Sights And Sounds In The Southern Ocean – A video collection

While it is fun to write about patterns in Nature, it is a lot more fun to experience them directly. Since it is physically impossible for me to transport you to some of my favorite places, through the magic of my videos I can share some of the sights and sounds that I have experienced.  Here is a 9 minute video of creatures and their sounds that I encountered while visiting South Georgia Island and the Falkland Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean. Below the video there are explanations for each clip.

 

 

At South Georgia Island in 2007:

  • A Southern Elephant Seal bull courting a female in his harem. He has fought for the privilege of having this harem but will probably only be able to hold this status for one season. His harem can be as many as 60 females. A true seal has no external ear pinnae, cannot place its hind flippers under its body, and cannot walk on all four flippers. On land, it gets around by waddling forward like a very fat and ungraceful glob. Underwater, it is the epitomy of grace.Two juvenile males practicing territorial defense for the time when they might have the opportunity to acquire a harem. Not all bulls end up with a harem.A bull displaying his full body. Despite their size, these guys can move quickly. Kathleen would “watch my back” as I moved in on my belly close enough to get video. In their zeal to fight or mate, pups are regularly crushed. An elephant seal colony is a pretty messy, noisy, and smelly place.A bull with a badly torn proboscis caused by a fight with another male.A young mother with her new born pup. Skuas (a predatory gull-like bird) are waiting for her to expel her placenta. That placenta, when expelled, vanishes in less than 30 seconds as a mass of Skuas consume it.
  • Southern Fur Seal bulls. Unlike the elephant seal, fur seals are really like sea lions. They have external ear pinnae, relatively long and muscular fore flippers, and the ability to walk on all four flippers. These polygamous guys are very aggressive and territorial as their testosterone levels increase. Two weeks after this footage was recorded, the beach was full of fur seal bulls defending their turf as they bred. These bulls will attack human visitors. The defense is to carry a hiking stick and point it directly at the nose of an attacking bull. It works. Kathleen mounted a successful defense when two bulls came after her at the same time. One might argue that these guys wanted her around — she’s really cute. But, the sad truth is that anthropomorphism is not cool and they really wanted her to get lost.
  • A large King Penguin colony at St. Andrew’s Bay. One is overwhelmed by both the massive amount of life and the vaulting beauty of this place. St. Andrews is my favorite place. It is where I can absorb the enormity of sight and sound, life and death. St. Andrews is where my soul is truly alive and where I feel close to God
  • King penguins walking the beach. They are very curious and unafraid. This was shot as I lay on my belly. If one keeps lower than the animal, some amazing photography is possible.
  • Young King Penguins. The British call them “Oakum Boys”because their coat looks like the oakum calking used on old ships.
  • King Penguins communicating. If you just sit and listen, it is apparent that there is a definite sequence of calls from different groups in the colony.
  • Kings coming ashore after surviving Leopard Seals lurking near the shore. Once in a while, a bloodied penguin emerges. He/she will not survive the next swim in the cold water since the insulating coat of feathers is damaged. We visitors learn not to interfere and let both life and death take its natural course.

At the Falkland Islands in 2007:

  • A Gentoo Penguin with an egg. Skuas and Cara Cara (a raptor) are always present trying to steal eggs and chicks. The pressure on the parents is enormous.
  • Another Gentoo with two chicks. One chick will probably not survive.
  • Rock Hopper penguins. We saw a Skua fly away with an egg as I took this footage.
  • Giant Petrel courting. Huge birds who are clumsy on the ground and graceful in the air.
  • A Black Browed Albatross nesting colony. These guys were very common off the stern of the ship when we were underway.

At Prion Island — South Georgia in 2004:

  • A male Wandering Albatross making a nest. The female will arrive once the nest is completed. These gliding birds have an 11 foot wingspan and are known to circumnavigate the globe while rarely touching down. They keep going by catching fish during their long travels. They are common drowning victims of long line fishing boats as they try to snag the bait on the hook. A dead adult Wandering Albatross means both he/she and the chick are dead because the adult can not then come back to feed the chick.
  • A Wandering Albatross juvenile learning to fly. These huge juveniles take a year to gain strength for their maiden flight. Their parents feed them until the last few months at which time the kid must fare for him/her self and get to sea to feed on its own.

