The Serene, The Pristine, and The Sacred

“If you love it enough, anything will talk with you”
– George Washington Carver

 

Nature speaks to us with three voices. Her aesthetic voice  , her spiritual voice , and her logical voice speak to me when I choose to deeply listen.  In this essay, I wish to share with you the notion of Nature’s serene, pristine, and sacred voice and why engaging that voice is so important to humanity.

 

The Apache Indians used to say that: “Wisdom sits in places” The Irish noted that, in Nature, a “thin place” is a physical location where there is little or no separation between one’s soul and the soul of Nature. A place where there are no human distractions. A place where one can experience the flow of spiritual energy in total solitude.

 

With the spiritual “sense” that one acquires in a thin place, one is able to engage Nature at a much deeper level. To me, engaging Nature is seeking a resonance with Her and my innermost being. In a thin place, one is able to hold tangible and touch an experience.  Thin places offer transformative experiences where we become our more essential selves. Thin places are places of presence where one is able to live only in the present moment – undisturbed by the past or the future. Thin places encourage us to separate the essential from the irrelevant. Thin places exist in Nature’s silence. That silence is essential to me because, as soundscape ecologist Gordon Hempton points out,  silence and solitude form the think tank of the soul.

 

These kind of experiences always happen to me when I visit my “elders”. My elders live in a remote place in the Sonoran Desert. In their physical form, they are a pair of trees. One is an old Ironwood tree who can live 300 to 600 years. The tree is called a “Palo Fierro” (Iron Stick) in Spanish. The other elder is a large Saguaro Cactus who can live for 150 to 200 years. They live together in a fond embrace brought about because the Palo Fierro has protected the Saguaro since the time that the cactus was only a seed. To the botanists, the Palo Fierro served as a “nursery plant” that protected the Saguaro as its seed developed into a  plant. That protective embrace is a visual metaphor, a togetherness, an interfolding of past dependency. It is symbolic of Nature’s interconnectedness.

 

Every day, Nature celebrates this pair of elders with two dynamic light shows . At night, Nature shines down upon the pair with a dazzing display from the Universe. At dawn, the sun’s golden glow  kisses the pair with its life giving energy. To me, these experiences are visual celebrations of Nature’s glory. Watch this short video and see if you agree with me. Your viewing experience will be greatly enhanced if you watch the video in the full screen mode.

 

 

Photographer and essayist, Guy Tal, in his essay “Reentry”, beautifully describes his connection with the serene, the pristine, and the sacred. He says that:

 

“I come to wilderness places not only to be by myself, but to be myself – whole and separate, with nothing to prove or to explain, and so that I may face my challenges and inspirations without distraction, without being beholden to appearances and traditions, without the noise and clatter and prejudice of the human hives, without the constant tugging of matters trivial and mundane, and without concern or conjecture about what was and what is yet to come.

 

“I no longer visit wild places, I return to them; they are my home and my sanctuary, the source of my strengths and convictions and the wellspring of my inspiration and my support.”

 

Guy Tal points out that “spirituality is the meaning one derives from acknowledging one’s place within the grand tapestry of existence.”

If all of this sounds attractive, but yet unreachable for you, author Joseph Cornell  describes the Indian way of engaging Nature called “Still Hunting” where you engage Nature by letting Nature come to you.  Acquiring a quiet spirit, being aware only of the present moment, and patiently waiting for Nature to come to you can be a fascinating and rewarding activity. As Nature gradually comes alive before you, you will begin to sense and understand the connections between yourself and other members of our vast ecosystem.

 

While keeping all of your senses alert, comfortably sit motionless by a shore, in a forest, or any quiet place where Nature displays her majesty. Acquire a quiet spirit by keeping your relaxed hands folded in your lap. Focus on your breath as you slowly inhale. Again, focus on your breath as you slowly and quietly exhale. During the pauses between breaths, concentrate on the present moment as Nature surrounds and embraces you.  Listen, watch, and feel. Carefully listen for stillness between the sounds.

