Afloat on birdsong, hawthorn petals and young leaves
July 11, 2021

The Heron's Gaze

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This week we explore and reflect upon a wonderful poem by narrowboater Steve May (NB Blue Phoenix), ‘The Magnificent Heron’. There is a growing appreciation of genuine encounters with animals and birds and, with the help of Martin Buber and Jacques Derrida, we reflect upon changing attitudes and understanding about how we relate to the non-human world.  

Journal entry:

“9th July, Friday

The air is oppressive and sticky. At this hour only jackdaws have the energy to yap.

Chance meeting with a stranger. The water is cool while we talk. He speaks with not just his voice but his face and body. I try to follow the coiled labyrinth of his thoughts. 

What strange creatures we are. We people our cosmos with such gods and monsters that we can scarce tell them apart.” 

Episode Information

This episode features the poem, ‘The Magnificent Heron’, by Steve May (from the NB Blue Phoenix). You can follow Steve and read his poem and see the accompanying video on Twitter: @bwannabes.

For those interested in reading more about Martin Buber’s writing on ‘I-It and I-Thou’ you might like to read his bookI and Thou (1923/1937). There is a free open-access English translation (by Walter Kaufmann) of it on I and Thou.

Jacques Derrida’s essays featuring his cat can be found in his The Animal That Therefore I Am (2008) published by Fordham University Press. 

All the soundscapes featured in this episode are all recorded on site apart from the sample of the grey heron (Ardea cinerea) night call. This was recorded at Berkel en Rodenrijs, Lansingerland, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands by Susanne Kuijpers on the night of 10th May 2021. It is available under Creative Copyright licence at Xeno-Canto: Sharing bird sounds from around the world.  

General Details

In the intro and the outro, Saint-Saen's The Swan is performed by Karr and Bernstein (1961) and available on CC at

Two-stroke narrowboat engine recorded by 'James2nd' on the River weaver, Cheshire. Uploaded on 23rd June 2018. Creative Commons Licence. 

Piano interludes composed and performed by Helen Ingram.

All other audio recorded on site. 

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