Herons & Photogs & Poets, O My!

Confrontation, conflict and contentiousness have been dominating the news cycle of late, but that doesn’t mean cooperation and collaboration have disappeared from the face of the earth.

One of my favorite on-going collaborations has been with photographer Judy Lovell. In the days following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, she graciously allowed me to use her portrait of Plato the Pelican to help send a message to British Petroleum.

Earlier this week, realizing that none of the blue, green, black-crowned or yellow-crowned herons perched in my photo files would do as an illustration for one of my poems, I got in touch with Judy again. Telling her I wasn’t certain I could scare up another bird to model for me on such short notice, I asked if I might use one of her lovely egrets. Amused, she said I was more than welcome to use the image, although the “egret” I’d chosen actually was a white heron. 

My confusion was understandable. Great white herons are a white color-phase of great blue herons, and they bear a remarkable resemblance to egrets. Beyond that, they’re found only in the Florida Keys, so I’ve probably never seen one in the wild.

After their population was decimated by fashionistas demanding their elegant feathers for hats and such, the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was created to protect the population. Like the brown pelican in Texas, they’ve been brought back from the brink of extinction, and people like Judy have the privilege of observing and recording their lives.

Today, a lovely white heron has flown in from Judy’s site, Janthina Images, to complement my words. Thanks to her, you can enjoy this beauty with great legs and elegant feathers along with the words of my first etherees.

The poems themselves take a form that may be unfamiliar to you. The etheree, a syllabic poem containing ten lines and a total of fifty-five syllables, is named in honor of Etheree Taylor Armstrong, an Arkansas poet who died in 1994.  While it may seem strange to attribute a verse form to a particular person, new ways to arrange words are being invented on a regular basis. The Fibonacci, a poetic structure that utilizes a mathematical progression known as the Fibonacci sequence to dictate the number of syllables in each line, has been gaining popularity since Gregory Pinkus invited his blog readers to give “the Fib” a whirl.

As for the etheree, the structure is simplicity itself. The first line contains one syllable, the second line, two, and so on. An etheree can have a title or not, rhyme is permissible but not required, and the poems can be strongly rhythmic.

Perhaps the most familiar form of syllabic poety is the haiku. Other forms include the cinquain, the lanterne, the tanka and the renga - by its very nature, a collaborative poem. Annie Finch, a poet who teaches at the University of Southern Maine, suggests a reason for the growing appeal of counting syllables. “Poets are very, very hungry for constraint right now,” she says. “Poets are often poets because they love to play with words and love constraints that allow the self to step out of the picture a little bit. The form gives you something to dance with so it’s not just you alone on the page.”

Each of the forms has its virtues, of course. I find the etheree particularly delightful for the way the words present themselves on the page. In the first poem that follows, they seem to flow out like ripples moving across a tidal flat, disturbing the silence as little as a heron’s step.  In the second, they echo the compact form of a line-sitting bird, patient and motionless in the softly-falling dark.

one
heron
following
the tidal flow
glides over wavelets
prepossessing, strengthened
for the final flight to come
daylight soothing into evening
moonrise lighting decision’s pathway
windsweeping wings tucked and folded in rest

 

Night.
Herons
huddle down
beneath a moon
grown cold and silent.
Shadows weave and tumble.
Branches reach beyond eye’s sight
to scrape along the scudding clouds
and toss to earth their fragile catch,
rivulets of silver, flashes of stars.

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Published in: on September 8, 2012 at 11:06 pm  Comments (106)  
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  1. Linda – these are beautiful on lots of levels!

    • C.C.,

      I’m so glad you find them so – thank you!

      Linda

  2. Interesting about the different forms. Never heard of any of them. Guess I’m just a poetical anarchist. I like that last image in the poem about the night heron.

    • WOL,

      All of them except haiku are new to me, as well. The etheree has suddenly begun popping up here and there, but the others were completely off my radar. I laughed at myself last night, reading about the Fibonacci sequence – whoever would have imagined poetry would bring me ’round to math? Not me, for sure!

      One of the delights of my home is my view down the major fairway in the marina. There are plenty of night herons out there once it gets dark, and at certain times of the year the splashing of the glass minnows is phenomenal. They can sound like rain falling, and under a full moon they look like – well, like “rivulets of silver and flashes of stars”.

      Linda

  3. wow these are great Linda, I’m so glad I could inspire you to try the Etheree.

    You’re a real “wordsmith”. I especially like the last line of #2
    …rivulets of silver, flashes of stars.

    I also love Judy’s photos.

    • Rosie,

      I became curious this week and did some searching. I discovered two other bloggers I often read had mentioned the etheree, albeit a year or more ago. It seems to be a form that’s gaining favor, and it was such fun to write them.

      One of the forms you might look at if you haven’t is the renga – there’s a link in the post. I’ll bet you have someone around who would enjoy working on one of those with you. Apparently, even groups will write them. Wouldn’t that be a great project for your next museum “show”?

