Category Archives: Mindfulness

Mindfulness

Great Blue Heron’s Guest…Swimming Deer?

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Swimming – babsjeheron

The subtle shift in the tilt of the Great Blue Heron’s head alerted me to an unseen presence.

Great blue heron watching deer across the cove.

Great Blue Heron peering across the cove – babsjeheron

The Great Blue Heron perched, stationary and gazing off to the east under half-closed eyes, and I sensed that she was going to go to sleep standing there.
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It was mid-morning, her early fishing and feeding done. The log next to the blooming pickerel weed made a quiet resting place.
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She was unmoving, serene, a study in tranquility, and those qualities were once again contagious – I felt the peacefulness of the space we share, as I always do in the presence of Herons.
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Deer viewed through leaves of blind.

Looking through leaves of my natural cover hide/blind – babsjeheron

Half an hour elapsed when a shift in the tilt of her head signaled that she was alert and watching something on the opposite shore. Lulled into a sense of complacency, I thought that it was probably just the Irish Setter I had noticed ambling along when I paddled into the cove that morning.
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The Heron stiffened upright suddenly, as though coiled for action. Something, intuition perhaps, told me it wasn’t an Irish Setter at all. Maybe the Fox I’d photographed there a few years earlier was back!

Deer along the banks of the cove, directly across from the great blue heron.

Deer along the banks of the cove, directly across from the Great Blue Heron – babsjeheron

Holding my breath, I stared through the lens directly into the eyes of – not an Irish Setter nor a Fox – a large, mature Deer, a first-ever Deer sighting in the cove.

For forty-five minutes, the three of us shared the lower cove. The Deer watched the Heron during breaks in munching tender leafy bushes, but didn’t seem aware of me. The Heron also didn’t pay any attention to me, but watched the Deer intently, at one point flying about ten feet for a closer look.
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And me? I watched both Deer and Heron with my heart on my sleeve.

Time stood still as I put the camera down and peered through my higher-magnification binoculars. I soaked in those enormous soulful eyes, the tickly-looking whiskers, and the adorable ears that seemed to swivel with their own sense of direction, the better to hear us with as the children’s fable says.
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The encounter ended as all such wildlife-human encounters should end, utterly without drama: nobody spooked or flushed anybody.

The Deer finished munching greens, turned and sauntered softly back into the woods.

The Great Blue Heron stared after the Deer for a long while, and then once again took up her perch on the log.

And I, still wordless from the wonder of what had just unfolded, paddled on to the next lake, smiling all the way.

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Fast forward ten months

Silent as a whisper, the Deer
Poem by Babsje

What of last summer’s Doe
Who watched from the shore
The Heron preening,
Ears attuned for movement,
Then ambled off into the ferns?

That was long ago –
Before that bad winter
Took so much.

Today
She bowed to nibble
Columbine and hosta
On the far shore.

And swam home.

In less than a minute
Water sluiced from her shoulders
Her heavy udders,
Then she was gone
Silent as a whisper

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© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

A glimpse through trees – could it be the White-tailed Deer? – babsjeheron

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Entering the Water Alongside the Dock – babsjeheron

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

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© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Swimming – babsjeheron

White Tail Deer Approaching the Shore - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Approaching the Shore – babsjeheron

White Tail Deer Climbing out of Water - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Climbing out of Water – babsjeheron

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

.White Tail Deer Vanishing into the Woods – babsjeheron

Fast forward four more months.

White Tail Deer Doe with Fawn - babsjeheron © 2014 - 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White Tail Deer Doe with Fawn – babsjeheron


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Between the first Deer encounter and the second one ten months later, the Polar Vortex had brought devastating, vicious cold.

Seeing a Deer swimming after the killing colds of winter was thrilling.

Viewing the photos on download was heartwarming: the Deer was the same one I had seen one day that previous summer. She had survived that harsh winter, and she had apparently given birth in the interim.

Four months later, the last photo of that Doe with her Fawn, brings great joy.

Great joy.

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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and Debbie Smyth and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. The focus for this week’s LAPC is Going Wide. Here’s the wide shot of the swimming Deer:

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

White-Tail Deer swimming, the long view – babsjeheron

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Thanks to Cee for her CFFC: Greatest Love of All. The Fawn is the future of the Deer.
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.Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!

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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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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.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
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Natick Town Hall
.
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
Audubon Sanctuary
.

Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
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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, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick, White Tailed Deer
Read the rest of this entry

Beautiful Great Blue Heron and One Special Feather

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather – babsjeheron

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Great blue heron fishing with a feather as bait.

Great Blue Heron shaking a seagull feather – babsjeheron

Doesn’t this Great Blue Heron holding a seagull feather bring to mind a friendly dog playfully carrying his favorite toy back to you, wagging his tail?
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At the time, I wanted to say to her, “Who’s a good girl? You are! You are a good girl!” because the way she pranced the length of the submerged log seemed so playful – at first.
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At first, it looked playful, but then I realized the seagull feather was not a mere toy to this Great Blue Heron – it was a tool, a fishing lure she repeatedly dipped into the water to entice fishes up to the surface, making it easier for her to spear them with her stiletto beak.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 2 - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 2 – babsjeheron

For some birds, it is dinnertime more often than not.
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Searching for their next meal, or that of their offspring, is a full-time job.
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A few Great Blue Herons at the lake have adapted tools to make fishing much easier, and dinner more of a sure thing.

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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 4 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 4 – babsjeheron

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She would pluck the feather from the water’s surface, and shake loose the droplets…
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…And then carefully drop the feather back down into the water…
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron   © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 5 – babsjeheron

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After a few moments, she retrieved it with that stiletto beak again, shook it dry, and then dropped it into the water once more.
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Transfixed, I watched her repeat this for more than ten minutes.
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It looked almost ritualistic – totemic or shamanic even.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 6 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 6 – babsjeheron

To see a feathered creature brandishing a feather from a different bird in such repetitive behavior.
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And then it dawned on me.
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Before she first picked up the feather, she had been fishing, staring intently into the water as though tracking a fish, from the half-submerged pine trunk.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 8 – babsjeheron

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And once she picked up the feather, she continued her fishing – using the feather as bait to attract her prey, the fish.
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How smart a bird and how alluring a lure she chose.
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Crows are the master tool users of the bird world, but as this experience shows, herons are smart birds, too.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 10 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 10 – babsjeheron

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I’ve observed herons using tools for fishing on other occasions, but there’s something magical and special about her choice of a feather.
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After all, don’t human fishermen – especially fly casters – often fashion their lures with feathers?
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 11 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 11 – babsjeheron

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Why should a Great Blue Heron choose any differently?
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Ingenious heron!
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 13 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 13 – babsjeheron

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That day, I took more than 925 photographs at the lake.
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The Great Blue Heron you see here is one of only three I’ve named: Juliette.
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Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 14 – babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron Fishes with Feather Nbr 14 – babsjeheron

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While Juliette and I were in the middle cove, her suitor Romeo was just over the ridge in the long slender cove, oblivious to the mysterious joys of fly casting with a feather.
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Romeo missed all the fun that day.
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Last Wednesday I had a successful eye surgery, but apparently it hasn’t cured my dyslexia, and I posted my photo backwards accidentally. I think this is right now?

Babsje With Clear Eye Patch - babsjeheron © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Babsje With Clear Eye Patch – babsjeheron

The eye patch is only temporary, but I sure could use a more fetching one!

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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. The focus for this week’s LAPC is Going Wide. Isn’t Go Wide something the Coach calls as a football play? Or wasn’t there a saying Go Big or Go Home? I don’t have a wide-angle camera lens any more, so I can’t Go Wide. Maybe I should just Go Home. Unless the big, wide sky encompassing Comet Hale-Bopp and the Pleiades counts:

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Comet Hale-Bopp at top right, the Pleiades mid-frame above the trees – babsjeheron.

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Thanks to Cee for her CMMC: Dark Greens. Green foliage abounds at the lake.
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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 165: Going Wide .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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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.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
.
Natick Town Hall
.
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
Audubon Sanctuary
.

Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
.

.

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, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

Here’s Looking at You Blue Heron

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

If birds can feel joy, this Great Blue Heron certainly must be joyful in this moment – babsjeheron.

The shadow passed by just as I reached for the styrofoam peanut bobbing to the right of the kayak’s bow. As I secured the bit of styrofoam under the bungee, I glanced up, and there she stood, not three feet away.  I froze in place and held my breath, certain that she would flush immediately.

Here's looking at you, kid. Great blue heron head-shot.

