Friday, February 09, 2007

Winter, So Hard On Us All

Some days past, as I was out walking the Little Lakes, I saw a great blue heron, hunched miserably over a small open pool of water. That was at least two weeks ago, before the snow covered everything and the mercury sank and the wind blew.

This is one of my favorite poems. And the photo enlarges nicely.


Herons in Winter in the Frozen Marsh
~ Mary Oliver

All winter
two blue herons
hunkered in the frozen marsh,
like two columns of blue smoke.

What they ate
I can't imagine,
unless it was the small laces
of snow that settled

in the ruckuss of the cattails,
or the glazed windows of ice
under the tired
pitchforks of their feet --

so the answer is
they ate nothing,
and nothing good could come of that.
They were mired in nature, and starving.

Still, every morning
they shrugged the rime from their shoulders,
and all day they
stood to attention

in the stubbled desolation.
I was filled with admiration,
sympathy,
and, of course, empathy.

It called for a miracle.
Finally the marsh softened,
and their wings cranked open
revealing the old blue light,

so that I thought: how could this possibly be
the blunt, dark finish?
First one, then the other, vanished
into the ditches and upheavals.

All spring, I watched the rising blue-green grass,
above its gleaming and substantial shadows,
toss in the breeze,
like wings.

6 comments:

Lisa :-] said...

They do manage somehow...

My sympathies lay with the local robins, who can't get worms when the ground is frozen. But then I saw them feasting on leftover apples in the yard next door. Don't know whether they were eatng the actual fruit or the wildlife inside...

You know herons eat mice and those kinds of things as well...

Waterfall said...

I watched a grouse pecking around at some fallen birdseed from our birdfeeder the other day. I'd never seen a grouse so close to the house before.

Lovely poem. Mary Oliver is one of my all-time favorite poets.

sunflowerkat119 said...

I watch my little backyard birds fighting the cold and wind. I have to put out seed, I can't imagine what else they would find to eat. But...nature has her way.
I know they'd be fine if I wasn't here.

Gannet Girl said...

You all know that the herons in this poem die, right?

I like it because I like poems about difficult things.

Lisa :-] said...

I guess I knew that (that they die) but I refused to entertain the notion. I'm sort of sick of death right now...

emmapeelDallas said...

I love this, and the moreso because there is a lone blue heron who spends cold days in a corner of the flat roof in the huge complex that I work in, in Fort Worth. I like to think he's able to find food in the abundant ponds on the grounds, but he doesn't look happy, skulking out there in the corner, in the cold.

Judi