GREAT EGRETAs David Pleydell-Bouverie told the story, he was well into his third Scotch, pondering his future and trying to decide what would become of his 500 acre ranch in Glen Ellen, CA.. He had no children or partners, and everyone he cared about was well taken care of, nor was there anyone among his circle who had the same keen interest in the natural world as he did . He was sitting at his huge green marble table, outside his back door overlooking his flower garden and cobalt tiled pool, and was startled to see a Great Egret flying slowly towards him. He was even more amazed when the large, elegant bird landed on the far end of the table and fixed him with a fearless stare. It maintained eye contact for several minutes, then took off and flew back the same direction it had come. David took it as a spiritual sign and dedicated his land to protection of wildness. His mission became the dissemination of information about the natural world to young people. The Great Egret became his symbol and he commissioned this bronze sculpture to place at the entrance to Gilman Hall, the barn that became the education center at the Bouverie Preserve of ACR (Audubon Canyon Ranch).
In early October, 2017, the hot, dry “Diablo Winds” came roaring down the mountains, toppling trees and power lines which ignited dozens of fires. Driven by hurricane force winds the flames capriciously consumed almost everything in their path. David’s house and MFK Fisher’s “Last House” were spared but all the other buildings on the ranch were destroyed.
The Bouverie Egret somehow survived the fire. Its rich patina of fire scale and ash carries the memories of a terrible few days, but Nature abides. Through the charred remains of human endeavors rises the ineffable, irrepressible iteration of the power of life.
Photo of the ruins of Gilman Hall and surviving Egret taken by Sasha Berleman and provided courtesy of Audubon Canyon Ranch. Music by Michael Vincent from the album The Longest Time.