Mindfulness and the Great Blue Herons
And the Herons? They’re a study of Patience and Grace
I went for a long walk late Sunday afternoon along the sidewalk that follows the contour of the reservoir that holds the nesting island. In places, the path is right next to the rocky shoreline, and in others the terrain between the path and the water’s edge is thinly forested with old growth white pines and cherry, apple, and dogwood, and oak and maples, all blanketed by tall ferns and ground foliage. At this time of year, the ground plants are just beginning to sprout and the leaves on the bushes and shorter trees have not yet started, so there is a clear view through the woods to the water.
Many creatures live there, and every walk I take seems to reveal more of them. Last night, it was a large cottontail rabbit. Saturday night, a lone young Canada Goose that had gotten stranded on the wrong side of the path and needed some encouragement to dip beneath the guardrail to safety. It was fascinating to see the parent Goose demonstrate to junior how to navigate under that guardrail. We don’t often see wildlife actively teaching their young.
Sunday, as I was walking, something made me stop suddenly and drew my attention to the right, into the woods and trees. From where I was at that moment about fifteen feet of thin, tall trees and underbrush sloped gently downward to the shoreline, and there, not ten feet away, stood a Great Blue Heron.
They are usually very shy and erupt into flight at the first sensing of an approaching human, but for some reason this Heron remained stock still. We stood there, staring eye-to-eye for a long, long time, though it could not have been more than twenty seconds. His eyes, doe eyes almost, soft eyes, like those of a deer. His long bill, the orange-yellow of Aztec gold. His cap feathers, pure white. It felt as though I was looking at a being of kindness and intelligence, and an equal.
The silence between us was absolute.
We stood there, eyes-locked, watching each other, absorbing in full stillness, and then he leaned forward and lifted skyward in absolute silence, not an audible rustle of feather in the unfurling of exquisite wings – just soundless, effortless flight.
Suddenly, I wished I had brought a camera, and then just as quickly, I dismissed that wish – had the camera been there, I would have missed that experience. Instead of sharing stillness with the Great Blue Heron, I would have been absorbed in things like aiming and focusing and f-stops and bracketing and all of the composition things we photographers do; by then the Heron would have flown away, alarmed by my fidgeting with the gadgetry, and I would have missed the moment.
So, what does this story have to do with my photography? I used to do a lot of photographing in the mountains near Santa Cruz, with the vistas of mist-shrouded hilltop after hilltop marching to the Pacific Ocean, and along the Pacific Coast at sunset – hundreds of hours seeking to capture the perfect sunset moment, until one day I realized I was missing the moment IN the moment by working so hard to preserve it for future viewing.
Technology had gotten in the way of experiencing the moment right then and there, in the now.
What does this story have to do with my photos? It’s a lesson in our choice to be present in the moment, as I was with the Heron that afternoon, instead of focusing on the technology of recreating that moment for the future. It’s a lesson in mindfulness.
And the Herons? They’re a study of Patience and Grace.
Thanks to Cee for her Hunt for joy. I don’t know if this challenge is still on, but I really like the idea of searching for joy. The Herons bring joy.
Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!
The always-inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Patti, Amy, and Leya are still taking a much-deserved and much-needed break for the month of July. This week’s challenge focuses on the topic Along Back Country Roads. Beth Smith from her blog Wandering Dawgs is the host this week. This memorable encounter with a Great Blue Heron took place during a walk along a road near my home.
Thanks to Beth for her Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 158: Along Back Country Roads . This Great Blue Heron encounter took place during a walk along a road near my home.
Folks, now that some areas are opening back up, please consider supporting your local Arts communities – whether music, theater, crafts, visual arts venues, and others. All have been impacted over the past year and they need your love.
My brick & mortar presence in Massachusetts dates back to 2009 in several local venues/galleries.
2015 (May), 2016 (March and July), 2018 (May, June, July), 2019 (December), 2020 (January) several one-woman photography shows at TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
From December 4 through January 28, 2020, my Great Blue Heron photographs were once again on display on the walls of the lobby and theater in a free one-woman show at the Summer Street Gallery, of The Center for Arts in Natick.
Many of the photos in the exhibit were shown for the first time, and do not appear on the blog. As always, many of the photos were taken on the waterways of the Charles River watershed.
Thanks to Erica V and WordPress for the recent WPC: Place in the World. My favorite place is where the Herons are, of course it is. And the Herons? Their place is near the water, but also on the gallery walls and my blog. How else can I share them with you?