      I mentioned the “real world” background of that line you like in the comment above. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Linda

  4. This is inspired!

    • Thanks, Julie! Now we need something for the emus, even though they’re off on their own great adventure!

      Linda

  5. These are so evocative: merging water, earth and sky – the worlds of these dignified creatures. The soothing daylight, the fragile moonlight…visions that can both glide to earth and ride on a bird’s wings.

    • aubrey,

      That juncture of water, earth and sky is its own world – not of magic, precisely, but certainly of dreams and longings. I have a friend who says, each time she watches a pelican, “I want to do that”. As do we all. Pehaps that’s why we’re drawn to them as we are, and seek to capture them in word and image.

      Linda

  6. Morning Linda:

    Herons and cranes are gorgeous birds. In Panama, the Presidential Palace is named after a pair of graceful cranes. It’s called “El Palacio de las Garzas” (The Palace of the Cranes). There are two white cranes waiting for visitors down at the entrance of the building.

    Lovely poems and pictures too. Congrats!

    Omar.-

    • Omar,

      I was so surprised when I went to look for a photo of the herons at the Presidential Palace, expecting to find a pair of statues. Instead, I found a few photos like this of the quite lively and quite real birds who live there. It’s quite a tradition, and a lovely one. I see the birds have been there since 1922 – almost a century! (Of course, not the same birds, but the same sort.) It’s a beautiful, elegant building and the birds suit it well.

      I was delighted by this article that told of a children’s competition to name some new baby herons that arrived. It seems that everyone likes these birds!

      Linda

  7. The first one is wonderful, the photo by Judy and the etheree. So at rest, there’s not even the sign of a ripple.

    And, with the second one “and toss to earth their fragile catch,/rivulets of silver, flashes of stars.” you capture again what is fleeting, ephemeral.

    Without sounding political you certainly bring attention to the heron.

    • Georgette,

      I was so happy to find a perfect image for that first poem. Sometimes the image comes first, as when a photo is used as a writing prompt, but almost always I have the words first, or am in the process of forming them, and search for a photo or graphic as I go.

      As for the second, glass minnows are my favorite fish, and they were the source for those lines.A few dozen mullet jumping is one thing. Thousands of tiny minnows sparkling across the water is something else.

      I was in Galveston this morning with a friend, and we were commenting on the great number of pelicans around Offatt’s Bayou. Wise stewardship of our waters and wetlands will help other species, as well.

      Linda

  8. Lovely poems, appropriate to this time of year, and lovely photos.

    I’m curious to know more about the arrangement of syllables — I wonder if the visual created by yours is a result of a prescribed arrangement. I’m also curious about the Fibonacci and some of the other forms. I’m off to find out more. . . .

    • Hippie Cahier,

      Speaking of “this time of year” – we’ve had a frontal passage, and finally the windows are open! Being able to see the world outside is nice, but being able to hear and smell it is even better. I’m hoping the herons have a line-sitting party tonight so I can hear them squawk when the dog-walkers pass by and they feel the need to fly.

      In the etheree, the roughly triangular shape’s inevitable, given the movement from one to ten syllables. There also are “double etherees”, which take on an hour-glass shape. The “lanterne” is a five liner that takes on the shape of a Japanese lantern. And so on.

      For more on the numbers involved, see Steve’s comments, below. And speaking of the Fibonacci series, you might get a kick out of this. ‘Tis the season, after all!

      Linda

  9. Well, the herons are beautiful. Thank you for explaining the etheree. Your poems are masterful. I particularly enjoyed the second, with its breathtaking final line. Wonderful.

    • ds,

      Aren’t they beautiful birds? From fall through winter and early spring, there are many egrets and herons on the docks (mostly great white and snowy egrets and green herons. They’re good office-mates!

      I wish I could find more information on Etheree Taylor Armstrong. It just tickles me that such an unassuming woman has so many people having fun with her poetic form. I’m glad you enjoyed my little attempts!

      You should see Dixie – the windows are open for the first time since last spring, and she’s doing her own sort of bird-watching. I suspect her thoughts about the sparrows and doves at the feeder aren’t very poetic!

      Linda

  10. I really like the description of constraint as a dance partner for the poet. Beautiful word images.

    p.s. glad your salmon came out okay despite my very abbreviated instructions.

    • nikkipolani,

      I’ve always assumed that the best writing, poetry or otherwise, needs a sound structure. It may be formal, like the etheree or sonnet, it may be clear, like the old outlines we were taught in school, or it may be idiosyncratic and emerge as a novel develops. But it has to be there.

      It’s a bit like a house. You can decorate a good, solidly built house any way you like. But if the foundation’s cracked, the framing’s warped and the sheetrock’s cheap, the fanciest curtains in the world aren’t going to keep it from falling apart!

      And yes, the salmon was perfectly fine. I think it’ll be better next time, but this time the salmon was there, I was hungry and I decided not to consult! ;)

      Linda

  11. No doubt your readers will be interested to know that in an etheree-type poem, if n is the number of lines, then the total number of syllables in the poem can be calculated by multiplying n by the next highest number and dividing the result by 2. For example, in an “official” etheree, n = 10, so the total number of syllables is 10 x 11 ÷ 2 = 55. Oh, the power of arithmetic!

