Of Herons and Intentions

Herons are personal for me. It’s not easy to explain, but they are somehow a connection, a link to nature and the broader Universe. Mary Oliver calls a Great Blue Heron a “blue preacher.” If you’ve ever watched one–methodical, thoughtful, graceful, you can see why.

My connection to Great Blue Herons deepened when I was training for my first marathon. I could be struggling on a long, low energy run, see one sitting on Papermill Pond or some cove, and instantly feel energized, recharged. It happened often enough to be weird (in a cool way). It would make me smile as I pushed on. A heron run was a good run. And that still happens.

Great Blue Herons are flighty. They take off as soon as you get close to them. Their take offs and landings are so awkward and take enough time and effort that it makes sense for self-preservation why they would be quick to bolt. Lately my interest has been equally on watching the more versatile, cagey, and dexterous Green Herons–there is a rookery on Town Creek in Oxford and they are everywhere. On a lazy evening paddle, we watched one scamper along rip rap in step with us, looking for something to eat. I’ve been thinking about a Green Heron tattoo to keep my Great Blue company.

2016 GB and Green Heron

Peter Matthiessen traveled five continents searching for 15 species of cranes. His adventures are chronicled in the book, “The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes.” I’m not as ambitious as Petey, nor do I have the time or budget to spread such a wide net. But I dig the notion as a model.

Sometimes I find putting my intentions out there makes me more accountable and more likely to make them happen. I’m making my scope regional–whether Eastern Shore, or Maryland, or Mid-Atlantic, we’ll have to see how it comes together. There will be road tripping involved. The goal is to find and see as many types of herons as can be found in the area. Word went out yesterday morning that a Tricolored Heron had been spotted in Grasonville. That’s the kind of occurrence to take note of.

tri colored heron

I’m not a biologist, nor am I looking to make a documentary. I’m going to try for a more creative approach to whatever writing comes out of this, and take a carpe the diem, fun, road trip, and enjoy nature approach to looking for them.

We have a finite amount of time spinning around on the globe here. That’s a perfect reason for going after things that move us, connect us, ground us, inspire us. It’s time for me to expand on what it means to have or make a heron run.

Author: Michael Valliant

I am a father, a writer, a runner, a hiker, reader, follower of Christ, a longboard skateboarder, stand-up paddleboarder, kayaker, novice birder, sunrise chaser, daily coffee drinker, occasional beer sipper. I live in Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where I am the director of the Oxford Community Center by day. I am on a walk of faith, a spiritual adventure, following where God leads, trying to share my walk and story.

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