Watercolor paintings of great blue herons

Watercolor paintings of great blue herons

Watercolor painting of heron in flight

Watercolor painting of heron in flight

White Heron
by John Ciardi

What lifts the heron leaning on the air
I praise without a name. A crouch, a flare,
a long stroke through the cumulus of trees,
a shaped thought at the sky – then gone. O rare!
Saint Francis, being happiest on his knees,
would have cried Father! Cry anything you please.
But praise. By any name or none. But praise
the white original burst that lights
the heron on his two soft kissing kites.
When saints praise heaven lit by doves and rays,
I sit by pond scums till the air recites
It’s heron back. And doubt all else. But praise.

Wings over water, great blue heron in flight

Wings over water, great blue heron in flight

Another watercolor sketch of great blue heron

Another watercolor sketch of great blue heron

Watercolor sketch of great blue heron

Watercolor sketch of great blue heron

 

Idle Moments

June 15, 2014

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“Why is it so hard for us to simply stop for a moment? We are not so important — the world will continue grinding on — but I guarantee you, the seemingly idle moments you steal will be immeasurably gratifying. . . . Lying in the grass is sinfully pleasant.”
— Ken McAlpine, Islands Apart:  A  Year on the Edge of Civilization

“Creativity is the residue of time wasted.”
— Albert Einstein

Fisherman at Green Lake with great blue heron

Fisherman at Green Lake with great blue heron

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It’s almost summertime, when the living is easy.  Aahhh!

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

Great blue heron swallowing a fish

Nature writer John Burroughs often talks about the rewards inherent in observing nature right where you are, watching the “procession pass” like a “revolving showcase.”  Even walking the same terrain yields unexpected gifts, exemplifying the old adage that you cannot step into the same river twice:

” . . . the place to observe nature is where you are; the walk to take to-day is the walk you took yesterday. . . . I shall probably never see another just such day as yesterday was, because one can never exactly repeat his observation, — cannot turn the leaf of life backward, — and because each day has characteristics of its own.”
— John Burroughs, from “A Sharp Lookout”

As I’ve been making my daily run around Green Lake, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for three resident herons.  Most often I see them standing stock still in the shallow lake’s edge, sometimes perched on a log or in a tree.  This was my first time seeing a great blue heron devouring its catch.  I found it a bit humorous to see that relatively big fish in the heron’s beak — were the heron’s eyes bigger than its stomach?  And then suddenly the scene took on an eerie feel — watching that fish move down the slender neck of the bird was like watching a snake swallow a mouse.  No fuss, no muss.  Over quickly.  My National Geographic moment.

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“He slept
with his long neck
folded, like a letter
put away.”
Jane Hirshfield, from “Hope and Love”

The curved neck of a heron

Detail of heron's head and neck

I wish I knew the poetic words to describe the feathers of this Great Blue Heron.

Detail, heron feathers

Detail, heron feathers

Detail, wing feathers of Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron at Green Lake

Heron and small waves

“. . . the unbegrudging concentration of the heron”
— Seamus Heaney, from “Drifting Off”

I see this heron feeding near a culvert at Green Lake nearly every morning between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m.  Isn’t it wonderful to see wildlife in the city?  The last time I saw it, I noticed that one leg was lame.  It had been injured by fishing line, that was still entangled around the leg.  I called a wildlife rescue organization to report it.  Don’t know what will happen.

Heron on the dock at Green Lake

Such a small head viewed from this angle!

Leg injured by fishing line

The difficulty of capturing a heron in flight -- blurred feathers

Great Blue Heron and its reflection in the water

 

 

Self-Contained Intensity

January 24, 2010

Blue Heron at Green Lake

Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron on the hunt

Intense concentration

I saw this great blue heron on the shore of Green Lake.  It was so focussed, so intent, that it ignored me completely.

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contained,
I stand and look at them long and long.
They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,
Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth. . .
     — Walt Whitman, from “Song of Myself”

Plumed Lightening: the Heron

September 3, 2009

Great Blue Heron at Green Lake

Great Blue Heron at Green Lake

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

Blue Heron

I always look for this Great Blue Heron on my walks around Green Lake.  I love this poem’s description of a heron as  “plumed lightening.”

The Heron
by Peter Jones

It stands on one leg
head-hunched, with no poise
of secret attraction, no eye
of mystery to hypnotise eel
or mouse.

Equivocal serenity,
that takes in the marsh’s
complaisant track, covering
the journey to the shallows.

The heron is still
and stays so;
until plumed lightening strikes
from its endless patience.

Etude
by Ted Kooser

I have been watching a Great Blue Heron
fish in the cattails, easing ahead
with the stealth of a lover composing a letter,
the hungry words looping and blue
as they coil and uncoil, as they kiss and sting.

Let’s say that he holds down an everyday job
in an office.  His blue suit blends in.
Long days swim beneath the glass top
of his desk, each one alike.  On the lip
of each morning, a bubble trembles.

No one has seen him there, writing a letter
to a woman he loves.  His pencil is poised
in the air like the beak of a bird.
He would spear the whole world if he could,
toss it and swallow it live.

Heron in flight

Heron in flight

Heron Rises from the Dark, Summer Pond
by Mary Oliver

So heavy
is the long-necked, long-bodied heron,
always it is a surprise
when her smoke-colored wings

open
and she turns
from thick water,
from the black sticks

of the summer pond,
and slowly
rises into the air
and is gone.

Then, not for the first or the last time,
I take the deep breath
of happiness, and I think
how unlikely it is

that death is a hole in the ground,
how improbable
that ascension is not possible,
though everything seems so inert, so nailed

back into itself —
the muskrat and his lumpy lodge,
the turtle,
the fallen gate.

And especially it is wonderful
that the summers are long
and the ponds so dark and so many,
and therefore it isn’t a miracle

but the common thing,
this decision,
this trailing of the long legs in the water,
this opening up of the heavy body

into a new life: see how the sudden
gray-blue sheets of her wings
strive toward the wind; see how the clasp of nothing
takes her in.