The Great Blue Heron: Sightings, Sculptures and Stanzas

Discover Something New Every Day: The Challenge

My mother’s nursing home sits near the banks of the Holston River in southeast Knoxville. She often reports that from her window she can see great blue heron flying across the sky. She saw one recently, its matchstick legs long-dangling as the blue-black feathers blurred past her view of the outside world.

The great blue heron is inspiration to many artists; perhaps because it’s a stunning experience just to see one. Native Americans believed the heron wise and considered it a good omen to see one before a hunt. Tennessee artist William Brock’s sculptures of the great blue heron are so life-like that real herons have been known to set down in his field where several of his sculptures live. My friend and former teacher Danny Marion has spotted many a heron from his river house on the Holston River. Here’s his poem, “The Great Blue Heron,” originally published in his chapbook about birds, Miracles of Air (1987), and available in Marion’s collected works, Ebbing & Flowing Springs:

Framed in my window
your swash of slate grey
stillness is a winter study
of stones cobbling shore.

Twilight & the river unravels
its secrets in shallow threads
rippling gold around your spindle-

Downriver sycamore & willow
echo the grace
of your neck arched
to angle over pools.

Soon darkness drapes a distance
between us & fog rises
in a dance of wings.


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