Saturday, January 29, 2011

A DOUBLE-DOSE OF CLEAR SKIES


Before breakfast, I stepped out into the pre-dawn darkness to attend to my bird-feeding chores. I was surprised to look up and see several stars overhead. Surprised because lately it has been cloudy every morning…and in fact, cloudy most days throughout, from dawn until dusk. I can't recall when I last noticed stars—but the fact was sufficiently thrilling that I paused for a moment to enjoy their bright glimmer through the tangle of interlaced treetops.

Not only were the heavens clear and spattered with stars, but a weary waning moon, like a sliver of clipped fingernail, hung low in the southern sky. Venus trailed close behind, the dazzling Morning Star now at its yearly brightest.

We had clear skies yesterday evening, too—though only for about fifteen minutes right at dusk. I was working at my desk when a movement on the river caught my eye. I looked up and saw a great blue heron flapping along, about five feet above the water's surface. The big bird made a banked turn, gained a dozen feet of altitude, reversed directions again, still climbing, and landed on a sycamore limb high above the stream. 

Just as the heron was settling onto its night roost fifty feet up, a bit of sun broke through the cloud cover to the west. Gold-tinged light began pouring into the island's woods. I thought I might manage a nice shot of the high-perched heron and grabbed my camera. From the front deck, the warm profusion of light was reflected by the river below, while the snow lining both banks appeared a pale violet. I made a shot of that, then aimed downstream and made a photo of the heron. However, quick as I was, at that point the western clouds were redrawing their curtain, the magic light fading.

This morning's clear skies also lingered only briefly. Long before the burgeoning dawn turned into full daylight, clouds had again pulled overhead like the drawing up of a gray blanket. Now the light is flat and neither river nor snow carries a sparkle. But that's okay. A couple of doses of clear light, however brief, were sufficient. It can't remain cloudy forever.
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16 comments:

Tramp said...

How marvellous when we can observe that first real ray of sun break through.
...Tramp

Arija said...

So often a single shaft of light can dispel the darkness, to be blessed with one evening and morning is blessing indeed.

Your gilded river is a dream.

Linda said...

Sunshine can be a rare thing in winter; but you're right...when it shows up, however briefly, it's a thing to be savored. Likewise, good lighting for a photograph is often fleeting and fickle. You managed to use your brief opportunity well, though.

George said...

A little light here and there can do wonders for a hopeful spirit in winter. While I've seen hundreds of heron photos, every one one fascinates me — I guess that's why we both spend a great deal of time chasing this legendary species with our cameras. When I look at your heron standing erect on the tree limb, I am reminded of a line from Dylan Thomas (referred to me by the Solitary Walker, Robert) about the "heron-priested shore." They do remind me of priests sometimes.

Grizz………… said...

Tramp…

That's one of the reasons why I enjoy dawns—though sunsets are often more spectacular, there's just something deeply moving…spiritual…about that first light and seeing a new day born.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

Light is quite probably man's greatest natural blessing—the first act of creation.

"Gilded river"…I love that. Thank you.

Grizz………… said...

Linda…

I really don't mind the dull winter days. I;m not one who needs daily doses of glaring sun to make me feel good. But an occasional glimpse, however brief, is a nice change.

The very definition of photography resides in the capturing of light…

Grizz………… said...

George…

Herons are a regular part of my daily life. I couldn't think of recording my little portion of riverbank without taking their photos—though I have yet to capture what I think is a great heron shot. But like you, I keep making images and always enjoy looking at images made by others. You've taken several really fine blue heron shots.

Don't know how I missed that line on Solitary's blog (I read it faithfully) but I absolutely adore "heron-priested shore." That is a perfect description—not only to the look of the standing birds themselves, but their somber, almost ecclesiastical stance like an old, robed bishop pondering his words at a graveside service. Thank you, thank Robert/Solitary, and thank Dylan Thomas!

George said...

In case you're interested in seeing the full poem, Grizz, the title is "Poem in October," which I believe was written by Thomas on his thirtieth birthday.

sage said...

Wonderful photos and nice descriptions. Great Blue Herons are marvelous birds. We are only having gray skies here.

Beyond My Garden said...

I, too, caught a glimpse of those beautiful stars in the middle of the night. And what a nice heron shot. We don't often see them roosting. It seems they just disappear.
nellie

Grizz………… said...

George…

I will certainly find and read it tomorrow. I appreciate the follow-up. Thank you.

Grizz………… said...

Sage…

Thank you. And I agree, herons are great birds and neighbors—noisy, but neat. Our gray skies remained all day. Just wondering—would your weather be influenced by Lake Michigan?

Grizz………… said...

Beyond My Garden…

I've just been out to give Moon the Dog her final pre-bedtime amble. No clear skies tonight, at least not now. Maybe in the morning.

Herons often spend the night in the trees directly across from the cottage. You'd be surprised how easy they are to miss, in spite of their size, if you don't happen to see them fly in and settle. But they won't allow you to get close and are easily spooked. I hear them at all hours throughout the night, disturbed by something, squawking and fussing. At which point they fly off and find a new night roost, dark or not.

Hilary said...

I love the liquid gold and you captured one of my favourite birds. What a treat. My day is complete.

Grizz………… said...

Hilary…

Both shots turned out better than I'd dared hope…and were mostly luck.

Thank you.