Yesterday, he took me by surprise. I was standing in my usual spot and he was there not 3 feet away. This was our very first encounter. I had found this spot 25 years ago, and we had never introduced ourselves.

He looked me over from head to toe. He gave me that look: “Why are you here? This is my luncheon spot, where I dine alone.” He was a magnificent blue heron. He gave me a chilly glance and continued to eat. He had found my secret spot – the sacred spot that I shared with no one.

He gracefully moved about the pond, frequently stopping. He would freeze, stare into the muddy water. Stop, freezing again. His head would then quickly go into the water and out. He would then chew and swallow.

Over the last 35 years I have sought solace in the Maine woods to paint, the more remote the better. I love being alone in nature. I have crossed paths with deer, mink, porcupines, raccoons, skunks and groundhogs over the years. Every encounter was exhilarating, and I always cherish these chance meetings with wildlife.

Once when I was painting, an American hawk landed on a branch inches from my face. He looked me over and then flew off. Another time, a monarch butterfly landed on my hand and made me feel as though I were a spiritual part of nature.

On this day, I turned around and there was the heron, looking at me like I was the intruder. How dare he look at me with contempt? This was my spot and I had claimed it years before. With beautiful blue gray plumage, this fabulous creature bobbed up and down, seemingly trying to speak to me. I quickly looked him over and went back to work. I realized he was dipping his head in the water, catching frogs.

With great interest over the years I had watched the hundreds of tadpoles grow into frogs and welcomed their rhythmic barking as spring turned to summer.

I was now watching my new friend placidly having his lunch. He would stop and freeze. Wait, and then aim his beak at a place in the water and down he would go. Seconds later, his head would appear and he would chew his next morsel.

As this beautiful bird would stand and dive, he moved closer and closer to me, ignoring my presence. This shy creature had decided I was not a threat and he was going to take his time dining. As he moved away, he worked the pond like a prizefighter works his opponent. Fearlessly he slowly and gently moved close to me, and then moved away.

After about 40 minutes he walked right up to me and stood at attention, attempting to bid farewell. He then walked over and stood next to the stream’s edge, folded and bent his thin, willowy legs, lowered his head, flapped his wings and flew away. I looked toward the heavens and watched my graceful lunch guest disappear into the sky.