 

At first, nothing will happen. But, with time, the impact of your intrusion will subside and Nature will return to its equilibrium. Birds and other small creatures will resume their chirping and other sounds. Very gradually they will move closer to you. In a forest, deer and other larger animals will also come closer. Listen to Nature’s sounds. Feel the movement of air around you. In his wonderful book, Listening to Nature, Joseph Cornell suggests:

 

“…free your mind from expectations, paying attention to what you see and hear: busy insects, singing birds, and breezes bringing the trees to life”

 

Keep a camera at your side. If you decide to take a picture, move very slowly. Carry a recorder to record the sounds.

 

While experiencing Nature in this way, listen to your own inner voice. How is your spirit responding to what is happening about you? How are you connecting to what is going on?

 

Joseph Cornell says:

 

“Ecology is the intellectual study of the interrelationships of all living things. Activities like Still Hunting complement the science of ecology by providing a way for us to consciously affirm and intuitively experience our oneness with Life. “

 

Consider Gregory Bateson’s contemplative questions:

 

  • How are you related to the patterns you are observing?
  • What pattern connects you to them?
  • What is the pattern that connects all living creatures?

 

Live these questions. They help us in “knowing” Nature and Nature’s patterns.

 

Author  Beth Rhines calls the places where she describes “Still Hunting” as “Sit Spots”. She says:

 

“The benefits of regular sit spots are immeasurable. Sit spots improve emotional, mental, and physical well being by reducing stress, providing inspiration, and promoting reflection.  Awareness of our surroundings leads to increased knowledge and wisdom gained from animals, plants and the planet. Connection to Nature is also inevitable at a sit spot. You will see things you have never noticed. You will become part of the landscape, and as a result Nature will let you in on her secrets. Here’s how to make your sit spot work for you:

1)      Slow Down. In the world of animals, people are predators. It takes at least 15 minutes for someone to be able to fully quiet themselves, so that animals see you as part of the background, instead of a potential predator. This slowing includes both the body and the mind. Let go of all of the thoughts of the day, and you will notice the animals around start acting more comfortable with your presence.

2)      Any Spot is a Good Spot. The great thing about sit spots is that they can be found anywhere. Awe-inspiring landscapes are always great, but those ordinary places, like the corner of a backyard, often make the best sit spots.

3)      Use Your Senses. Isolate your senses one at a time. Close your eyes and focus on sounds. Then use your hands to feel the objects around you. Take some time to breathe and notice any smells. A great vision tool is something I call ‘soft eyes’. Instead of focusing on a certain point, let your eyes go soft, like you are gazing far into the distance. You will notice much more movement in the periphery of your vision.

4)      Bring A Journal. A journal is helpful to unload thoughts or feelings. It’s also great for sketches or to note interesting discoveries. A good sit spot journal collects baseline data including the time you visit, the weather conditions, and any observations. Reading over past journal entries allows you to appreciate patterns and seasonal changes.

5)      Listen to Bird Language. Recently at my sit spot a group of crows suddenly flushed out of the trees above me, emitting short, sharp, loud alarm calls as they flew away. Those calls were the warning of an approaching predator. I waited, and about two minutes later, a bald eagle flew right overhead. From their vantage point, birds are often the first ones to see an approaching predator, and will often warn others.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to make your sit spot a positive experience. You don’t have to know the name of every animal that you see. It is far more important to know when it tends to come around and how it interacts with its surroundings. Do what you enjoy most at your sit spot, and let your child-like sense of wonder go wild. And most of all, enjoy the sit spot for what it is, a time to let go of the mundane world and enter into the reality of Nature’s magic.”

 

Spirituality is the quality of seeing everything as interconnected. Whether you choose to think about engaging Nature’s serene, pristine, and sacred voice in “thin places”, in “sit spots”, or by “still hunting”, the rewards are a profound sense that your life force, your very being, is an integral part of Nature’s energy. Your life force then transforms into acts of purpose as you become a steward of Nature.

 

As I write these words, it is sunrise. I am camped in the desert. The morning sun paints my elders, the mesquite bushes, and the nearby mountains with its glorious golden light. It is moments like these that bring me into a close connection with all of Nature where I am provided a profound sense of “being”.

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

 

Thanks for reading this blog post.