For Your Further Consideration

 
This essay is part of a series of essays that present ideas to environmental educators and all stewards of Nature about ecoliteracy and legacy.   The emphasis is on two key ideas:
 
  1. Our earth is a living system that transports and transforms energy. The key to an active ecoliteracy that results in a healthy environment for all life on earth is the building of a systems view of life into the minds and hearts of humanity, This worldview includes the fact that all of Nature is interconnected and interdependent.
  2. Environmental education is not simply offering facts. Environmental education must be hands-on and place-based if ideas, facts, and effective conservation strategies are to become a consciousness in the minds and hearts of our youth. Environmental education must include the the passing of this consciousness to future generations.
 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

 
Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself,  or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.
If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

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 regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.
You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar .  With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

Beyond Human Intelligence

Both by design and good fortune, I am able to spend most of my afternoons engaging Nature in solitude and without human presence. This activity gives me the opportunity to observe and think about Nature. One of my favorite observing and thinking topics is animal intelligence.  The dictionary says that “intelligence” means “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”.  In my view, despite our arrogance, we humans are not the only creatures who have that trait.

As I write this, I’m watching various waterfowl hunt for fish in a shallow lagoon that is connected to the ocean’s tides. My favorite, a Snowy Egret, knows to wait for the tide to start ebbing; then face up-current so as to wait for fish to come to him;  use his yellow feet as lures, capture a fish across his beak perpendicular to his throat, shake the fish into a stunned state, flip the fish so that its head is pointing down his throat, swallow the fish, then always clean his beak by swishing it in the water. I’d call these coordinated actions “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”.

I’m a whale scientist. In my field, I see some of the most obvious examples of intelligence. One of my favorites is the Humpback Whale bubble net. Humpback Whales sometimes work together creating “bubble nets” to trap schools of fish.  A group of whales swim in an ever-tightening circle blowing bubbles below a school of prey. The shrinking circle of rising bubbles forms a cylinder that encircles the school. The fish believe they are trapped and confine themselves in the ever-smaller cylinder. The whales then suddenly swim upward through the school contained by the ‘net’, mouths agape, swallowing thousands of fish in one gulp.  Humpbacks have been observed doing bubble net feeding alone. But many times, there is a division of labor among the animals. The bubble ring can be created up to 30 meters in diameter through  the cooperation of a dozen animals. Some whales blow the bubbles, some dive deeper to drive fish toward the surface, and others herd prey into the net by vocalizing. These activities require mental skills of analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  Logic and decision making are part of this activity. Again, “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills”. There is an incredible video about this behavior at:

I think we humans have been brainwashed into believing that we are superior beings who are the only creatures on Earth with “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” — to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. Most certainly our Sunday School teachers were a significant force in arguing that we humans have “dominion”.

But, Western science is equally to blame. Scientists copped out when they relegated animal intelligence to “instinct” – that intellectual black box where we put things that we can’t explain – or don’t dare to explain because it might put some of Earth’s creatures on equal footing with us.

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.

Wintering At The Bosque

Everything is connected. This is the unifying organizational principle inherent in all patterns in Nature. This is a wonderfully spiritual and philosophical statement that sits comfortably with my armchair intellect.

However, as we move from our armchairs and engage the outdoors, connectivity in Nature becomes real, it becomes exciting, and it becomes alive. There is no better place to see this happening than at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico. During the winter months, huge masses of migrating birds make this place their home. Bird watchers gather to fill their lists with names. Nature photographers gather with their expensive cameras to capture yet another image (amongst the thousands already available) of Sandhill Cranes. This is all pretty “ho hum” after doing it once or twice.

But, what is always very exciting to me is getting out of my theoretical armchair and really seeing Nature’s organizational principles in action. Sure, the physical presence of many interesting species is very exciting. And, I confess to making my bird lists and getting out my expensive camera like everyone else. But, to watch the coming together of many patterns in Nature in one spot is an unifying experience for me. It makes all of my book writing and theorizing become very real because I can see that Nature’s organizing principles are real.

The real world of Nature’s organizing principles really hits me first when I look at the massive numbers of birds of different species all gathered at Bosque del Apache. My amazement hits a peak when I realize that all of these birds come from widely different places to be here. Some species come from two or three diverse locations. They all know to come! No matter what the species. Somehow, their internal behavior patterns, common to them all, caused them to move from where they were to come here. The common attraction would appear to be the warmer clime and the fields of grain and corn purposely grown for them. They do remember, they do know how to navigate to Bosque del Apache, and they do seem to have expectations of what is waiting for them upon arrival. I’m constantly amazed by this innate common “intelligence” amongst species that we humans choose to relegate to our convenient black box that we call “instinct”.

