Far From the Madding Crowd


What may be the most well-known phrase from Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” certainly fits this view of a road leading through the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge.

On January 6, the madding crowd was elsewhere, leaving the birds, the alligators, and the occasional nature lover to enjoy one another’s company — and the magnificent sky show — in peace.


Comments always are welcome.
For more information on Thomas Gray (1716-1771), visit this Poetry Foundation page.


57 thoughts on “Far From the Madding Crowd

  1. It seems that even on a slightly cloudy day one can see forever. There is so much to enjoy in your image that I don’t know where to start commenting.So I won’t. I will simply sit here and dwell in its peace.

    1. No, although the glimm’ring landscape did begin to fade not long after, as the clouds increased.

      Re-reading the poem, I smiled to see ‘moping’ turn up in the third stanza:

      Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow’r
      The moping owl does to the moon complain
      Of such, as wand’ring near her secret bow’r,
      Molest her ancient solitary reign.

      I know photographers who could sympathize with the owl.

  2. What a vista, Linda. This is quite beautiful. And greatly different from Stoke Poges, Gray’s “country churchyard” of the poem. I need to find those pix from when I was there with my mom — we went brass rubbing in that church! Each with their own views, landscape, personality. But both far from the madding crowd.

    1. The history of both the church and the manor house are interesting. When I took a look at the location of Stoke Poges, I noticed a fun coincidence. Stoke Poges is located 2.7 miles north-northeast of Slough. The auto tour at Brazoria is named “Big Slough,” and one of the primary features there are the freshwater sloughs that wind through the salt marshes. A quick look at photos from the town suggests that sloughs aren’t the primary attraction in Slough.

      It must have been fun to do brass rubbings in Stoke Poges. I didn’t realize you and your mom traveled together; you must have wonderful memories of those times.

    1. The day began with a pure blue sky, and ended with substantial cloud cover. In between? The slow, quiet movemenet of the clouds was lovely — and peaceful.

  3. I see a cloudy sky like that and can’t help but recall finger-painting as a kid. I was never any good at it, but I rather enjoyed sticking my finger into a gooey pot of color and streaking it across a pristine sheet of paper! Thankfully, we don’t all arrive with the same gifts and abilities. Lovely poem, lovely view — and peace is an elusive ideal, but an ideal nevertheless!

    1. I enjoyed finger painting, too. Sometimes, I almost can recall the smell of the paints. I like your association; it’s fun to think of Nature as a finger-painter, streaking those clouds across the sky. I wonder if she has cloud-pots to dip her fingers into?

      Speaking of different gifts and abilities, it’s fun to see the differences among the birds on these ponds. The grebes are quiet and shy; the coots are cantakerous and given to chasing one another around; the herons and egrets are rock-solid and patient. It’s fun — and peaceful — just to sit and watch them living out their lives.

  4. There are times when you just need to go off by yourself, under the sunny skies, and listen to the wind blow. It’s like your spirit kicks out of its shoes and puts on yoga pants and lets it all hang out.

    1. That’s a great metaphor. I get plenty of time by myself under sunny skies while working — sometimes I even kick off my shoes — but it certainly isn’t the same. At work, only my mind gets to wander. It’s fun to be able to physically wander as I please, too.

  5. Sometimes an empty road looks “deserted” or “lonely, and other times, like now, it looks pretty darn inviting. A beautiful sky that day.
    Here’s a historical anecdote . During the French & Indian War, the British were trying to capture Quebec, and after months of unsuccessful attempts, General Wolfe recited that poem, while he was on his way to the final battle, and said “Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebec tomorrow.” Supposedly, his second-in-command muttered, “Just take the city, sir, and we’ll let Mr. Gray answer for his verses.”

    1. One of the great surprises to me when I got to Kansas was that their county roads still look like this. I grew up traveling gravel roads in Iowa, and when I got to Texas, I was surprised to find county and farm-to-market roads mostly hard-surfaced. One difference? Hard-surfaced roads say, “Speed up.” Gravel roads say, “Slow down.”

      That’s a wonderful anecdote, partly because of the faint suggestion that the second-in-command was among those who considered Gray’s poetry less than stellar. Still, the thought of any general reciting a poem on his way to battle is both quaint and appealing. It probably was the last poem he recited, too. I just took a peek at his bio, and discovered that he died on the day of the battle.

      1. Wolfe survived a lot of battles in Canada, France, Germany, Scotland, but I guess his luck ran out, and only 32. The opposing general, Montcalm, died the next day. I always think it would have been very interesting if Québec had remained a French colony for a longer stretch.

    1. I always enjoy watching the different ways people approach these refuge roads. Some drive through, stopping only to read the occasional informational sign. Some drive through at 30 mph and never stop at all. But most are stoppers-and-starters, taking time to explore on foot or photograph from their mobile blinds; there’s more than enough life to observe, and there’s always a promise of something new to see.

  6. “The road less traveled by” for sure Linda. Some people would look at this and see a lonely road. We look at it and see an opportunity to commune with nature, and ourselves. –Curt

    1. It’s not the PCT, at least in terms of its challenges to a hiker — or its topography — but it’s an equally complex world, and equally rewarding to explore. I’d prefer fewer mosquitoes, but perfection’s hard to come by in this world.

      1. Ha, there were plenty of mosquitoes on the PCT as well, Linda. I’ve always found nature interesting and beautiful wherever I roam. Different, yes. But that simply makes it more interesting. –Curt

        1. Isn’t it funny that I thought you were in a mosquito-free zone? Black flies and no-see-ums, yes, but not mosquitoes. Of course, I was surprised to find them in Alaska — and bigger than I’d ever seen.

