrapped in the blue air, the maritime fragrances of kelp and salt, their bodies are antediluvian and unchanged. Their ancient plans are betrayed only when the prehistoric arms are silhouetted in the revealing sunlight. They dared evolution, and soared over the writhing natural world below.
And when they fly over the ocean, their pale reflection melts into the waters below, like a warm frost, like a memory merging with hidden, oceanic realms. Necks fold and bend like corsets, but the legs are free, like yellow-tipped rudders. Their movement is slow and leisurely, a royal wave flying through the air.
They land on rocks, in a rush of wind and white. They walk with disjointed grace, each limb engaging in a graceful life that is refined, but separate. The light is creative with their feathers – in the shadow, it rides the silhouette in a single, radiant outline, then dissolves into a lavender dusk.
In the sunlight, they become a blast of unspoiled, blank color that blinds in its purity.
Their name comes from the French word “aigrette” – a word that also refers to the feathers that bloomed from ladies’ turbans and from their jeweled foreheads during the breathless years before World War I. The world had discovered color, craved exoticism, and women indulged in rich shadows, paints and stolen decorations.
In 1918 a law was passed, preventing the harvesting of feathers…causing the turbans and hats to tremble, like angels when they first felt the birth-pangs in their shoulders. Wings sprouted from their brims, alive and blood-warm with their ancient DNA. They then flew away: back into the wild, nautical air, towards heaven, towards their kingdoms in the sea.