 

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by an take a look.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

 

The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

 

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

The Wisdom of Henry Beston

I read quite a few books that express the ideas of great minds who offer profound insight into the aesthetic, spiritual, and scientific voices of Nature. These books resonate with my experiences in Nature and inspire the core ideas of an interconnected Nature that are presented in my blog essays. Over time, I wish to  curate and share  some of the ideas and passions of these great thinkers with my dear readers.

If you love Nature as well as prose that flows like poetry, you must let Henry Beston transport you to a quiet place where the wind through the trees or the movement of the ocean’s waves are the only sounds that strike your ear. Beston communicates not just his intellect, but his emotion and his intuition. As a master of the metaphor, he appeals to the aesthetic voice of Nature which is usually the first voice that draws an observer of Nature into Her being.

The two Henry Beston books that I love to read are:

The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach Of Cape Cod

The Northern Farm : A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm

Animals Are Other Nations

Henry Beston is an acute observer of man’s arrogance in the great chain of an interconnecting Nature. His essay on the relationship between other animals and ourselves will grab you.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth. For the gifts of life are the earth’s, and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.”

Mankind Cannot Predict Nature

Modern systems science has made it clear that we humans cannot predict the directions of Nature or the outcome of our attempts to control Nature. Years before systems science became well known, as a master of the metaphor in his “Northern Farm”, Beston beautifully portrays the fact that it is impossible for humanity to control Nature:

“To use a metaphor, we were all of us passengers on a great ocean liner. There is plenty of food aboard, meals are served at given hours, and all goes on much the same as ever in the usual haphazard and familiar way. On the bridge there are quarrels as to who shall steer, and powerful and secret currents seize upon the keel. The pleasant-enough days go by; people read novels in sheltered corners of the deck. The ocean, however, is unknown, and no one, not a single soul, knows whither the ship is bound.”

We Have Lost Our Connection With Nature

Beston’s deeply profound thinking describes the reason that there is a big disconnect between modern mankind and Nature. HIs essay on this subject precedes the  modern view of environmental education where schools and other organizations conduct programs to bring children back to Nature in hopes of creating a new legacy of stewardship.

“What had gone out of American life as one sees it in the city and the suburb? Essentially, thought I, musing by the window, a sense of direction…I find I am shaking off the strange oppression which came over me when I lived by an urban sense and understanding of time. In a world so convenient and artificial that there is scarcely day or night, and one is bulwarked against the seasons and the year, time, so to speak, having no natural landmarks, tends to stand still. The consequence is that life and time and history become unnaturally a part of some endless and unnatural present, and violence becomes for some the only remedy.”

On Time

Nature keeps its own time without the influence of mankind.

“Country living is a pageant of Nature and the year; it can no more stay fixed than a movement in music, and as the seasons pass, they enrich life far more with little things than with great, with remembered moments rather than the slower hours. A gold and scarlet leaf floating solitary on the clear, black water of the morning rain barrel can catch the emotion of a whole season, and chimney smoke blowing across the winter moon can be a symbol of all that is mysterious in human life.Here in the country, it all moves ahead again. Spring is not only a landmark, but it looks ahead to autumn, and winter forever looks forward to the spring.”

On Size

“When this twentieth century of ours became obsessed with a passion for mere size, what was lost sight of was the ancient wisdom that the emotions have their own standards of judgment and their own sense of scale. In the emotional world, a small thing can touch the heart and the imagination every bit as much as something impressively gigantic; a fine phrase is as good as an epic, and a small brook in the quiet of a wood can have its say with a voice more profound than the thunder of any cataract. Who would live happily in the country must be wisely prepared to take great pleasure in little things.”

On Darkness

“Learn to reverence night and to put away the vulgar fear of it, for, with the banishment of night from the experience of man, there vanishes as well a religious emotion, a poetic mood, which gives depth to the adventure of humanity. By day, space is one with the earth and with man — it is his sun that is shining, his clouds that are floating past; at night, space is his no more. When the great earth, abandoning day, rolls up the deeps of the heavens and the universe, a new door opens for the human spirit, and there are few so clownish that some awareness of the mystery of being does not touch them as they gaze. For a moment of night we have a glimpse of ourselves and of our world islanded in its stream of stars — pilgrims of mortality, voyaging between horizons across eternal seas of space and time. Fugitive though the instant be, the spirit of man is, during it, ennobled by a genuine moment of emotional dignity, and poetry makes its own both the human spirit and experience.”