Thanks also to Ben H and WordPress for their WPC Challenge: Liquid. The Herons are drawn to water, as am I.
Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™
May the Muse be with you.™
The Tao of Feathers™
© 2003-2021 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)
Great Blue Heron, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Posted on July 24, 2021, in # Lens-Artists, Birds, Great Blue Heron, Inspiration, Mindfulness, Nature, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged # Lens-Artists, #6WS, #fivecrows, #LAPC, CFFC, heron, TCAN. Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.
Thank you for this wonderful post. I really enjoyed your beautiful heron image. Thanks for participating in the challenge.
Many thanks Beth. I love your challenge. For this topic and just commented on your blog about it. You have some really engaging photos for this one. Best, Babsje
being in the moment is the only thing I ever known. The emotional impression varies according to the situation.
Btw, when you stare at a animal you make it nervous. Why…because that’s exactly what a predator does before attacking! They see two eyes, nose and mouth and that’s also exactly what a predator has.
That Heron sounds familiar with you? It’s unusual for a Heron not to spook. Some photographers wear a mosquito hat to cover their face. Personally I get to know the animal so no need to cover my face up.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Wayne. You’re right about always being present. Yes that Heron knows me which is why it didn’t spook. And good point – you’re right about wildlife getting nervous when they are stared at. They do detect a pair of eyes as predatory. And you know how moths in particular have a pair of dots on their wings? False eyes to scare off predators. Did you know that Great Blue Herons also have a set of false eyes? Look here https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/i-spy-with-my-false-eye-daily-prompt-the-artists-herons-eye/ Best, Babsje
No,I did not realize Herons had false eyes? How amazing Nature in all it’s designs!
Thanks Wayne. Yes, amazing about Nature. The fake eyes in Herons aren’t anything I’ve read anywhere. So maybe it’s not well known? I wonder if Adrian has seen it or heard about ir?
I’ll ask next time I see him?
Loved your message as well as your image this week Babsje – you’re so right about experiencing the moment. I always take the time to do that when shooting sunsets or sunrises but wild creatures that visit briefly do make we work harder to capture the moment. The thing I thought of immediately when I read your story was that if you’d tried to capture the heron he’d have left in a heartbeat. Something about the lens definitely bothers birds. We used to have a 3rd floor window overlooking the largest osprey nest on Kiawah. It weighed 1,000 lbs! Anyway I had a telescope trained on the bird and was using it as a lens for my camera. I could see her eye as if it were at the end of my finger. Every time I tried to capture her, she flew away. I finally gave up and spent hours just watching her and she never once moved. But she sure hated that lens! I find the same is true when I come upon herons and egrets. They’ll let you get very close but the minute you train a lens on them they’re outta here in a flash!!
Hi Tina. I’m so glad you appreciated this story. And I love the idea that you had a telescope to use as your camera lens on that huge Osprey nest. How cool is that. And 1000 pounds is half a ton. Oh my that’s an enormous nest! And your great comment makes an excellent point about the way animals react when they perceive an ‘eye’ looking at them. Nature has provided moths with those false eyes aka eyespots on their wings to scare off predators. Do you know that Great Blue Herons also have those false eyes on their wings? I posted about that in the following post: https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com/2013/07/10/i-spy-with-my-false-eye-daily-prompt-the-artists-herons-eye/ Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. Best, Babsje
I checked out that post when I saw the earlier comment on your post Babsje. Fascinating!
Thanks Tina. Still impressed that you had a real telephoto lens – a telescope! 😊
Fantastic capture. 😊
Hi Irene. Thanks so much for your kind compliment! I’m pleased you like this post. Best, Babsje 😊
My pleasure. 😊
Thank you John. I’m glad this one resonated. Best, Babsje
Living in the moment is true in nature and many people remark that with the advent of smartphones with their photo and video capabilities, people have forgotten how to enjoy a musical concert as they are only interested in obtaining “proof” they were there to post on social media.
Such a wonderful post! It is so easy to get all involved with the camera. I loved the part where you described his soft eyes. Sometimes heron eyes can look so scary to me! The wisdom part I can understand, though. I always think of herons as old souls.
what an amazing creature this is. I didn’t know until I read your blog. Amazing
Hi. Many thanks for your lovely comment. I’m happy to have introduced you to the Great Blue Herons. Best, Babsje
your words are so beautifully crafted, the imageries wow. you’re right, nothing brings more stillness, peace, grace than being completely present in a moment
Many thanks for your generous compliment. I’m glad you appreciated this one. Best, Babsje