Here’s looking at you, kid – babsjeheron

Only the day before, I had posted a rant about photographers and birders endangering Herons by getting too close – and here I was, myself, far too close, three feet from this wild creature.

How could this have happened?

When exiting the first of the two northbound tunnels, a decision needs to be made: which way to go? East or North? At that juncture, I always use binoculars to check conditions in both directions and I also look also up for Herons in trees and down, for ones on the shore. I look for Herons – of course I look for Herons – but I’m also on the lookout for other boats. Fishermen in bass boats, canoes, kayaks, and even stand-upon paddle boards frequent both waterways.

Satisfied that there were no boats in either direction, and no Herons that my passing through might flush, I set a course for the morning.

Vista seen immediately when exiting tunnel. Which way should we go - into the deep, darkness to the East, or into the bright sunshine to the North?

Vista seen immediately when exiting tunnel. Which way should we go – should we turn right into the deep, dark stillness to the East, or paddle left into the bright open sunshine to the North?

Part of my daily routine is retrieving floating litter that might harm the birds and other creatures. Plastics, and styrofoam in particular, can have an insidious effect and ultimately prove fatal when eaten or when an animal becomes ensnared. NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (click here) is a good starter resource.

So, that morning I eased into the channel with an eye on the water surface, looking for styrofoam bits to remove. I wasn’t watching the sky or the trees, and so didn’t see the Great Blue on approach, nor her landing three feet away while I was bending out over the water. I saw a shadow and felt a presence, but she was soundless.

Why would this wild bird land so close to a human? Some wild birds and animals become desensitized to humans through frequent exposure. Some wild creatures are opportunistic, and have learned that humans are an easy source of food.

This particular Great Blue Heron had landed very near me three times before. The first time, she swooped in and landed under the tree canopy where my hide was in the cove. She couldn’t see me there, and that encounter was an accident. At that time, she was followed onto the shore by another Heron, and threatened with an imminent attack, which I wrote about in The Lesser of Evils. Back then, I rescued her from the attacking Heron, and maybe she recognized me in the same way that the Heron recognized the fisherman taxi driver who had rescued it. So, in addition to being habituated to human presence and opportunistic foragers, some birds that have been helped by humans become less fearful of us or see us as friends.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, the shadow passed by just as I reached for the styrofoam peanut bobbing to the right of the kayak’s bow. As I secured the bit of styrofoam under the bungee, I glanced up, and there the Heron stood, not three feet away.  I froze in place and held my breath, certain that she would flush immediately.

I sat there stock still for many minutes, watching as she began fishing along the shoreline in front of me, craning her neck out farther and farther over the water, stalking a fish. Eventually, I relaxed and pulled out the camera, but she was too close! My lens was too long to get her entire body properly in the frame.

She fished for a while, and seemed unworried by my presence so close. After a bit, she turned slightly, looking left and then right as a human would when about to cross the street, and I guessed that she was preparing to take off across the lake.

Great blue heron looking with right eye.

Great Blue Heron looking with right eye – babsjeheron.

I guessed wrong.

She turned herself around in a full circle, looking around all 360 degrees, and I was sure she would step towards the channel and lift off, but I was wrong.

She took a step…

…Right towards me.

I held my breath once again.

She leveled her gaze at me. We locked eyes and time stood still.

Eventually, I dared to raise the camera and took the photo at the top of this post.

She took another step in my direction, and angled her head slightly, so she could take me in with her right eye.

Great blue heron looking with left eye.

Great Blue Heron looking with left eye – babsjeheron

Did she lift off then? No. She swiveled her head and stared at me for a few more moments with her left eye.

Again, I lowered the camera to better savor the experience, and simply sat there in stillness with her, not wanting to break whatever spell held me entranced in the moment.

Once again, I expected her to gather into a crouch and spring up and across the channel, further into the lake.

I was only partly wrong this time. She lowered down fully, her belly almost touching the water, and then sprung up, energy uncoiled propelling her, but not across the channel.

She arced low, and curved around, directly over the stern of my kayak, landing only four feet beyond on the same shore.

In my very first post, I recalled an encounter with a Great Blue Heron from almost twenty years ago. At that time, I described the feeling as though I was looking at a being of kindness and intelligence, and an equal. Back then, I wrote that post about mindfulness and stillness and the ways a camera would have gotten in the way of truly being in the moment.