    • I should add that 55 is coincidentally a Fibonacci number.

      • They’re everywhere!

    • Steve,

      OK – I managed to get through that without having to chew on my pencil. I can do that arithmetic. And I figured out that it doesn’t work for a haiku or limerick. So, here’s the question: why does it work? How do you know to multiply “n” by the next highest number? Is it just a rule people learn, like “i before e except after c”? (Don’t feel obligated to answer that – you already know how I am with math. The very expression “If ‘n’ is….” can start the hyperventilation!)

      On the other hand, I’ve discovered Fibonacci numbers are pretty darned important in nature, too. Flower petals. Pinecones. Pineapples. Nautilus shells. And so on. I found several videos that are fascinating, including this one. And the one I’m posting below is elegant and intriguing. It even has a dragonfly eye!

      Linda

      • The formula works for the etheree because the first line has one syllable, the next two, the next three, etc., so that you’re adding consecutive numbers. Here’s a site that explains why the formula for the sum of consecutive numbers is what it is; there’s even a visual proof of the formula:

        http://www.maths.surrey.ac.uk/hosted-sites/R.Knott/runsums/triNbProof.html

        • Remember Alice and her rabbit hole? Here I go – whoosh!

          Thanks for the chance to go exploring. I’ll report once I make my way back.

  12. Your poems are beautiful and I particularly like the second. That said, I find it difficult to think kindly of herons (much as I love birds in general) as our Koi were eaten by one that kept returning for more. (An otter got the others). I like fish too!

    Somehow I’ve never been successful writing Etherees. I must try again.

    • Val,

      Ah, yes. There is that. Herons and egrets love a good meal, and if I were one of them, a fat, shiny Koi would look terribly appealing! Of course, even without the birds around it’s an iffy business with fish. I have a friend who knows all too well how efficient a raccoon family can be when it comes to clearing out a fish pond.

      Perhaps you’re in the same situation with etherees as I am with haiku. I’ve written a half-dozen or so that are nice, but when I commit to sitting down and writing them, nothing happens. It was the same with the etherees. One day, they just came along. They may again – or not. But it surely is nice to know about the form, and to know that it’s there to be used when the time is right.

      Linda

  13. Lovely! What an interesting form – I may just have to try it myself sometime. I like the line “daylight soothes into evening” – this time of year it sometimes seems like I hang onto daylight with a death grip. I could stand to just let it go & be soothed by the passing of the light.

    • The Bug,

      I’ve been noticing the changing light myself. After months of watching the sun go down from my desk, it’s suddenly disappeared from easy view. I have to get up and find a different vantage point if I want to watch it set. The days are getting shorter, too. It seems as though summer is stretching on forever, and then it doesn’t.

      What’s clear is that the birds like these cooler, calmer evenings as much as humans do. Even the doves that come to drink are content to linger, not flying off to their roost until I worry they can’t find their way home. They always do, of course, and so do we.

      Linda

  14. My favorite phase is that of the immature little blue heron, signified by the lime green legs. I’ve not encountered a white morph of the great blue, but do hope to one day. Thanks for the lesson in etheree! They are delightful, aren’t they? Reminds me of the word ethereal, meaning light, airy, tenuous. How fitting.

    • Wendy,

      I remember you mentioning those lime green legs at some time in the past. I went looking for a photo, and discovered one taken just a little ways down the road from me. I can’t remember ever seeing the little blue heron – maybe it doesn’t like the marina world. But now that I know they can be around, I’ll keep an eye out.

      On a mostly unrelated nature note, one of my readers who’s also in Brazoria saw a bobcat on his place this weekend. I’ve never seen one of those around here either, although a friend and I saw prints once – and skedaddled!

      I thought of “ethereal”, too. You can’t write a treatise with an etheree, but for creating a snapshot, capturing a wisp of experience, they’re perfect!

      Linda

  15. Elegant and ethereal. I loved the poetry and the photos. One of the things I most enjoyed about our community in Florida was watching the herons who lived around the inland lakes.

    I had never heard of an etheree. I once had a fling playing with haiku, and in the early days of my blogging “career” there was a weekly site called One Deep Breath where people shared haiku based on a theme. We also used the Fibonacci sequence a few times. I actually enjoyed working within the constraints of these forms. It gives the brain a good workout, and challenges the writer to find just the perfect word.

    Which I think you’ve done very well in both of these examples.

    • Becca,

      One of the nice things about herons is that they can be found in so many places. I’ve often been surprised to find them in my travels up to Missouri, Kansas and Iowa – little bits of home wading around the edge of rivers and lakes.

      Thanks for the kind words about the etherees. I’m glad you like them. And I think you’re right about the value of experimenting with structures like the haiku and etheree. It’s one thing to dump a pile of words onto the page, but quite something to shape them up a bit! I have some friends who claim to have flower gardens – but they smile when they say it, because they know they haven’t done any of the planning, choosing, digging and pruning that makes some gardens such a delight!

