All winter my friend Tom Earnhardt sends me photographs of the birds at Pungo Lake, in the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Washington County– tundra swans and snow geese and countless thousands of migratory ducks– green-winged teal, widgeons, pintails, spoonbills and many others.
Pungo Lake has long been one of my favorite parts of the North Carolina coast, but for Tom it means more: the lake seems to draw him like magnetic north pulls a compass needle.
This winter alone he’s made the pilgrimage four times, the last just a few days ago.
Today I just want to share a few of his photographs of Pungo Lake, which Tom has been gracious enough to give me his permission to do.
Tom’s photographs remind me of these lines from the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s poem “Postscript”—
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white….
My daughter Vera knows Seamus Heaney’s poem by heart and I first heard the poem when she recited it.
Tom’s photographs fill me with gratitude for the music of the place and the beauty of God’s creation.
They fill me with gratitude for the memory of my own winter sojourns to Pungo Lake, beginning when I was just a boy.
They fill me with gratitude for the way that Tom shares this and so many other special places with the rest of us.
* * *
To visit more wild and beautiful places with Tom Earnhardt, be sure to check out his award-winning WUNC-TV show, “Exploring North Carolina.”
“Postscript” is copyright © 2019 by Seamus Heaney; Farrar, Straus and Giroux.