Worth Your Extra Attention

Thanks for reading this blog post.

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by an take a look.

Please Comment and Subscribe

The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

Animals Are Other Nations

I am deeply moved by this quote from Henry Beston. For, with his words, he paints a metaphor about interrelationships within Nature and, in words far better than mine, he states the credo of this blog site .

Please stop for a moment and allow Henry Beston’s words “transport you to a quiet place where the wind through the dune grass is the only sound that strikes your ear.

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by Beach-0918complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth. For the gifts of life are the earth’s, and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.”

–From: The Outermost House: A Year of Life On the Great Beach Of Cape Cod

Beston’s book is available on Amazon where a reviewer offers the following:
The Outermost House is a classic, not just of natural history literature, but of American literature. If you love the outdoors, or the sea, or prose that flows like poetry, you should keep this small book always nearby. The harried introvert will especially appreciate it: reading even a page or two will transport you to a quiet place where the wind through the dune grass is the only sound that strikes your ear.

Beach-2587In addition to being a great writer, Beston is an acute observer biological phenomena, and not a bad theorist either. His discourse on the relationship other animals bear to us (“They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations…”) does more to unlink the Great Chain of Being than any philosophical essay. And Beston’s influence has been wide-ranging, not only among natural history writers, but among writers in general. Some books are so memorable that parts of them become internalized on first reading. The first time I read The Outermost House, its final sentence became mine. Now, I pass it on to you: 

For the gifts of life are the earth’s, and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and dawn seen over ocean from the beach.’ “

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post.

There is a section in my blog entitled “Musings”. You can reach it by clicking on the menu tab near the top of my blog site. This area contains my growing list of posts that list web material that I have found interesting. You might stop by an take a look.

Please Comment and Subscribe

The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

Reverence For Life

I’ve been reading and writing about wolves, cormorants, elk, and many other creatures who are being killed off by BlogImage-3549mankind in the name of  conservation. Whether he/she be a hunter killing game, a rancher who employs lethal predator control, or an ecologist who justifies killing in the name of controlling Nature’s ecosystems, I am deeply disturbed by it all – especially since there are life respecting alternatives in all cases. And, with this respect for life comes a solution to our ecological crisis and a healthy environment.

So, please forgive me, dear reader, if I “vent” by offering to you the words of someone who expresses my feelings and ethics on the subject far better than I can.   

Late on the third day, at the very moment when at sunset we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought: “Reverence for Life.”

 

“Who among us knows what significance any other kind of life has in itself, as a part of the universe? For the truly ethical man, all life is sacred, including that which from the human point of view seems lower in scale. If a person has been touched by the ethic of Reverence for Life, he injures and destroys life only when he cannot avoid doing so, and never from thoughtlessness.

 

“Every person is born with the concept:

” ‘ I am life which wills to live, in the midst of life which wills to live’. From this conflict comes death and destruction. But if he understands Reverence for Life, at last the will-to-live, that fierce affirmative force which holds us all by the throat vanishes. In its place there is only the will-to-love, and the blessings of healing, and the sense of communion with all living things.”

 

–  From: “Out of My Life and Thought”

               by Albert Schweitzer, 1875-1965

 

Worth Your Extra Attention :

Thanks for reading this blog post. The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers.

The topic of reverence for life runs very deep with me. I would love to hear your view. You are encouraged to offer your comments in the space provided below.

 

Please Comment and Subscribe

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

A Contemplative Journey

Go to the limits of your longing. There you will find your creator’s thumbprint” – Rilke (paraphrased)

Somehow, I fancy myself as a blogger and chronicler of patterns in Nature, connections in Nature, and sustainability education. My goal has been to do my small part to help create a new Nature consciousness.  While people comment positively about my writing, a common comment by people who visit my blog is : “I love the photography”. Yes, I am a Nature photographer as well as a writer. Indeed, it is through photography that I engage Nature and develop the inspiration for many of the blogs on this web site.  You might be interested in the patterns in Nature section of my gallery

People occasionally ask me about the process that goes through my head when I do photography. It is a good question. In reality, nothing goes through my mind because I live in the “Now” as I make connections with Nature.

