Herons arrived in my universe via the pages of “Tarka the Otter” as Henry Williamson described the world in words that conjured up visions and dreams, wild hopes of one day seeing otters, herons, salmon and so on. I was young- Mum taught me to read before I went to school, and ever since I have devoured books like a hungry heron nabs frogs.
Getting a decent SLR camera gave opportunity to seek out these wonderful creatures and film them. It also began a life-time search of frustration in acquiring the skills and knowledge necessary to get good results. Lots of practice does help success!
This heron was in Regent’s Park, London, and was happy to ignore people unless they came very close. (I had a good telephoto lens with me and stayed at a safe distance.)
I was able to observe for about 20 minutes and took photos of the heron preening itself, sharpening its fearsome bill, and hunting patiently for small fish and frogs.
It was the patience and preparation that impressed me. “My” heron was truly dedicated to hunting: it sought food with all its attention.
The things I see often become the starting point for spiritual reflection and prayer.
Watching this committed bird made me wonder about my own dedication to “seek out the Lord.”
Do I sharpen up? Take good care of myself? Wait patiently on God? Devote as much time to prayer as to photography?
Am I as motivated to “feed” my soul with spiritual food, to make time to relate to God, set intimacy with the Holy Trinity as a life priority?
If not, why am I surprised when my spirituality seems stale or more of a vacant space than a heart-filling joy?
It also helps me to look at the heron and see how scrawny, leggy, and frankly weird it looks!
Yes, it is beautiful in its own way. It is also superbly equipped as a fishing-hunter, water-wader, and strong flier. But hardly classically cute!
So then… when the onlooker sees me living as a “spiritual being,” and thinks what an odd shape I am, what a strange haircut… nice strong legs, shame about the face…
Perhaps they will discover that I am gradually becoming a better “heron”, learning God’s ways and learning to love and be loved. They may observe those moments of triumph when I connect with the Almighty! Or see how Jesus brings strength and comfort when I face struggles and pain.
Maybe they will see as I am learning to see- and find looking leads to praying.
“The delicate dance.” Whirling, waving, singing in the breeze. Humble grasses of endless variety grow almost anywhere round the world.
A carpet to walk on, a banquet to creatures great and small. Background colours of restful greens and brown, and all too easy to overlook. We cut it down to make hay, we give our civilised selves a never-ceasing summer of work with scythe or lawnmower. We take grass for granted.
Grass helps protect from soil erosion. It makes a perfect surface for sports and picnics. It helps regulate the atmosphere we breathe.
Our Bibles are full of references to grass; in the beautiful 23rd Psalm of the Good Shepherd, we read “He causes me to lie down in pastures of green grass; he guides me beside quiet waters.”
My photograph today comes from a lakeside in the Zillertal of Austria. A good long walk up the valley led to a gorgeous turquoise-coloured lake. Kindly souls had put a seat with a view across the water to a snow-clad peak. Here, in the peace and quiet, we took our rest, our lunch, and our pictures.
Dancing delicately in the mountain air, these grass seed-heads rustled and swayed to an unheard tune.
Sunshine was followed by gentle showers, and a little later by a brief but dramatic thunderstorm. Our day was enriched by these curious climatic changes. Tomorrow would see the delicate dance of the grass as an encore. The rain makes it all live. Soil is shallow on the hard rocks, and sun and wind dry the grass quickly. It is the living water that gives the life.
A verse to ponder from Deuteronomy, extolling the virtue and value of the Words and Love of God. Be refreshed.
“My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain, my words arrive like morning dew, like a sprinkling rain on new grass, like spring showers on the garden.” – Deuteronomy 32:2 (Message)