This time, I did have a camera with me. And by lowering the camera I was fully present with the Great Blue Heron in a way not possible with the lens in between us. Other photographers I know have also lowered their cameras to simply sit with the wildlife.

I’m grateful for having had the camera with me, and for the small number of photos from that day, but more grateful for the silent moments spent with that beautiful creature, our eyes locked from three feet away, searching for what lies within each of our beings.
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Babsje With Clear Eye Patch © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Babsje With Clear Eye Patch – babsjeheron

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Did you notice that this Great Blue Heron looked at me first with one eye, and then the other eye? I’m sure you know by now whether you are left-handed, right-handed, or ambidextrous, but do you know that you also have a dominant eye? I wonder if birds have dominant eyes like humans do? You may be left-eyed, or right-eyed, or it may vary depending on what activity you’re doing. Your dominant eye may or may not be on the same side lf your body as your dominant hand.

If you’re a photographer, you probably instinctively know which eye is dominant – the one you use through the view finder. Some people keep the non-dominant eye closed while shooting, but others keep both eyes open – the better to see what else is taking place at the periphery.

An internet search will return a lot of fascinating information and tests to determine which eye is dominant for you – some sophisticated and some quite simple. The simplest one is the thumb test. Locate an object you can see clearly. Then with both eyes wide open, extend your arm in front of you towards that object. Aim your thumb on the extended arm so it is positioned directly over the chosen object. Close each eye one at a time. You should notice that one eye keeps your thumb centered over your target when you have closed the other eye. The eye that stays centered on your target object is your dominant eye.

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I’m right-handed for most things, but left-handed for softball and baseball. My dominant eye is my left eye. But that is subject to change. In the above photo, you may notice that my left eye is covered by a protective patch.

Long time readers may remember that I lost all sight in my left eye in the summer of 2020, and I had successful retina surgery exactly one year ago this week. It was nearly miraculous – within one day of the retina repair last year, my eyesight was restored.

A known and expected complication of eye surgery is the formation of a cataract. I unfortunately developed a severe one that profoundly limited my left eye and I have been blind again in that eye for months. Before the surgery I could not even see the eye chart on the wall much less read it.

Three days ago I had a second surgery, and the results so far have been a marvel! Please reach out if you (or a loved one) need an excellent eye surgeon in eastern Massachusetts.

Or if you know where I can find a more fetching eye patch!

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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and Debbie Smyth and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. This week, the Lens Artists have invited Sofia Alves of Photographias as guest host. The focus this week is Looking Up, Looking Down. Please check out their gorgeous photos at the links listed below. My offering includes mentions of looking up and down while on the lake, not to mention that post-surgery the outlook for my eyesight is looking way up!

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Thanks to Cee for her CMMC: Dark Greens. Green foliage abounds at the lake.
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Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!

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From Sofia Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .

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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Look Up, Look Down .

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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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.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
.
Natick Town Hall
.
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
Audubon Sanctuary
.

Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
.

.

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, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
Read the rest of this entry

Great Blue Heron and Meteor

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron flies by – babsjeheron.

I blame it on the Beaver lodge.

No, that’s not right.

I blame it on the Beavers.

Or more accurately, on the beady eyes peering up at me from the shallows near the shoreline.

Actually, that’s not correct either.

I blame it on the absence of beady eyes just above the surface.

While kayaking one day some time ago ago, I discovered a Beaver lodge in the cove, the first one there in at least a decade. I took a few photos of the tall tangle of branches and twigs, but was more interested in seeing, and photographing, a Beaver. (I had never done that before, Muskrats, yes, Beavers, no.) As luck would have it that afternoon, there were two Beaver kits paddling around the point not far from the den, but they both quickly slipped beneath the surface and disappeared before I could focus the camera.

So, a few days later I went back to the cove to try to photograph the Beavers.

This, of course, was a mistake.

I learned long ago to open myself, and my eyes and camera, to whatever experiences and sights the lake brought forth at any moment. I had learned the hard way that “trying” to capture a specific subject meant that I would be missing out on what was unfolding right before my eyes. Mindfulness is a great attitude for a photographer.

So, there I was that weekend in the cove fifty yards or so from the Beaver lodge, scanning the surface of the waters with my binoculars, looking for a pair of beady eyes or a tuft of greenery being dragged along, trailing a small wake behind.

A flurry of activity at ten o’clock caught my eye and I paddled a bit closer and refocused the binocs.