One can start a day by viewing large flocks silhouetting the Eastern dawn sky as they leave their nightly roosts. Here we see the organizing principle of self-organization at work. The ordered separation in flight. The avoidance of objects and predators. The inherent determination to move from the night’s roosting area to the day’s feeding grounds. One can watch the beautifully quiet takeoffs of Sandhill Cranes, only a few at a time as if directed by an air traffic controller, to join their flock. Or the massive, noisy, and sudden lifting of full flocks of Snow Geese. These early morning spectacles are common and interconnected behavioral patterns in Nature. No matter what species, they all know to head to their daytime feeding areas.  As evening approaches, we see the opposite. Birds of different species slowly gathering and then flying to their evening’s rest. Sandhill Cranes flying in small quiet groups. Snow Geese moving in large noisy flocks. But, all to the same areas.

Beyond the interesting behavior of individual flocks, is the joining of flocks of different species. The interrelationships that take place. A congruence of complex systems – both in terms of physical and behavioral patterns. The sharing of common feeding grounds by Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. The tense connection between ducks trying to feed and the Bald Eagles who want to eat them. The mixing of Snowy Egrets with other waterfowl.   These scenes are testaments to the idea that patterns in Nature are complex systems that are connected within themselves and between each other.

It is one thing to talk and write about patterns in Nature and complex systems. But, it is quite another thing to experience these ideas in real time. Along with trips to many of Nature’s wonders, I try to spend a couple of days each year at Bosque del Apache. Theorizing and philosophizing about connectedness, complexity, self-similarity, and self-organization is all much fun. But, getting out into Nature, engaging her, and experiencing the reality of her being is where it all comes together for me.

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.

A Meeting At Guerrero Negro

The story about patterns in Nature is a story about order. And, what could be more orderly than a regularly repeating pattern over time? Things like cycles and synchronization. Heartbeats, ocean waves, day and night. And also gray whales.

One of Nature’s really intriguing patterns in time is the annual 12,000 mile round trip migration of some 20,000 gray whales. This journey is one of the longest animal migrations known to man. Every autumn, these 45 foot leviathans leave their summer feeding grounds in the cold arctic waters of the Bering Sea and travel along the North American coast to the Pacific coastal lagoons of Baja California, Mexico. One of the three lagoon complexes that they choose is Scammon’s Lagoon (known to the Mexicans as Laguna Ojo de Liebre). Scammon’s Lagoon and its connecting Laguna Guerrero Negro (Black Warrior Lagoon) are situated near the town of Guerrero Negro about half way down the Baja Peninsula. The lagoon and the town are named after a whaling ship that went down here in 1858, the Guerrero Negro.

The whales  meet at Guerrero Negro and the two other Baja lagoons apparently (a human presumption) because the shallow waters make the act of birth, the caring for new born calves , and breeding easy. These lagoons also offer protection of the young from killer whales and sharks.

In addition to the annual pattern of this long journey, there are interesting migration sub-patterns in time within the culture. Wikipedia describes this as follows (paraphrased):

“The first whales to arrive are usually pregnant mothers that look for the protection of the lagoons to bear their calves, along with single females seeking mates. By mid-February to mid-March, the bulk of the population has arrived in the lagoons, filling them with nursing, calving and mating gray whales.Throughout February and March, the first to leave the lagoons are males and females without new calves. Pregnant females and nursing mothers with their newborns are the last to depart, leaving only when their calves are ready for the journey, which is usually from late March to mid-April. Often a few mothers linger with their young calves well into May. By late March or early April, the returning northbound animals can be seen from from the shores of Washington State in the US as well as Canada.”

Gray Whale Video

Because gray whales are coastal migrators, their movements have been well observed by we humans. There is a great amount of detail available on the Internet. But, the questions of why and how are not really answered.  Since the thinking of a gray whale is elusive, our explanations emerge only through the lens of our anthropomorphic point of view. At best we can presume that a gray whale is a coastal navigator because the creature is capable of maintaining a memory map of geographic landmarks (they do seem to “spy hop” — look around) or of ocean current characteristics. Somehow, the young are able to imprint these clues — whatever they might be. And, it appears that these animals are able to communicate.

