|Egret Dance by Joyce Wycoff
When I first came to Lake Chapala, I was enchanted by the American White Pelicans, their graceful gliding across the water and the high contrast of their white bodies on the dark waters of morning and evenings. Over time though, it was the egrets I fell in love with and the ones that started demanding their place in my art.
Egrets are part of the heron family and the ones here at the lake are mainly snowy or great egrets. It is apparently mating season now and watching the males fluff themselves up and dart at a normally uninterested female always makes me laugh. As these charming birds have taken over a great deal of my photography and art time, I’ve come to think of them as a “totem.” Basil Johnston, in his 1990 book, “Ojibway Heritage,” says that a totem is “that from which I draw my purpose, meaning, and being.”
I’ve thought about that statement a lot. Egrets are considered messengers in the world of animal/totem symbology, so I’ve wondered what message it is that they are trying to deliver. On one level, I just like the way they look and they seem to snuggle into whatever art I’m making, giving it a richness and life that it didn’t have before they showed up. On another level, it feels like there’s more there, some connection I haven’t quite grasped.
Krista Schwimmer offers an interesting article from her time of watching these birds. She states:
Watching an egret fish is particularly engaging. I love especially how the bird stirs the water with its beautiful, yellow feet. For me, this gesture with its cheery feet symbolizes the importance of approaching work with an element of enthusiasm.In her wonderful deck called “the Medicine Cards”, Jamie Sams talks about the message of the heron. She says it is about bringing balance between the mind and the emotions.
I’ll take those ideas for now and try to stay open to other messages this snowy bird offers.
Egret Dance is a piece that emerged from a previous work. I awoke one morning with an idea for adding texture and depth to my images. That led to hours of exploring techniques and being somewhat pleased with the result. However, as much as I liked the color and composition, the piece just sat there until the egrets came waltzing in. I caught these two in their mating dance … an unsuccessful dance … and suddenly the piece felt more alive.