      Linda

  16. The etheree was more or less anticipated by Victor Hugo in a poem called “Les Djinns.” Each of the eight lines in the first stanza has two syllables. Each of the eight lines in the next stanza has three syllables. That lengthening continues through a stanza in which each of the eight lines has ten syllables. Then the process reverses and each subsequent stanza has one syllable less than the previous stanza, back down to two syllables. You can see the original French at

    http://www.feelingsurfer.net/garp/poesie/Hugo.Djinns.html

    and there’s a recitation of a rhyming English “translation” by E.H. and A.M. Blackmore at

    • The “double etheree” takes the same form, moving from one to ten syllables and then decreasing through ten lines to one. Hugo, of course, was more ambitious, and the structure emphasizes the dramatic movement of the poem. Thanks for bringing it here – it’s really quite wonderful.

      Truth to tell, “Les Djinns” isn’t a bad expression of what it’s like to go through a hurricane!

  17. Thank you for enlightening me about these syllabic forms of poetry.

    However, I must say this: if your beautiful lines were inspired by what you are able to see in nature around you, you are truly fortunate. No wonder you are a poet.

    • friko,

      There’s always something new, isn’t there? When I began writing about etherees, I hardly expected to bump up against the Fibonacci sequence, but there we are.

      So many people don’t know about the etheree, but I didn’t know you shouldn’t take a camera from a nice, cold air-conditioned car into high humidity and expect to start taking wonderful photos! Live and learn, as they say.

      My nature is pretty circumscribed by human activity, but it does well enough for me. You can see a post with a collection of photos all taken from my apartment balcony here.

      Linda

  18. I’m surrounded by these most amazing creatures, living on the borders of (or what used to be) the Everglades. I visit with them every week… The green herons, little blues, great blues, tricoloreds, black-crowned nights, great whites and assorted egrets — so strong and ever graceful, and sometimes a bit quirky. Judy’s the best!! ♥ Thanks for honoring them with your beautiful post and words.

    • Feygirl,

      Aren’t we lucky? The osprey have just started arriving, and soon the white pelicans will join them. And always there are the cormorants – when they sit on lines and croak that deep, throaty greeting to one another, I have to laugh. Quirky’s the right word!

      I love seeing the photographs that people like you and Judy provide us. I finally got smart and went looking – sure enough, there’s Judy commenting at your blog! Of course… you’re of the same world. Some day, I may come see it for myself.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your kind words.

      Linda

  19. What a timely post. I’ve just started a 14-week bird watching course. I saw a Great Blue Heron perch high on a tree branch last week. Can’t believe all the varieties I saw right here in Cowtown. Anyway, for all the weeks ahead as I carry my binoculars and camera, I’ll also have your very interesting poetic/literary visuals in my mind.

    • Arti,

      A bird-watching course!? What fun, especially since that many weeks will take you into winter bird watching. Will you be posting photos of your feathered friends? I hope so! I’m curious as can be to know what impulse overcame you, who’s leading the courses, and so on.

      The great blues and green herons are the most common ones on my docks. The great blue whose photo is at the top here was following some fishermen around down at the west end of Galveston Island. When they’d get a fish they didn’t want to keep, they’d flip it to the bird, who was more than happy to accept his share from them!

      As for the etherees, I just was thinking…

      Snow
      blankets
      Calgary….

      I’ll let you finish it!

      Linda

  20. Powerful poems and awesome pictures. Does the Etheree style have a limit to the max number of syllables per line?

    Enjoyable read! Thanks!

    • Larry,

      The “standard” etheree has ten lines, each one increasing by one syllable. So, the pattern would be 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. It was more difficult than I imagined to get the right number of syllables in each line!

      Glad you enjoyed the poems, and the photos. Always a pleasure to have you stop by!

      Linda

  21. First, I had to stop by and thank everyone who commented and liked the Great White Heron picture! I loved that Linda used it for her etheree. In fact, when she first mentioned the word ‘etheree’, maybe I was just too dazed from staring at my computer screen because I thought it was some kind of internet thing…..something trapped in the ether net so to speak!! A lost poetic wraithe floating in digital darkness.

    Not to be too irreverent about the necessity of proper form and in honor of wonderful friends made possible by WordPress and the web, here is my new form which I just invented because my thoughts didn’t fit into 5 7 5 syllables…so this poem is of the ‘haiku-ish’ form: If it earns a smile instead of an A…I’m cool with that:

    Keyboard tossed words
    rippling through cyberspace
    make virtual friends.

    Linda already knows I am bad with syllables.

    Thanks again for lovely thoughts on the bird!

    • Judy,

      I’ll give you an A+ for your haiku-ish form! This has been such fun, and a good part of the fun for me was spending time in your galleries, looking at the photos. The world is so beautiful – thank goodness we have people like you who can capture parts of it for us.

