Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. Thomas Merton
Monday, August 18, 2008
Of Herons and Other Things
It's about time I got back to the art thing. Remember--that which stimulates the senses or the mind by conveying ideas or emotions in a variety of ways? I especially like finding art in nature. Here is one of my favorite places. This is a view from Ditto Landing Marina of the Tennessee River at sunset. This is a lovely place. It is full of God-given natural art. I love to go there just to have a little peace from the cares of the day or to have a lovely setting for contemplation. I often head down to the river to knit or spin. Sometimes I even go fishing, where I use my worms from the homegrown worm farm that I started a few months ago.
One of the best things about being there is being able to enjoy the wildlife. Because I'm usually there during daylight hours when there are lots of people around, I don't often see much in the way of mammals such as raccoons, rabbits, skunks, deer and the like, but there is an abundance of birds, insects, and water critters such as fish, turtles, and snakes to enjoy. I especially like birdwatching. One of my favorites at this location is the Great Blue Heron. They are such majestic birds. I managed to catch this photo of one of my friends earlier in the summer. He seems to be standing guard as he patiently waits for the unsuspecting fish to swim by to be speared as his next snack.
I do wish I could show you a closeup of his feathers. They are lovely, especially the frill on his neck and wings. When the photos are enlarged and cropped, each makes a wonderful little work of art. These lovely birds are rather gawky in flight. They fly with their necks tucked into a tight S-shape and their long legs trail out behind them. Their call is somewhat less than melodious--a sort of raucous "Quark! Quark!" This is about as much of a closeup as I could get with my camera. These little, affordable digital cameras are fun and allow you to see instantly what you've captured instead of having to wait to get film developed, but I do miss using our nice SLR's with all the lenses. I really should dig those out and start using them again. I could have the photos put on CD's to minimize storage and for computer usage. Or maybe I'll save up to get a really nice, professional quality digital camera (yeah, in my dreams).
About three years ago, I had the opportunity to work briefly with Richard T. Bryant (www.richardtbryant.com), a professional photographer who used to be the photographer at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. It was a wonderful experience. I have to tell you I drooled over the photographic equipment and dreamed of one day being able to have cameras like those. Although we were working on an industrial plant site located on Redstone Arsenal, Richard would take time to look at the wildlife of the area. One day as he looked through a telephoto lens, he spied a clutch of eggs at the base of a tower near the creek. We went to investigate. They turned out to be turtle eggs. Unfortunately, they had been partially eaten by some critter--maybe a coyote, a skunk, or a raccoon. Another time, a snake swam leisurely along in the creek near the buildings we were photographing. "Look! Look at that snake!" he exclaimed and we both ran as quietly as we could to the creek to get a closer look at what he thought was a banded water snake. We saw water snakes several times. On our lunch break, we often checked around for whatever animals we might happen upon or sat at a picnic table under the trees and did a little birdwatching or even enjoyed sharing the space with most of the insects that called the place home.
Now, back to my friend, Great Blue. He will stand motionlessly for minutes at a time while he fishes for his meals. When one location doesn't look too productive, as any good fisher will, he quietly moves along, walking in slow motion, then takes up his stance once again. There will be no movement at all, then suddenly he will strike out with his long neck and come up with a shiny fish wriggling on the point of his bill. I have not yet been close enough or quick enough to see any of them get the fish into their beaks, but they manage to somehow get the fish down their throats. Eventually, hoping for a better fishing location, he will extend his huge wings and magically lift off, flying across the river with ease.
I enjoy art and like to look for it in the natural world. My craft interests include handspinning and most of the fiber arts, especially knitting, weaving, and working with paper. Other important things are my family and friends, my pets, nature, literature, poetry, music, history, birding, star gazing, museums...and the list goes on. In other times and places, I've been an archaeologist, taught anthropology, and worked in a living history museum, so I find all sorts of things to hold my interest and keep me entertained. I hope to share some of these things with you.