          1. The mosquitoes in early summer right after snow melt are among the worst I have ever seen, Linda, including world renowned buggy places such as Alaska and Maine. I’ve hiked through meadows with a hundred or so mosquitoes in hot pursuit. –Curt

  7. Viewing this on a small screen doesn’t do it justice I know, yet still I can feel the heart opening space.
    Currently I’m camped in a forest, far from the madding crowd.

    1. “Heart-opening” is just the right word, although open space isn’t necessary for the kind of experience you describe. As it happens, I’ve made a first trip to some Texas forest — the piney woods of East Texas — and found some soon-to-be published delights there, too. Happy camping!

  8. The sky and the road seem endless and the photo certainly gives meaning to the name of your post. I imagine that the only sounds you hear are made by the wind, the birds, and other wildlife on that vast wildlife refuge.

    1. For the most part, that’s true, Yvonne. There are some sounds I’ve never heard at the refuge: a car honking, a boom-box, people arguing. If there are kids around, there will be the usual shouts and giggles, and when a fisherman is heading toward the public fishing spot, he may kick up a little gravel, but that’s it except for the occasional animal sounds. I suppose at night there are more of those — especially coyotes — but it’s pretty quiet during the day.

  9. Oh, the wide spaces! About a half-hour’s drive from me is a similar view, which is a flyway for migrating birds – but will I ever get down there? I could really use a local birding friend….

    1. Only a half-hour? Oh, my. This refuge is roughly an hour and a quarter from my place; a half-hour would be heavenly. Go! Fly! It’s wonderful to have friends along, especially if they’re knowledgeable, but there’s a different kind of joy in being alone in such a place. As for identification, there are wonderful apps that can be used. One of my favorites is the Cornell Merlin Bird ID. It’s a place to start, especially for someone like me, who’s really a beginner.

      If I were there, I’d go with you. Heck, I’d probably drag you out of the house and say, “C’mon!”

    1. You’d love it, especially since the refuge has a variety of places to explore: woods, ponds, sloughs, prairie. And it has that horizon that I love, especially when it’s adorned with pretty clouds.

    1. It is a lovely spot. Often there are more birds around, but the water’s so deep right now the wading birds have moved toward the interior of the slough, well out of reach of my lens. Still, it’s a lovely place to wander: different every season. Even when there are more people around, which happens, it’s remarkable how considerate everyone is of one another. It’s just a nice place to be.

  10. That looks like a great place to spend a few hours. One of the reasons I am out so early, aside from the dawn landscapes, is the lack of a madding crowd (actually all too often maddening). It’s so refreshing to be alone in nature or, as you mention, in the company of like minded souls. A lot of folks are now sharing the advice of health counselors that getting out into natural areas can be a health restorative period in one’s day
    That road resembles several of the old roads in the Quabbin Reservoir where I walk, often without encountering another person.

    1. I always smile when I read another of those “being outdoors is good for you” articles. It’s not that I disagree, it’s only that I came to the same conclusion a couple of decades ago. My health, both physical and mental, starting improving as soon as I started working on boats. All those “outdoor hours” had an effect, despite the fact that they were work hours rather than play hours.

      It always amazes me how quickly the hours pass in such a place. I’ve never managed to visit every interesting spot in a single day; there just isn’t enough time. Sometimes I’ll take my first hour for a quick run-through, just to see what’s happening; then, I can go back and spend time where the birds are congregating, or a flower’s blooming, or whatever.

      One of the nice things about places like this refuge, and I presume Quabbin too, is that they’re not exactly tourist attractions. The Instagram crowd isn’t going to be showing up.

      1. That is true about parts of Quabbin. The park gets a lot of attention and visitation but the remainder not as much because it involves getting out of your car and hiking. It is the same at Acadia N.P. Most visitors ride the Park Loop Road, a few get out to walk on the ocean’s rocky edge, and not very many hike the trails. Considering that it is one of the most visited parks in the country, it is odd that one can hike a trail for hours and possibly not see another person. Quabbin can be the same way.
        I think it has long been well known that nature can nurture. But these days with so many people glued to their computer screens, tablets, and phones, they need more encouragement than ever to get out there.

        1. It may be odd that you can get away from people at Acadia and Quabbin, but how delightful for you!
          Now that I think about it, it’s true people always have appreciated nature for its beauty, complexity, ability to refresh, and so on. But today, not only are electonics separating people from nature. It’s also parents and educators who seem actually fearful of nature: fearful enough to deny their children recess at school and free play time outdoors.

          I think it was about four years ago that there was a fierce, if limited, uproar when the Oxford dictionary removed a list of outdoor-related words from their dictionary (words like ‘acorn’) and replaced them with words associated with online life. Well-intentioned isn’t always wise.

            1. Here’s an idea for the OED and OJD people. Make it 10,050 words. Where do they want kids to learn about acorns? From some guy selling nature dictionaries in some back alley?

            2. I laughed at the thought of some dude in a trenchcoat in an alley, enticing unwary children toward “outdoor words.” Sometimes, there’s nothing to do but laugh.

  11. Being able to walk down that road while totally removed from the conflicting sounds of modern man, any person would emerge with a bit better knowledge of what was happening at the soul level. It’s so great that you’re able to find such soothing places – and then share them with us!

    1. I’ve found another wonderful place a bit farther down the road — where I took the photo of the Spanish moss and the tree frog. I’ve been ‘grounded’ for a couple of weeks for various reasons, and there’s a freeze coming this weekend, but I’m looking forward to getting back. What I need to do is settle down and share a few more photos!

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