      I’m still laughing about the ethernet etheree. It makes perfect sense. Since we have techno music, perhaps we should have techno poetry!

      As for you being bad with syllables, don’t worry. Your time to grin is coming. One of these days I’ll be posting about some of my adventures in photography – if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the “basics” often are far more basic than people imagine!

      Linda

  22. Absolutely lovely post and photos … thank you! These are some of my favorite birds … I especially like them in the environment of cypress trees dripping with moss!! Thank you for sharing!

    • Becca,

      It’s wonderful that these birds have such a large range – and even more wonderful that we have them year-round in Texas and Louisiana. I agree that they look wonderful in a cypress swamp. Beyond that, they’re elegant and dignified in every setting – and sometimes funny as can be, particularly when they’re in the process of sizing up a new human in their world.

      I’m glad you enjoyed these!

      Linda

  23. [...] current post in The Task at Hand, entitled “Herons & Photogs & Poets, O My!”, features two poems about herons by Linda Leinen and a photograph of a great white heron by [...]

    • A note to readers: If you’re not familiar with Steve Schwartzman’s photo blog called “Portraits of Wildflowers”, have a look. Thanks to Steve for providing a portrait of a Texas white egret in a quite different environment – with snow-on-the-mountain!

  24. Linda, reading all your comments was equal to the enjoyment of reading your lovely post! Very beautiful work! A special thanks to Steve for all the math bits, and the video reading of a double etheree.
    ~ Lynda

    • Lynda,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. And it’s such a pleasure to have you stop by! I was quite taken with the math aspects of all this myself. I mentioned to someone yesterday I may set myself two new goals – figuring out algebra and learning how to make a really good puff pastry. ;)

      I could be wrong about this, since I’m not a quilter, but I have a hunch that planning and constructing a quilt has some similarities to writing these poems!

      Linda

      • Algebra + Geometry = MATH Yup, I believe you are on to something. Fun, isn’t it?

        • It is! Just out of curiosity, I went looking to see if anyone had done a fractal quilt. Yes, ma’am. You can see one here, and a search for “fractal quilt” turns up quite a few. Some are quite beautiful – and now I have to add fractals to my to-learn-about list. I’ll never look at a cauliflower in quite the same way!”

          • Amazing! I had no idea! Just to look at them is overwhelming to me. Even I do not have the patience for that much perfection…
            ‘-)

  25. The observation from Annie Finch really rang true for me. I never was much of a poet, but in the attempts I made over time, I did always love having that form to dance with. I was also struck by the prose poem you slipped in to introduce the etherees:

    In the first poem that follows, they seem to flow out like ripples moving across a tidal flat, disturbing the silence as little as a heron’s step. In the second, they echo the compact form of a line-sitting bird, patient and motionless in the softly-falling dark.

    • Susan,

      You’ve sent me off on a very interesting little side journey – through the land of the prose poem. I’ve never set out to write a prose poem, and in fact couldn’t give you a formal definition. Still, there is a tag I use now and then called “poems and poem-like things” – I suspect where that tag appears, so does prose poetry, of whatever quality.

      Lyrical language, close and detailed description, patience and a willingness to allow the world to reveal itself – these are the things that make for good nature writing, I think. They can be learned, but they can’t be forced. Perhaps that’s where structure comes into play. Like a streambed, it channels the words bubbling up from the deep springs of language, giving them direction and flow.

      Linda

      • These are words to live by. I’m going to file them away, to pull out again, take a deep breath, and ponder, on one of the innumerable occasions when I’m trying to find the “right words” and get absolutely stuck.

        • I need to do the same. Sometimes I surprise myself with all I’ve been learning along the way.

  26. Beautiful photo and beautiful words. Nice way to start my morning. Thank you, Linda.

    • Bella Rum,

      I knew you’d like the photos – that’s your kind of bird! Actually, the photo of the crab shell with all the little legs scattered about that headed my last post was provided courtesy of one of these wonderful birds. I can always tell where the herons had dinner when I go down to the docks in the morning – the never clean up after themselves. ;)

      Glad to give you a nice morning start – I hope you had some “coolth” to go along with it.

      Linda

  27. While I didn’t know the Fibonacci sequence had been adapted for poetry, I was familiar with the etheree. A couple of fellow bloggers began writing and posting them about a year ago. Not surprisingly, yours go beyond the mechanical assembly of syllables, and are both beautiful and meaningful on many levels. I, too, love the way they look on the page. As you said, “they seem to flow out like ripples.”

    • Charles,

      What does make a difference with an etheree is the formatting. Center the text, and the appearance works with the words. Align left, and it looks like a pile of kids’ blocks shoved up against the wall. Capitalization and punctuation make a big difference, too. Both are almost absent in the first, but used to good effect in the second. It’s fun messing about, just to see what can be done.

      The etheree did seem to “pop up” suddenly – a lovely sort of blogland meme. It’s really quite a coincidence that Etheree (the person) created her etheree (the poem) just as the ethernet was developing (introduced in 1980 and standardized in 1985). It looks to me as though the girl’s name is taken directly from the French, so the connection with “ethereal” is exactly right.

