The Great Blue Heron commands awe. Its very existence reminds us of our connections with the beginning of our planet. In Soul External: Rediscovering the Great Blue Heron, Steven H. Semken habitually revisits The Great Blue Herons’ habitat in northwest Kansas, sharing with us what he observes and hears, feels and thinks. In the process he ruminates on science and philosophy, on science and faith, on fact and myth, and recalls the words and ideas of authors who become his companions. He wonders how this bird, as it evolved from from reptiles, managed to retain its ancestral ties while achieving new feats like flight and aquatic resiliency?
Likewise, I emulated his excursions to bookshelves and found myself re-reading E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, once again at one with the boy Sam Beaver and the Trumpeter Swan Louis. And then I re-read Kenn Kaufman’s Kingbird Highway, Lyanda Lynn Haupt’s Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds, and The Wonder of Birds, published by The National Geographic Society and containing a dozen essays about the wonders of observing birds.
I didn’t get much else done for two weeks and I didn’t care because this intensive immersion brought me back to my own childhood, sitting in my personal ‘blind’ to observe the comings and goings of Grey Catbirds, American Redstarts, Robins, Sparrows and the elegant yet treacherous Eagles that preyed upon its smaller kin as readily as it zeroed in on rabbits. So if you’re inclined to care about birds, pick up a copy of Soul External and carve out un-rushed reading time. It’ll be a joyful excursion.