The Heron Spirals: A Commonplace Book

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Caroline Balderston Parry

Last week Nature Canada had the great pleasure of cosponsoring a launch for Canadian author Caroline Balderston Parry’s latest book, The Heron Spirals: A Commonplace Book. The launch event was held at the beautiful Britannia Yacht Club, right inside the Lac Deschenes – Ottawa River IBA, and was enjoyed by more than 50 people from the area. Both the Yacht Club and the Britannia Village Community Association helped to sponsor and publicize the launch.

Balderston Parry’s book is a journey through a bittersweet 15-year period in her adult life surrounding the sudden loss of her husband, through which the Great Blue Herons of Mud Lake, Ottawa – a natural gem of the Lac Deschênes-Ottawa River IBA – provided her spiritual support and an opportunity to commune with nature near her home.  Her journey is depicted through an artful mélange of evocative diary entries, poetry, song and beautiful bird illustrations by artist Roderick MacIver, founder of Heron Dance Art Studio.

In some ways both the structure and prose of The Heron Spirals reminded me of Canadian author Graeme Gibson’s bestselling work The Bedside Book of Birds – An Avian Miscellany, though Balderston Parry’s work is more reflective and emotive, documenting a first person journey through the healing and inspirational powers of birds and nature.

The following are passages from The Heron Spirals:

I stand up and watch the ducks flap out of the water, awkward and noisy in contrast to the great blues’ [herons] silent rising; the ducks’ wing movements actually whistle – in a rusty, inefficient-sounding way –as they go. Herons, in comparison, seem so deliberate and slow, so sure. It’s as if they decide to move on merely because their human observers are being inconsiderate. They may fly off, but prudently, never in a panic like the ducks literally “in a flap”. Despite their size, those great grey wings are hushed, and when the herons quonk at me, they may seem annoyed in a superior way, but not to scold out of fear, like their smaller feathered fellows.  from ‘Mid-September 1996′, p. 118.


A huge feathered bird, rising from a murky swamp, doesn’t seem to be the same as a caring pair of arms. Yet when I see the motionless profile of a patient heron, my thoughts move on from the knowledge that the Sacred is somehow my still point, spiral on through a consciousness of Spirit as bedrock, to an awareness of being held while growing, being safe while taking risks. Above all, I rejoice in a sense of being encouraged and cherished by the Divine arms — or Divine wings! from ‘First Spiral – Before’, p. 49.


For information on how to purchase The Heron Spirals please visit Caroline’s website. An e-book is currently in development.

In Caroline’s own words inscribed in Nature Canada’s copy of her book, “heron blessings”.