Nope, not the eyes of a Beaver: a swarm of Dragonflies flitting and alighting on something, maybe a leaf.

I padded closer still to frame the swarm and through the lens realized the leaf was a feather, a single gorgeous raptor feather.

And as I was dialing down the lens for a closeup of the feather, a shadow passed directly overhead, and I saw a reflection framed on the water a few yards south – a Great Blue Heron.

Without thinking – without having to “try” at all – I lifted the camera and fired off this one shot you see above as the Heron flew by.

I almost missed the photo because I was looking down when I should have been looking up.
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And here’s that Meteor I promised in the post’s title. One occasion when I wss looking up at the right time in the right place: (I hope you weren’t expecting to see the Heron and Meteor together in the same photo?)

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower - babsjeheron  © 2021 Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Meteor from Leonid Meteor shower – babsjeheron

Watching meteor showers and photographing comets both put me in touch with the infinite in a way that nothing else can.

There’s something primal about laying back on a grassy hillside watching the summer Perseid meteor shower put on a show overhead.

Standing on that same hillside before dawn on a frigid November morning photographing the Leonids, cold of body yet warm of being, has the same effect.

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As long as we’re looking really far up, why not a Comet?

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Lizz (age 9) strikes a pose with Comet Hale-Bopp – babsjeheron

During the year of Comet Hale-Bopp, we watched and photographed almost daily for the duration, tracking the comet’s position on paper star charts. We experimented with all of the low light film we could find, comparing the quality of color reproduction and sharpness. Lacking any idea how long an exposure needed to be in order to clearly see the comet on film, and without a timer on-hand, my daughter hit on the Hippopotamus technique: she would depress the plunger on the cable release and hold the shutter open while counting out loud “one Hippopotamus, two Hippopotamus, three Hippopotamus.” It worked from the very first photo! We had a great time together, just the two of us viewing the comet through my old 35mm Konica and small toy telescope.
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This post is prompted by Cee Neuner and the creative and inspiring Lens Artists Tina, Amy, Patti, and Leya, all of whom encourage the community of photographers and writers. This week, the Lens Artists have invited Sofia Alves of Photographias as guest host. The focus this week is Looking Up, Looking Down. Please check out their gorgeous photos at the links listed below. My submission includes a case when i should have been looking up but was not, and two photos where i was looking very far up, if not far out!

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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.
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From Sofia Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .

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From Patti Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Tina Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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From Amy Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Look Up, Look Down ..

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From Leya Lens Artists Weekly Photo Challenge 164: Looking Up, Looking Down .
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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.

TCAN – The Center for Arts Natick
.
Natick Town Hall
.
Five Crows Gallery in Natick
,
Audubon Sanctuary
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Be a fly on the wall! You can CLICK HERE to see the gallery walls with Herons .
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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, Meteor, Comet, Kayaking, TCAN, Five Crows, Natick
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Mindfulness and the Great Blue Herons

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron rises sharply upwards as it passes by me – babsjeheron.

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.

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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.

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Thanks to Debbie for her Six Word Saturday . This post title has the requisite six words!
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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.

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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
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2018 (September, October) one-woman photography show at Natick Town Hall
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2013 thru now 2021 Five Crows Gallery in Natick
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2009 one-woman photography show at a local Audubon Sanctuary
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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.
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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.
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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
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Memories – reblogged from ospreypaddler

As 2014 glides into 2015, memories of years past float to the surface for many of us. In this post, fellow kayaker kestrelgwh elegantly explores the role of memories, saying “…sometimes the memories take the form of a story. Like a tool in a cabinet, we keep pulling it out of the drawer where it is stored, handle it, turn it, reflect on its significance and use to us.”  He shares a memory of an exhilarating kayak outing written with such a sense of immediacy that my pulse quickened as though I were there in the kayak, myself, as the bow rose the crest of powerful waves, only to plummet quickly into the following trough – over and over for his two-hour solo journey under perilous conditions.

I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. And may your memories this New Years Eve nourish that which sustains you.

ospreypaddler

We lose everything, but make harvest

of the consequences it was to us. Memory

builds this kingdom from the fragments

and approximation. We are gleaners who fill

the barn for the winter that comes on.

 –Jack Gilbert, “Moreover”

This is the time of year when ranchers in Montana pull stored sunlight out of their barns and spread it on frozen fields for hungry animals. This is the time of year when Blackfeet, Salish and Crow pull stories out of ancient storehouses and remind each other who they are and where they came from. Memories are the feast of the season.