      So glad you enjoyed them!

      Linda

  28. I love a good form poem, although I write them a lot less than I wish I did. They’re hard! And yes, sometimes having those constraints allows for a creativity that otherwise wouldn’t have the exact space to sneak up.

    These are lovely poems, Linda. When I see the geese flying south, I often think of how they are winging over many spread out blog-friends, including you. :)

    • Emily,

      One of the things I’m learning is that familiarity with multiple forms is good, even if they aren’t much used. Now and then I go through a limerick “phase”. Perhaps now I’ll begin having etheree “phases”. I don’t expect to have any villanelle or sonnet phases, though. What I’d really like is a short-story phase. ;)

      It will be a while before the geese get here, but when they do I’ll give them a wave. There’s nothing I love more than hearing them at night. When I was a wee thing and got my first record player for Christmas, one of my 45s was Frankie Lane singing The Call of the Wild Goose. I can’t imagine anyone hearing it and not wanting to fly!

      Linda

  29. Gorgeous bird — don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one. I’ve only seen the brown ones, and they’re not quite as pretty.

    • Debbie,

      You’re right – the egrets (and the white heron) are beautiful and majestic. Still, even some of the more homely birds, like the cormorants, can be funny and entertaining. Sometimes a good personality’s better than drop-dead beauty – remember when they tried to convince us of that back in high school? But for birds, it does seem to be true!

      Linda

  30. Oh my, what beautiful herons! I have seen a great white heron. The great blue and the egret are common here—yet it is a challenge to photograph these majestic birds because they take off as soon as I get near.

    I have tried my ‘pen’ at haiku and tanka but I did not know about the etheree. Lovely, sweeping etheree poems, Linda. I really like the format of this type of poem.

    Enjoyable post and photos!

    • Anna,

      They can be “flighty”, can’t they? On the other hand, they can become remarkably comfortable with humans who become a familiar part of their environment. And they just love people who are willing to flip them a fish now and then! I’ve seen great blues, especially, walk right up to a fisherman and beg. It’s an amazing sight.

      I like the etheree, too. I’ve done a few haiku I like, but the etheree gives a little more room to play – or maybe I’m just wordy!

      Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Linda

      • Now that’s something I never considered: in addition to a telephoto lens, maybe I should carry an extra fish around with me. It might entice herons to come closer, but then I’m not sure it would do much for the aroma of my camera bag.

        • Two words: tinned sardines. ;)

  31. I am always smiling when I finish reading your posts and the replies. This was especially satisfying, because introduced me to the etheree and the Fibonacci sequence. I am no mathematician, or poet, but I am a nature and bird lover. The Nature by Numbers video brought tears to my eyes. The photos are lovely, as are your poems. Thanks for brightening my day.

    • Martha!

      I’ve seen by my mailbox you’re not exactly up and about but certainly among the conscious (and self-conscious, I also see!)
      I’m so glad, and honored as can be that you stopped by here. I’ll return the favor shortly.

      This turned into an even more interesting post than I’d imagined when I began. I didn’t know anything about the Fibonacci sequence myself – now that I’ve connected it to poetry, quilting, flowers, seashells and even music, I wouldn’t dare to predict where it will show up next!

      I hope it’s not long before you can get out into nature again. Clearly, it will be a while, but you’re already on the road to recovery. The herons and their friends will be waiting for you!

      Linda

  32. Hi Linda

    I, too, am a heron-lover….reading through this wonderful poetry and heron-charged post and discussion reminded me that I had written my own celebration of herons a few years ago. I do hope you and some of your readers enjoy it!

    • Anne,

      What a wonderful piece you’ve written. All of us who love these birds know how special that experience was. While herons will allow a close approach, you were rather pushing the envelope. And that poor young man – my goodness. I grump about the isolation technology breeds in the human community. You’ve highlighted a rather different aspect.

      I did have to laugh about the Kibble Palace. When I hear “kibble”, I think of dog food, not a glorious conservatory. Have you seen the virtual tour? Just marvelous.

      One of your commenters mentioned something else I didn’t know – that a group of herons is a “siege”. They seem too solitary and dignified to mount a siege, but there may be something about these birds I’ve yet to learn!

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your lovely contribution!

      Linda

  33. Lovely entry powered with pictures and poetry – YOUR poetry. Love the second one especially, the story being scratched out of the clouds…

    • oh,

      Lovely to see you! Glad you enjoyed the post – and glad to see you posting again. We’re hoping for clouds of any sort – summer is too much with us, down here!

      Linda

  34. To be a ‘grounded intellectual” is such a gift! Your posts get better and better!
    z

    • Thanks, Z.

      It’s partly gift, and partly hard struggle. There was a time when my own crab basket was called “academia”. Ah, well. It certainly is true one can be thoughtful without being obnoxious. I try, at least!