The experience is more a spiritual adventure than it is a mental process. I first set my camera aside – within easy reach but not in my hand. Then I acquire a quiet spirit as I focus on the present moment, setting aside the past and the future. I then let Nature come to me rather than me pursuing Nature. Only when my contemplative spirit and my sensual perceptions feel a connection do I slowly lay hands on my camera and attempt to capture what I’m perceiving. You would be surprised how animal life adjusts to your presence and resumes their activities if you simply stay quiet.

I like to call the entire process “engaging Nature”. It is that act of engaging, of making a connection, that brings my perceptive senses into focus. And, it is the act of engaging Nature that creates a consciousness within my soul. You might be interested in seeing some of my work in a free eBook that I offer on this blog site. You can sign up and download the book just to the right of this post.

Does this sound a bit abstract to you? Actually, it is all quite real, down to earth, and wonderfully simple. Find a quiet beach, a patch of forest, some desert, or a meadow. Open your folding chair, get comfortable, set your camera and binoculars next to the chair, and just wait for Nature to come to you. I guarantee you, in some way, Nature will pay you a visit. Wait for your perceptive senses to give you a clue that something wonderful is happening. Maybe it is the colorful texture of lichen on some tree bark. Or, the glow of morning light on a big cactus. Maybe it is the cautious deer who slowly moves with dynamic tension as he comes closer to you. If you are lucky, there might be black storm clouds, or a raging stream, or an egret poised to strike a fish. These precious moments will light you up with a strong urge to capture the moment. Only then do you slowly lift your camera. Almost magically, your feeling of that moment will be captured in your image and be transformed into the souls of your viewers.

What I just described is a spiritual practice commonly called “contemplative photography”. There is a great book on the subject. And a contemplative blog site worth exploring . One of my favorite blog authors is Kim Manley Ort  who talks a lot about contemplative photography. These three web sites ought to give you a feel for this spiritual practice.

I like to think that all photography, along with art in general, teaching, and writing are human activities that are greatly enhanced by the practice of acquiring a quiet spirit and letting things happen.

In a recent post , I discussed sustainability education for young people where they are asked to use their cameras to capture images of Nature. In reality, I was talking about the role of contemplative photography in helping young people develop a consciousness for Nature that we modern adults have lost.

You don’t need to be a guru to enjoy capturing a moment in Nature through contemplative photography.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading this blog post. The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers. You are encouraged to offer your comments in the space provided below.

I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter using the sign-up form provided at the upper right corner of this web page. As a subscriber you will receive twice-monthly announcements of new blogs that I post. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

Shunpiking

Please forgive me as I temporarily digress from my normal discourse on patterns and connections in Nature to tell you about the most wonderful summer I have experienced in many years. A summer of growing passions for protecting Nature.

I just returned to my home in Mexico after an incredible ten weeks of engaging Nature. I’ve spent the last seven summers living in my camper and engaging Nature in the forests, meadows, and mountains of North America – from the Mexican border all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Much of my writing on this blog and in my books as well as my nature photography  have come during these solitary forays.

These summers have been my opportunity to connect, one-on-one, with Nature’s three voices – her aesthetic voice, her spiritual voice, and her logical voice.

What made this summer so unique and precious is that I chose to “shunpike”. Look it up on Google !! It is a real word with great meaning. I completely “shunned” “turnpikes” (shunpike – get it?) – following only secondary roads. Many times the roads were far less than secondary. Forest service dirt roads with barely a trace of vehicle traffic was common for me.

I followed these roads to find where they would take me. I had no plan or time schedule. I let circumstances, curiosity, and my quest for adventure  lead me. I let Mother Nature come to me. If you’ve studied any Tao, this is called “wu-wei” – effortless effort.