What fascinates me about all of this is that, beyond the patterns in time that seem to drive the gray whale, there is another pattern in Nature lurking beyond our cognitive lens. That pattern is intelligence. I firmly believe that the arrogant nature of we humans prohibits us from accepting the fact that animal intelligence may be at a much higher level than that which we are willing to give credit. The gray whale’s different activity patterns and separated arrival and departure times while at the lagoons is, to me, a clue that some kind of patterns of intelligence do exist because decisions appear to be made. The first part of the four minute video shows some form of cognition as the whales move up to the observer’s boats with apparent interest.

With your comments, please let me know what you think.

The Three Voices Of Nature

To Know Living Things

“The words of our grandmothers and grandfathers have taught us Respect for the Web of Life and the interdependence of all things in the Universe. The stories passed down through oral traditions remind us that we are all connected.” – Ancient Native American saying

“…I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay till sundown for going out, I found I was really going in” — John Muir

Ironwood ForestI spend a lot of time contemplating Nature as I write in my journal, capture photographic images, or simply meditate without a pen or a camera. My goal is to discern my perceptions of what I sense in Nature. I find that the process of encountering and recording natural patterns requires me to move several times between my aesthetic right brain self, my spiritual Being, and my analytical left brain. For example, when I encounter a beautiful dawn, I first respond to the golden beauty of that first light as it casts its glow upon the cactus and mountains that surround me. I’m then struck by the wholeness of the experience as I wonder about the numerous interrelationships within the scene and how I fit. I am a part of all of this. And then I ask: “How does this happen?” as I capture the image in my camera’s memory. Back and forth, I move from my aesthetic perception, on to the center of my soul, and then to my camera and my questions.

Is this perception aesthetic? Is it spiritual? Or, is it science? Clearly to me, it is all three. These three modes of perception I call the “Voices of Nature”. One of my respondents chooses to call them “points of view”. Whatever you choose to call them, these voices are inseparable and interrelated in their grand chorus.

Nature’s aesthetic voice communicates with our perceptual self – our physical senses of sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. It is beauty, form, and the dynamics of Nature’s patterns. Nature’s spiritual voice expresses the present moment as it communicates timelessness, sanctity and interrelationships amongst all things. Nature’s logical voice communicates tangible facts about Nature’s physical forces and how they come together to create form and process. It is our conceptual self that labels things and comes to logical conclusions.

Each voice offers its own unique perspective as one seeks to engage Nature. Nature’s aesthetic, spiritual, and analytical voices, the three cultures of art, the soul, and science, are essential partners. In the synergy of this partnership of the human mind and soul, one can behold Nature and her patterns in ways that none of these cultures could do alone. These voices come together in a harmony that forms and expands the senses. The human response is the excitement of exploration, adventure, and discovery.

 

Why Do I Write These Essays?

Nothing in Nature exists in isolation. The movement of life’s energy, which originates in the sun, takes place because everything is interconnected and interdependent. Your consciousness of interdependence in Nature means that, every time you engage Nature, you ask yourself how a creature, a plant, yourself, or a natural object is connected to another and to Nature’s greater scheme of things. With this awareness you are prepared to protect Nature’s environment that sustains you. And, you create your legacy by encouraging others to do likewise.

 

If, after reading my essays, you find yourself embracing these ideas, I am thrilled in knowing that I’ve played some small part in setting this world view in motion in your mind.

 

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 regular email announcements of new essays that I publish or popular essays that i have previously published. In these essays you will have the opportunity to share comments and ideas about a topic. Your security is important to me. Please know that your email address is never distributed to anyone.

 

You are strongly encouraged to become one of my 11,000+ followers on Twitter. My Twitter ID is @ballenamar . With Twitter, in addition to receiving daily Tweets that announce my essays, you will see when I retweet something that I read and that I think is important.

 

The Aesthetic Voice Of Nature

“The function of art is to free the spirit of man and to invigorate and enlarge his vision”
— Katherine Dreier

A human’s first encounter with a pattern in Nature is almost always accompanied by an emotion coming from our physical senses – usually stimulated by Nature’s beauty. Seeing a majestic mountain peak or dawn’s golden light, hearing the beautiful song of a bird, the smell of fresh rain, or feeling a rush of wind are all experiences of beauty provided to us by nature.