      Linda

      • every word that you write says, ‘well bred and well read’!!! you are a gift! z

  35. Linda; What an interesting poetry format; I hadn’t heard of either kind before. Your poems have a lovely, haunting quality; I really like how they capture the beauty and stillness of a roosting bird settling in for the night under a rising moon. You managed to do it with simple elegance; every word seemingly measured and placed with care in just the right spot.

    Good job! :-)

    • Beth,

      What a lovely comment. You’ve spent enough time with birds of all sorts to know them and their habits. I’m glad you think I captured a part of their life – they’re one of my greatest enjoyments, and one reason I anticipate cool weather and open windows at night. Night birds are busy birds, and they’re fun to have around.

      The etheree’s nice because its structure is simple enough to keep in mind as it’s constructed. Besides, it’ll fit on the back of a piece of used sandpaper!

      Linda

  36. “moonrise lighting decision’s pathway”
    What a beautiful image that is.

    There is a great blue heron who spends his time between our pond and our neighbor’s pond. Some mornings when I’m outside he flies by. I can hear the sound of his wings, flapping slowly. They truly are grand “windsweeping wings.”

    • Bill,

      I’m glad you like that particular image. I love watching the herons land. Sometimes they seem to know exactly where they’re headed. Other times, it does seem like there’s a decision-making process going on.

      As for your heron – that’s one of the great, underappreciated gifts that work like ours gives us – time and silence to hear sounds most people never imagine.

      Linda

  37. especially love your poem and it’s beautifully illustrated. (a few weeks ago we drove to Texas and a flock of herons/egrets flew over and covered the car. we had to get off at the next exit for a car wash. they look so harmless in the photos:-)

    • sherri,

      Ah, yes. And the seagulls can be even worse. One of the happiest days of my life was the day my favorite seawall cafe in Galveston put netting over the outdoor tables. It cut down on the begging and “annoying” a good bit. You’re right. They do look innocent and harmless. I suppose they think they are.

      Judy’s photo of the white heron is so well done – every bird photo has something to commend it, but that one’s special. Glad you like the poem, too.

      Linda

  38. This is terrific! One of my all time favorite birds is the GBH. I have never seen a great white in person but hope to someday. Night herons are very interesting birds as well.

    • Phil,

      I’m so happy you stopped by. I took a look at your site and was intrigued by the photos. Then, I saw your background in sports photography and thought, “Of course!” You’re well-equipped to capture the birds in a different way than most of us can.

      I was particularly taken by the crab-catching ibis, and I’m looking forward to exploring more in the future. I do love watching ibis fly – they’re fairly easy to identify, of course, and were one of the first birds I learned when I moved here.

      Thanks so much for your kind comment. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

  39. First of all, I don’t know this form and I love it — what a great exercise in vocabulary and thought to do an etheree. I’m trying to remember the name of a poetry form we used to do with the grieving children — it was something like cinquain? Similar — but slightly different rules and they always turned out so perfectly.

    Nothing, I think, could be quite so perfect as your tribute to the heron! This is lovely in every way, from your commanding use of language to your deep thought and finally the wonderful photos to partner your words. Judy is indeed talented. Someone told me at the ditch they saw a small white heron there, and I was sure they meant egret — I didn’t realize there were white ones. Well, maybe Harry has a friend. I know she couldn’t be lovelier than these!

    • jeanie,

      You got it just right – cinquain. It’s a five line form. I read somewhere while I was learning about all this that it’s often used with children, as a way to introduce them to writing poetry, but also for other purposes like grief work. I like haiku, and have enjoyed writing a few of them, but the etheree has a little more room to work. Maybe I just talk too much!

      I’m sure that the small white bird at the ditch is an egret. The white herons live in the Florida Keys – there are several varieties of egrets around here, including one that’s rather small. They don’t exactly hang around with the Great Blues, but I can’t see any reason Harry wouldn’t be able to make friends with one!

      I’m sure you’ve said, but I don’t remember – does Harry stay around during the winter? Surely not – it would be pretty hard to fish through the ice. It’s been so long since I’ve been north in the winter I can’t remember who’s there and who isn’t!

      I wish I could send Harry some fish. They’re jumping like crazy tonight – and it’s finally cool enough to have windows open so I can listen to them!

      Linda

      • I’ve never seen Harry in the winter. Last winter would have been the one — often it was warm enough that it didn’t fully freeze over or stay that way for long — so it would have been easy to poke through with that beak of his. But I’ve never seen it myself.

        Our poor ditch is rather low this year — I’m sure Harry would love the fish! How delightful to finally have the windows open and hear them!

        • I just looked in my brand new bird book (“Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America”) and learned that Harry lives up there in the summer only. They’re resident down here year ’round. So, he comes this direction with all those “snowbirds” who head south in winter to play golf and birdwatch!

  40. You’ve been busy bird watching, too! I love the line about the “windswept wings tucked and folded at rest”(or it’s sort of like that – I really should look back.) Not only does it create a strong image – creates a sense of heaviness and nightly exhaustion – it just reads aloud very nicely, too.
    Great pixs. Fun verses. delightful
    Thanks for the info about the verse form – you are right, a form gives you something to dance with on the page.
    (Do you think they will ever get that big bird here from Florida?)