I would stay at a place until Nature and I agreed that it was time for me to leave.  Long stays of around 10 days happened when I was free to engage Nature without human generated environmental damage or noise pollution (see my “Broken Links” post). It was with the long stays that I got to “know” a place. I’d sit for hours empty handed as I absorbed Nature. Only when I felt a connection did I bring out the camera and notebook. 

Through shunpiking, I was able to observe both the positive and the negative side of human interaction with Nature. I saw families enjoy and engage Nature. Parents teaching their kids about trees and rocks and birds. Youngsters shrieked with glee at each new discovery. I also saw the   destructive nature of  mankind.  ATV traffic, dogs barking, and government sponsored logging and grazing halted wildlife activity in the forest. 

This summer, while letting Nature lead me, I became much more aware of our need as humans to protect our wilderness and educate our children in wilderness protection. Nature photographer Rafael Rojas offers us the idea that our very survival as a race depends on a protective consciousness:

“By protecting wilderness, we protect ourselves first of all. In the end, all the environmental causes focus on our well-being. Unless we make the planet explode from the core, nature will never perish, and where mountains exist today, deserts will appear or tropical forests will grow. When we talk about protecting the environment, we talk about conserving our home, improving our quality of life, becoming happier and healthier and living in a more balanced way. If we do not do things properly, our chance will pass and our species will decline. Give the earth some billions of years, and it will recover as if we had never been here.”

This summer has instilled a passion in me. As Rumi puts it:

“Mature yourself and be secure from a change for the worse. Become the light”

It is my hope that this blog and my photography will help promote a positive and protective consciousness toward Nature. 

Much of my inspiration and my passion for doing this blog, writing my books, pursuing nature photography, and volunteering for conservation efforts comes from these summers alone in Nature. But my encouragement and my energy to do these things comes from close friends and family as well as those of you who I only know through the Internet. We exchange dialog by way of comments on blog posts, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, occasional emails, and a phone call once in a while.

As this blog site on patterns in Nature approaches its first anniversary, I want to thank all of you for the interchange. There seems to be growing interest in my subject since I am now experiencing about 2,000 page views a month ( Update: Now over 4,000 page views as of 1 May 2013). For this interest and exchange, I am very grateful.

The end result that I’m hoping for is an expanded dialog on the subject of patterns in Nature. And with this, your help in communicating the critical importance of preserving connections in Nature in order to insure our survival as a species. I’m hoping that all of you will join me in helping our fellow humans build a healthy consciousness and reverence for Nature.  

Please join me in this effort.

Raindrops To Rivers Revisited

“… for artists, the question is often more important than the answer, and often the answer doesn’t exist… The arts and humanities offer the sciences an essential store of other ideas, images, metaphors, and language… Such images and metaphors arise both from direct sensual experience and from the language of artists who portray that experience… The most important gift the sciences and the arts offer each other is a recognition and synthesis of their different approaches to thinking, their different ways of being in the world.”  – Alan Lightman

We humans have the gift of expressing ourselves through many media including art, photography, poetry, and essays.  Occasionally, an artist reads one of my blog posts or sees some of my photographic images on the Internet and contacts me for permission to paint a certain picture. I always give my permission because I believe that Nature’s first voice to we humans is an aesthetic voice. I’ve emphasized in previous posts that Nature first speaks to us through our perceptual (aesthetic) senses before speaking to us spiritually or logically.  

Artist David Coffin  was inspired to offer his perceptions on the theme of my recent blog post “From Raindrops To Rivers” . David recently sent me four of his paintings on this theme. I am delighted that he has permitted me to share them with you. Thank you David for sharing your wonderful work with us. 

Please let David and I know how you feel about his work by offering your comments in the space provided after David’s paintings.

 

 

 

In Praise Of Rain

“What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful unintelligible perfectly innocent  speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself … The noise of it and the thickness of it walls you off from the rest of the world …. It is the voice of the present moment … It is the festival of rain”

— Thomas Merton on the sound of rain

Like most people, I seek some sort of shelter when it rains. On photography forays, I confess that I used to get a bit frustrated because I wanted to be outdoors with my camera instead of waiting out the rain while being cooped up in my camper.