At this time of the year a paddler builds a kingdom out of remembered fragments and approximations of the season past. In many cases the memories are composed only of images—a wave that caught my brother on the upwind side of a dock, lifted him on its crest and almost…

View original post 797 more words

Thus Spake Yoda

    Do, or do not. There is no try.

    Yoda
    Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

    © Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

    Great blue heron flies by.

    I blame it on the beaver lodge.

    No, that’s not right.

    I blame it on the beavers.

    Or more accurately, on the beady eyes peering up at me from the shallows near the shoreline.

    Actually, that’s not correct either.

    I blame it on the absence of beady eyes just above the surface.

    While kayaking a few weeks ago, I discovered a beaver lodge in the cove, the first one there in at least a decade. I took a few photos of the tall tangle of branches and twigs, but was more interested in seeing, and photographing, a beaver. (I have never done that before, muskrats, yes, beavers, no.) As luck would have it that afternoon, there were two beaver kits paddling around the point not far from the den, but they both quickly slipped beneath the surface and disappeared before I could focus the camera.

    So, last weekend I went back to the cove to try to photograph the beavers.

    This, of course, was a mistake.

    I learned long ago to open myself, and my eyes and camera, to whatever experiences and sights the lake brought forth at any moment. I had learned the hard way that “trying” to capture a specific subject meant that I would be missing out on what was unfolding right before my eyes.

    I learned that mindfulness is a powerful tool for a photographer.

    So, there I was last weekend in the cove fifty yards or so from the beaver lodge, scanning the surface of the waters with my binoculars, looking for a pair of beady eyes or a tuft of greenery being dragged along, trailing a small wake behind.

    A flurry of activity at ten o’clock caught my eye and I paddled a bit closer and refocused the binocs.

    Nope, not the eyes of a beaver: a swarm of dragonflies flitting and alighting on something, maybe a leaf.

    I padded closer still to frame the swarm and through the lens realized the leaf was a feather, a single gorgeous raptor feather.

    And as I was dialing down the lens for a closeup of the feather, a shadow passed directly overhead, and I saw a reflection framed on the water a few yards south – a great blue heron.

    Without thinking – without having to “try” at all – I lifted the camera and fired off this one shot as the heron flew by.

    Did I mention that no two days at the lake are the same?

    You can’t step in photograph the same waters twice.

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    Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for their Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra-Extra. The water droplet falling from the heron’s talon adds something extra to this high-speed action shot.

    Thanks to Paula for her wonderful Thursday’s Special Non-Challenge.

    Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for hosting the Wild Bird Wednesday challenge.

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    A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

    Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

    Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

    The Tao of Feathers™

    © 2014 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

    Great Blue Heron, Kayaking

My Second Snowy Owl, Oh Joy! (Subtitled Mindfulness and a Photographer)

And my second-ever snowy owl viewing? Yup, once again, there I was without my Canon. We won’t discuss the quality of the photos I got with my mobile (there definitely is a large white-faced blob on the high wires, really, trust me on that).

For marvellous snowy owl news out of Boston, read this: “100th Snowy Owl caught at Logan Airport freed into wild.” I love happy endings. Here’s the link:

http://www.boston.com/news/local/2014/03/17/snowy-owl-caught-logan-airport-freed-into-wild/TvZWK9webu7ONLAijTfHSN/story.html

Best, Babsje

Gravel

“Trying to ascend these beaches reminds me of the days after someone dies: it feels as if everything is giving way, rolling out from under foot, as if there is no way to rise. ” What a masterful description that sentence is. Even if you aren’t a kayaker, I encourage you to read on.

ospreypaddler

Today, housebound, I am thinking of gravel. As I paddle around the lake, into its bays and coves, around its islands, I am learning where waves push rounded stones into heaps that are often hard to climb after exiting the boat. Lubricated by waves the stones slip and slide against one another, make it almost impossible to find firm footing, ground that does not give. Trying to ascend these beaches reminds me of the days after someone dies: it feels as if everything is giving way, rolling out from under foot, as if there is no way to rise. Under the lake surface gravel seems almost part of the liquid, not in suspension, but barely more solid than the water itself. I think of one particular beach on an island. One night I pulled my boat high enough so that it would not slip away. In moonlight that rose over…

View original post 357 more words

My First Snowy Owl, Oh Joy! (Subtitled Mindfulness and a Photographer)

An abrupt flash of feathers in my peripheral vision, and there it was: my first ever Snowy Owl!

