Birds, Dogs, Trees, the River · Poetry · RVA

Herons and Shad and Poetry

A dog and her river
A dog and her river

Last night, I dreamed that I was walking at the river, down at Pony Pasture. In my dream, there were Great Blue Herons everywhere!

Not a stretch, really, since there actually ARE Great Blue Herons everywhere on the James. [And lately, I can pretty reliably sight a kingfisher, too. No, not the beer. The bird.] One time I sat on the rocks at Belle Isle and counted 32 herons. It was crazy. First, I had to find the magic eye way of seeing them, but once I tuned in? Well, abundance is the word that comes to mind.

Back to my dream of last night. So, there were all these herons walking around eating and carrying extra food for later under their wings:

Eaglets and eaglet eggs,

Big fish, little fish,

Red fish, blue fish (Not really.)

An abundant James River is not only real in my dreams. There’s no way you could live here and miss the actual living proof that the James is expanding in abundance, in fish and wildlife, and in inspiring people to spend more time outdoors. But, if you need confirmation from outside the region, check out this recent New York Times article about the James River:

In Richmond, Va., Herons and Shad Signal a James River Revival

Even better than sitting at your desk reading about the river, give yourself a day off to walk and write and explore the James using this Poetry Guide to the James River Park System:

Yes, that’s right, our river comes complete with poetry guide!

Find your inspiration from the river, find guidance from river poems by Wendell Berry, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson, Emerson, Longfellow, and wondrous more. Maps to Belle Isle, Pony Pasture, and Reedy Creek are included in the guide.

So, what are we waiting for?

Pick a park, go there, and follow these instructions from the Poetry Guide:

“Read a poem
Stay still and contemplate the meanings.
Write a poem, reflections or musings using the blank pages or the
style templates provided.”

When you go, remember: be safe and be aware. Let someone know where exactly you’re going and when you’ll return. And whatever you do – do not, I repeat, do not try to ride a floating tree.

As Style Weekly reminds us in Melissa Scott Sinclair’s article “The River Wild,” as alluring and inviting as the James is, our river also wants to kill you. Heed the advice therein from Ralph White, ‘This is not a Kings Dominion ride. This is the real thing. You can die.’

So. Go to the river! Act right while you’re there. Walk around. Write some poetry. Sit down and count Great Blue Herons.

Or count the trees floating by.

One more time: Don’t what?

That’s right. Don’t ride them.

For more about the James go here:

James River News Hub

James River Association

James River Park System


6 thoughts on “Herons and Shad and Poetry

  1. Melissa, same here! And how auspiciously awesome that the next day, my mom gave me the Style with your “Most Fascinating Women You’ve Never Met” cover. Brilliant!


  2. Gigi,

    It was a pleasure meeting you Thursday! It was my first Writing Show and I absolutely loved the speakers. I was sorry to have to leave early (off on another assignment for Style) but I look forward to attending the next one.


  3. Hi Kirsten! Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. I hope you will come back to JRW this year! The James is certainly beautiful in October and not too far at all, as you know, from the conference venue. We could start a little impromptu poetry meet-up – yeah!


  4. What a really wonderful writing exercise! I saw the James River a couple years ago when I was in Richmond for the James River Writers Conference. When I go back, I’ll have to bring a notebook.


  5. Oh Katharine! Yes, that’s the magic eye alright. You gave me a new poem for my poetry notebook – thank you! A poetry field trip to the river sounds so awesome. I’m no poet, but I could pretend for a day and meet y’all there. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s