But, one day at Kalaloch on the Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, things suddenly changed. During a gentle rain, I glanced past my open camper door to see a breathtaking scene that was new to me — the beauty of raindrops clinging to forest lichen. Each drop glistened and reflected. All of a sudden, I realized that I had been foolishly missing experiences of great beauty when I hid from rain and the artistry of raindrops.

The rain drop offers layers of beauty. First, the glistening sparkle of reflected light. A sparkle that sometimes dances. A closer look reveals a reflection of the raindrop’s surroundings distorted by its spherical shape. These mesmerizing and addictive designs are abstractions far more beautiful than ones created by the hand of man. And, represented in this beauty is the power of rain. It is a life force required by all living things. It is a shaping force that defines both our earth’s surface and how we live. And, it is a connecting force because water is central to everything.

Thanks for reading this blog post. The purpose for these blogs is to develop a dialog between myself and my readers. You are encouraged to offer your comments in the space provided below.

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Forest lichen

A Fractal Forest

I recently spent a couple of weeks on the road looking for contemplative experiences in Nature. Mojave National Preserve offers such an opportunity. Located about 100 miles southwest of noisy, congested, and run-down Las Vegas, Mojave National Preserve is the perfect contrast. It is extremely quiet and has very few humans. Fire has left part of the preserve starkly barren with a few remaining Pinion Pine and Juniper trees here and there. But, from this mixture of life and death, a strange fractal beauty has emerged. I’m surrounded by thousands of fractal shapes. Dead trees with their magnificent, connected. self-similar structures making themselves available for we humans to see.

Here, I’m surrounded by an art gallery that displays a basic physical structure of life that we know as fractals. Little twigs connected to little branches which are connected to bigger branches which are connected to one or more trunks. All of this is supported by an equally complex and connected structure that we know as roots. Each level is similar to the previous level and the next level. We humans call this self-similarity – a magnified portion of a structure looks the same as the whole.

Here, I am viewing the fundamental geometric structure of much of Nature. My own lungs, kidneys, and blood transport system have the same structure as do these trees. So do river systems, ecosystems, and many fish schools, bird flocks, and animal herds. The self-similar fractal structure is a manifestation of Nature’s interconnected being.

As I engaged that scene in which I was privileged to experiernce, the host of barren trees, even in death, brought together the aesthetic, the spiritual, and the logical voices of Nature. My perceptive senses were awed by the aesthetic beauty of these fractal structures. My spiritual self reminds me that everything is connected. And, my logical self provides a factual basis for the beautifully connected geometry that was before me.

Dynamic Tension

Dynamic tension is a moment in the present that is filled with energy and possibilities. It is a transitional state of imbalance that suggests an emergence into a more stable state. As a nature photographer, I love to capture images that portray dynamic tension because an exciting perceptual interaction between the viewer and the image is created. It leaves a future moment for the viewer to define.

But, dynamic tension is also an expression of the energy of a pattern and a connection in Nature. Energy on the edge. It expresses interaction with other things and creatures in Nature.  An emergence of the pattern into another state. And, as one feels this energy emerge, one gets carried with the action.

Capturing dynamic tension in wildlife is one of my favorite things to do. In addition to capturing exciting images, I love being an observer of Nature’s energy. Here are some examples of dynamic tension that I hope will cause you to feel the moment’s energy and its state of imbalance.  

The first image is of a Great Egret poised to capture a fish. His body is in full tension ready to thrust his beak underwater for the capture.

The following image is of an Elk bull in rut with body tense as he produces mating sounds to attract his ladies.

Two Bull Southern Elephant Seals battle for the right to mate with their harem. 

A Black Bear has just sprung into the stream to capture a returning Salmon. 

A Brown Pelican takes off from the water after having captured a fish. 

An approaching storm cell unleashes Nature’s fury. 

A very cautious male Red Fox approaches me hoping for food to take back to his new family. 

A bull Moose lifts his head from the lake bottom after having grabbed a mouthful of bottom plants. 

A Brown Pelican making a controlled dive in hopes of capturing a fish.