Oh joy! Oh joy!

And there I was without a camera.

© Babsje (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Sorry, no Snowy Owl photo – will the late sun casting a golden glow on Walden Pond be ok instead?

Sometimes I have felt that surely I must be the only wildlife photographer in the northeastern US who has NOT been hot on the trail of snowy owls this year.

Snowy owls have descended into North America from the Arctic in such numbers it’s being characterized as the largest “irruption” in decades. It’s not just the birding community that’s become fascinated by the snowies – mainstream media like CNN, the NY Times, USA Today, and even the Wall Street Journal are covering the snowy owl stories, and earlier this year the Boston Globe reported on the 7,000 mile round-trip migration of a snowy fitted with a tracking device. That’s a pretty scientific story for a general circulation newspaper.

In the birding community, hot tips about sightings and precise locations spread like wildfire on social media and text messages. The blood lust for “getting there” in time to see the snowy has been almost palpable.

With all the enthusiasm abounding, what was my excuse for not jumping on the bandwagon? Pretty simple, actually: I’m not a big fan of getting my camera cold and wet out in the snows of a New England winter.

I’ve been content with reading snowy owl success stories from blogging friends – thrilled vicariously by their happiness, gazing in astonishment at their outstanding photo captures – in much the same way a woman might enjoy being an aunt instead of a mother. I’ve felt genuine happiness for Nick with this beautiful photo, and Naomi with her wonderful series, and the owl videos from Petrel41 at Dear Kitty, and the magnificent snowy owl trip posted by quietsolopursuits, and excitement at the notion of all of these amazing owls straight out of Harry Potter invading our communities, but I haven’t felt the urge to get out in the field, myself.

Given that I wasn’t ever on the hunt for a snowy owl, it’s almost an embarrassment to have seen one so effortlessly this afternoon. Even moreso as I saw it on the street where I live.

The bus had just exited the commuter train station parking lot, and was about to turn right. I glanced left through the window reflexively, as a driver would do before entering traffic, and an abrupt flash of white and grey feathers at the periphery caught my eye. The bird swooped up to the top of a tall pole along the sidewalk, and quickly shook out then rearranged it’s wing feathers and settled atop the pole. It was large, very clearly not a hawk, and looked exactly like the photos I’d seen of snowy owls. When it swiveled it’d head to face me, the identification was clinched. My first snowy owl – oh joy – and there I was without my Canon, and my mobile had only 2% battery remaining, inadequate to launch the on-board camera app.

Long-time followers of this blog may remember that my first post, back in May 2013, told the story of a great blue heron encounter when I had no camera.

Back in May, I wrote of spending hundreds of hours seeking to capture the perfect moment, until one day I realized I was missing the moment IN the moment by working so hard to preserve that moment for FUTURE viewing. Technology had gotten in the way of experiencing the moment in the now. This is part of what I posted back in May:

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 break, 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 heron, I would have been absorbed in things like aiming and focusing and f-stops and bracketing and all of the composition things we do; by then the heron would have flown away, alarmed by my fidgeting with the gadgetry, and I would have missed the moment.

What does this story have to do with these 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.

And what about today and the snowy owl? Had I a camera with me, any photos would not have been art – after all, I was on a moving bus and would have had to shoot through a window splattered with road salt and grime, and without benefit of a tripod.

Instead, I have the photo I took today with my mind’s eye of the snowy owl shaking and folding its wings so clearly I imagine hearing the rustle of feathers. That beautiful white head swiveling to face me, our eyes locking for a few moments. That face, what a face. A face indelibly seared in my mind.

What I posted back in May is still true for me. There are ways of seeing and there are ways of seeing. The way of the photographer need not be only the way of gadgetry and technology and calculations. The way of mindful seeing can open the lens as wide as one’s imagination.

I like the synchronicity that the first post of the 2013 and the last of the year are both about the same thing: mindfulness in the presence of magnificent birds, absorbing the moment in the moment, unfettered by technology.

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Thanks to Michelle W and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy prompt.

Thanks once again to Stewart Monckton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

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Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

© 2013 Babsje. (https://babsjeheron.wordpress.com)

Great Blue Heron, Snowy Owl, Walden Pond

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