    • phil,

      You know, I haven’t really read enough about the white heron to say one way or the other, but my suspicion is that, as an Everglades bird, it’s probably knit pretty tightly into that ecosystem. It might do all right in Louisiana, but if it’s a swamp bird, coastal plains might not make it happy.

      I love that you caught that sense of heaviness, the hunger for rest. It’s just so clear to me that there are times when the birds just would rather hang it up for the day, especially if the fishing’s been good.

      I was down at water’s edge today for the flyover – there were a bunch of herons in the treetops down by the townhomes. I’ve never seen them down there before, but now I’m going to go back and see if I can spot them again. If they set up housekeeping there, we may have nestbuilding in the spring. Besides, I need to learn how to use my bigger lens. Things didn’t work out so well today when I was trying to get some shots of the shuttle. I got two that are fine, but I’m clearly missing something. ;)

      Linda

      • The weather is beautiful – great to be outdoors. Did you hear me yellin’ at the shuttle yesterday? It came right over our back fence and over the house the second time. Just too cool.
        You take great pix – I guess I give up too easily!

        • It was cool! I really liked seeing it best in when it took off from Ellington. It cruised over JSC and then banked right above my place at about crop-duster altitude. It was absolutely beautiful, turning golden in the light. All I could think was, “I hope the end of the shuttle era isn’t the end of space flight”.

          • It was sooo low – came right over the back fence then circled around and went right over the house the first day. Then over the back yard the next morning. You last 2 sentences say it all.

            • I swear the big bird I saw just off the island’s boardwalk very early Monday morning was just like that great White Heron – He was very confident and wasn’t ruffled by company at all. Molly was fascinated watching him fish and just standing around. I’m looking every morning hoping for a return fishing trip visit by him. Not kidding – HUGE gorgeous bird

  41. Hi Linda
    I have just nominated you for a Sunshine award. So strange – your email (timeous, welcome) came in today, just as I was writing the awards post.

    ….and I saw my favourite heron today, and thought of you and your readers!

    • Anne,

      You’re so extraordinarily kind to think of me and to pass on the Sunshine award. Apparently it’s working its magic already – you have sunshine, and we have sunshine, and I trekked off today to a new wildlife refuge that was filled with egrets and herons. I didn’t really mean to go there, but one thing led to another and… well, you know how it is.

      It’s a lovely endeavor we’re engaged in, this blogging-business. It’s not only fun to do the posting, it’s delightful to give and receive support. I surely appreciate yours!

      Linda

  42. I really enjoyed this post. And your poetry is lovely. I learned some new words today. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Yvonne! My daddy always told me I should learn something new every day. I try to – and I’m glad I could help you do the same! Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words!

      Linda

  43. I’ve come back here via your links, Linda, and have found out about Etherees, herons and egrets (of which, I had no idea of the difference), and have discovered Judy’s wonderful photography site. Love your poems!

    • Andrew,

      Judy’s photos are wonderful. And, if you want to see the work of another spectacular bird photographer, you could visit Phil Lanoue’s site . He has a background in sports photography, which has given him the skills to capture active birds – fishing, flying and so on – in a way I’ve rarely seen.

      Speaking of animals, I thought of you this morning when I read this article about “commuter dogs” in Moscow. Apparently they have it down to a science (or an art) and it’s obvious they’re tolerated like the dogs in Santiago!

      Linda

  44. I could say “What a post !” each time I visit you, Linda. But this particular post is really something.

    First the artistic pictures of herons and egrets, then the etheree poems I had never heard of. They are even beautiful in their form, I mean the way the words “write” their own design (form) – chosen by you of course. The Victor Hugo’s poem sounds like a wave touching the shore rather softly, then being amplified, reaching a summit and then fading slowly back towards the sea. Very impressive. The strophe that made the greatest impression on me was the two words one. I do not know why.

    As if there were not enough “revelations”… someone mentioned “fractal quilts” which I was not too familiar with. Absolutely stunning. Thank you Linda, there was much to learn today too.

    • Isa,

      It just this minute occurred to me that some posts are like your wonderful quilts – little bits of this and that, all stitched together with a theme. Photos, poetry, reflections and comments – it’s such fun to watch them come together.

      Etherees are interesting. I enjoy them more than haiku – it’s like moving into a slightly larger house and having more room to walk around and store things. It’s interesting how much difference having a few extra syllables can make.

      I didn’t set out to write a series of etherees, but now I have five, I believe. Once I have a dozen, I might do something with the group of them. But I’ve never set out to write them. They just “happen” now and then.

      Fractals are so interesting. I’m not particularly math-minded, so that aspect of them escapes me. But I love the patterns, and once I became aware of them, I started seeing them everywhere – just like learning a new word and then hearing or reading it everywhere.

      I’m glad you found so much to delight in here. It’s one of the joys of the internet. We can be exposed to so much we otherwise would miss in this wonderful world!

      Linda


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