Sunday, January 13, 2013


It's been a foggy Sunday here on the Eastern Shore, one of those days when everything loses its hard edges.  I needed to lose a few of those hard edges myself, so I grabbed my camera and drove to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, which is within an hour from my house.  During the colder months, one does not encounter many people here—only the occasional birdwatcher or photographer—but the waterfowl are abundant.  This is a wintering area for Canada geese, snow geese (both seen in photo above), herons, swans, and ducks of every stripe and color.  It is also a year-round refuge for those homo sapiens who believe, in Wordsworth's immortal words, that "the world is too much with us." 

It's easy to become mesmerized by the vast waterscapes of the refuge and the large flocks of waterfowl that congregate here, especially just before sunrise and again at sunset. Indeed, I have often been here before sunrise, and there is nothing quite as reassuring as seeing thousands of birds celebrate the morning sun with both dance and song.

Today, however, the sun remained hidden behind a veil of fog . . . 

. . . and the most interesting part of the trip was the time I spent with a single great blue heron, which graciously invited me to be his companion as he searched for small fish and crustaceans among the reeds and shallow waters.  

There was no resistance here, neither on his part nor mine.  There was simply a tacit understanding that we are both searching, and, as Wendell Berry reminds us, that "what we need is here."

                                              What We Need Is Here
                                                   by Wendell Berry

                                           Geese appear high over us,
                                           pass, and the sky closes.  Abandon,
                                           as in love or sleep, holds
                                           them to their way, clear
                                           in the ancient faith: what we need
                                           is here.  And we pray, not 
                                           for a new earth or heaven, but to be
                                           quiet in heart, and in eye,
                                           clear.  What we need is here.



  1. Oh, George, this is one of the most beautiful posts I have ever seen/read. I love the image of the refuge in the fog. There's something so elemental about it and even more evocative for me than the splashier sunrise. Your images are nothing short of astonishing. Would you mind if I tweeted a link to this? What it offers people is so sorely needed....

  2. Thanks so much, TERESA, for your very generous and lovely comments. I'm flattered you like the post so much, and, of course, you are always free to tweet a link to my website. I'm also delighted that you liked the image of the refuge in the fog. Feeling that most people would not respond to the "emptiness" of the image, I initially omitted it from the post. On second thought, however, it seemed to me that this image best reflected the overall environment of the day. I also recalled what the Tao Te Ching says about finding fullness in emptiness.

  3. George, I'm so glad you ran away from home this morning - I am benefitting from your foggy photos and the glorious portraits of the Heron. Yes, I do think that "what we need is here" - but we must recognize it first.

  4. Thanks, BARB. Glad you liked this post, and you are absolutely right! What we need is here, but it is of no value to us until we learn to recognize it. Learning to see is one of the greatest challenges of a lifetime.

  5. I felt the same word "astonishing" rise up before reading Teresa's comment. The light on the great blue heron, and the extraordinary proximity to his colors and markings, his being, just sends me.

    I know what you mean about the "empty" photo, both the reluctance, and then the embracing of it.

    Just a splendid post!

  6. Thanks, RUTH. Glad you like this posting, including the reflection of emptiness in the marsh photo. Spending a rather lengthy bit of time with this heron was such an honor. I could hear my heart saying, "If you want to understand 'presence' and how to live in the 'here and now,' look no further than this great blue heron you have encountered."

  7. Thanks, PAT. Have a terrific week!

  8. What I needed tis after noon is right here with you.

    Cold grey skies, and little hope of lifting atmosphere or mood, you sent me a ray of hope.

  9. Thanks, FRIKO. Hope you and Millie are doing well. It's good to have a dog on this cold, rainy days, or for that matter, any day.

  10. Beauty!

    My old home in CA was once rich, rich wetland and waterways. You can still find it and I too loved the days when fog settled over it all. A clappered bell.

    Seeing the heron so clearly in your photos makes me wish I weren't slightly nearsighted - or that I had a zoom lens. :)

    (ps. after much trouble linking my blog through comments, I'm trying something new. If anyone's so inclined, I'd appreciate a click-through just to know if it actually works... thanks!)

  11. Thanks for your lovely comment, WENDY. I will definitely head over to your new blog for a look.