After including Mother Egret in five books, I feel I know her almost as well as I know myself.

She is beautiful to behold, graceful in flight, and ever-present, especially when needed.

Personally, I have always related her to the spirit of my deceased mother, even before I put the first descriptors on paper, and I have relished in every appearance, whether a physical sighting or one penned to paper.

It has been fun weaving her into the story lines of ALL BETS ARE OFF, HELL’S GATE, THE PELICAN ON EGRET COVE, INSIDE THE GLASS GARDEN, and NO STONE UNTURNED. As I work on book six, ONE MISSING INGREDIENT, she is present as well and will play her usual role in helping Allie and Jaxon pull the details of the mystery together. I thought I would share with you a bit of what Allie has come to accept as Mother Egret’s defining graces.

In Chapter 7 of ALL BETS ARE OFF, Jaxon can no longer ignore the presence of the heron and questions Allie. “As he spoke, Jaxon was startled by the sudden flight of an egret from somewhere in the brush ahead. He immediately looked at Allie, who couldn’t help smiling enigmatically. ‘Is that egret trailing us? I swear the damned thing is ubiquitous.’ Jaxon spoke without thinking.” It was at that point Allie “cautiously recounted the first time she visited her mother’s grave following her burial. Her memory of that day would always remain vivid; a beautiful egret inexplicably appeared, in a most unlikely location, shadowing her from car to grave. The bird then hovered nearby while she tearfully paid her respects, flying away only as Allie drove off the parking lot.” This scenario actually took place, but the egret followed me from the cemetery, down the highway some four to five miles, to my aunt’s house, where it finally disappeared into a thicket.

As seen in HELL’S GATE, even Jaxon comes to expect and appreciate the mysterious presence of Mother Egret. “But his anxiety vaporized the instant he looked forward to see a beautiful white egret guiding them through the channel. A heartfelt smile brightened his face as he found himself wishing Allie had been there to see the magnificent bird. Just as they exited the treacherous passage, the egret flew circles around the boat, finally falling in behind it.”

Early in THE PELICAN ON EGRET COVE, Allie and Jaxon are amazed to see Mother Egret flying alongside a companion. “But, this was unquestionably a first – her beloved egret joined in flight by a pelican. Food for thought. Definitely food for thought.” Throughout the story, the birds appear together as Allie and Jaxon try to resolve the mystery at hand. “The duo was back. The egret and the pelican were such a peculiar sight, a seemingly unnatural juxtaposition of nature. The egret was snowy white with its crooked neck and long legs, but delicate in appearance. The brown pelican was larger and more robust than the egret, a strange looking creature with that long, narrow beak and the underlying pouch. It was hardy, strong in appearance.” Without going into too much detail, I love that Allie’s new friend, Maxine Rockford, is able to give Allie a short lesson on both egrets and pelicans. “Native Americans commonly use the egret as a symbol on totem poles, representing the ability to stand in both the physical and spiritual worlds.” Can you imagine the reassurance that knowledge must have given Allie regarding her mother’s kinship with Mother Egret? As Maxie continues schooling Allie, she tells her what she knows about the heron’s new, brown friend. “The pelican represents caring and self-sacrificing parents, resurrection or renewal, nourishment.” Allie and Jaxon come to think of the two very different birds as “the dynamic duo.”

INSIDE THE GLASS GARDEN is a different type of story. Not a crime solving adventure, it is a combination of fact and fiction, spun from the few details I know of the life of one of my maternal great aunts. It is flavored with a taste of the paranormal, something I had not tried before. Mother Egret fits right in. The story begins with a bad dream ushering Allie from sleep to consciousness on the wings of the graceful white bird. Her presence is felt throughout. “Mother Egret was in rare form, as well, as she winged alongside them toward town. It was as if she had something to say but no way to say it. Every time the truck slowed down, she would fly in a zigzag pattern, back and forth in front of them, calling to them repeatedly. The only reprieve to her dry, croaking call was an occasional, almost alarming, nasal squeal.” The egret serves as the harbinger of things to come, only Allie and Jaxon can not translate her actions into words.

I so enjoyed pervading the above story with a bit of the paranormal, I decided to give it another try. NO STONE UNTURNED is loosely based on the life of one of my paternal great aunts; however not knowing as much about this aunt, I had to rely more heavily on my imagination to weave the story. Quite unexpectedly, Allie finds it necessary to explain the ever-present egret to her cousin, Johnny Stevens. “They trudged back to the work table, accompanied by a great white egret that appeared out of nowhere. Puzzled by the presence of the bird, Johnny tried shooing her away. Allie spoke reluctantly, ‘Don’t, Johnny. She’s with me.'” As the story nears conclusion, “They set out, hand in hand, trailed by the spectacular, white egret – her wings spread wide behind them as though protecting them from all harm. The three of them made quite a dramatic statement as they moved toward their destination, not only the endpoint of their evening stroll but the final steps toward their otherworldly objective, too.”

Making Mother Egret an integral part of each story has helped me memorialize my personal experience with a graceful, white bird in the cemetery of Lee’s Creek Baptist Church. May she never leave me.