Aesthetic perception can evoke many emotions. According to Peter Saint-Andre:

“it can inspire, enlighten, send shivers up the spine, delight, anger, frighten; it can make one think, feel, shake one’s head in astonishment, cry, laugh out loud; it can evoke feelings of triumph, melancholy, light-heartedness, serenity, excitement, boredom, rightness, anxiety, joy, sorrow.”

Aesthetic perception offers the power of deep focus. For example, when one focuses the right brain through writing, sketching, or photography, one sees patterns and relationships that are otherwise overlooked.

Aesthetic perception can raise questions. But, there are questions with answers and questions without. Nature’s logical voice works on questions with answers – that is, a problem of such a kind and stated with such clarity that it is certain to have a definite answer. That answer may take ten years to find, or a hundred, but an answer exists. By contrast, in the world of aesthetics, the question is often more interesting than the answer, and often an answer doesn’t exist. How does one answer a question such as “What is beauty?” In Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet he says:

“We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.”

That first sensory encounter with a pattern in nature is accompanied by the emotion of a beautiful happening. No matter what might happen later, that first response is aesthetic. And, that aesthetic response is usually the avenue to a spiritual experience where one connects to Nature within one’s soul.

That spiritual experience is discussed in the next blog entry.

Your comments are welcome !!!

The Spiritual Voice Of Nature

“Even a stone, and more easily a flower or a bird, could show you the way back to God, to the Source, to yourself. When you look at it or hold it and let it be without imposing a word or a mental label on it, a sense of awe, of wonder, arises within you. Its essence silently communicates itself to you and reflects your own existence back to you.” — Eckhart Tolle

Nature’s spiritual voice emphasizes the depth of intimately “knowing” and not just “knowing about”. Not simply naming something and its attributes. It is the voice of value and meaning. It is the voice of sanctity – a voice of awe and reverence for all that lives. The spiritual voice evokes a search for the larger dimension of unity, context, and balance. A search for interrelationships. That search results in a deep resonance in the innermost center of our soul in which we lose our separateness and become one with Nature. That voice evokes a feelings of gratitude, awe, wonder, and being connected to a whole. Thoreau describes this as being “at oneness”.

Hearing Nature’s spiritual voice means being present to and engaged with whatever is happening at the moment. Listening to Nature’s spiritual voice is being free of a sense of time. Eckhart Tolle describes this as being in the “Now” – completely free of ties to the past or the future.

Nature’s spiritual voice communicates a reverence for life — a philosophy that says that the only thing we’re really sure of is that we live, and want to go on living. And this is something that we share with everything else that lives – from elephants to blades of grass. We are brothers and sisters to all living things. Albert Schweitzer expressed this idea of reverence for life, in “Out of My Life and Thought”.

“Who among us knows what significance any other kind of life has? 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.”

There is that aesthetic voice that speaks as we absorb the beauty of the moment. The wonder and awe of the color, the form, and the pattern. And there is the spiritual voice that speaks with sanctity as appreciate the interrelationship of an object with ourselves and our surroundings. That awe of knowing that everything somehow fits together.

But at some moment, we may yearn for another kind of understanding. Our left brain kicks in as it attempts to explain how and why an object is formed. We want to “know about” the beauty we are experiencing. The next blog entry emphasizes Nature’s logical voice.

Your comments are welcome !!

The Logical Voice Of Nature

A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be.
– Albert Einstein

Nature’s logical voice provides tangible labels, judgments, facts, analyses, and opinions about a pattern in nature. It is a voice that speaks with lists, numbers and computer simulations. It asks about such things as size, habitat, movements, and chemical makeup.

Nature’s analytical voice communicates patterns such as the center a sunflower where the florets are laid out in a definite geometric order. The angle between one floret and its outbound neighbor along a spiral, is a constant angle of 137.51 degrees. This empirical observation leads to questions (and further research) about why this arrangement exists. In fact, we find that this and other spiral arrangements are ubiquitous in nature. We see spirals in sea shells, sheep horns, strawberries, and pine cones – to name a few.

This process of exploration and discovery can become a stunning synthesis of the aesthetic, the spiritual, and the ideas of modern science. The analytical has a strangely spiritual component to its voice as it defines factual unities amongst seemingly diverse patterns in nature. There are similar patterns of order, symmetry, self similarity, self organization, Fibonacci numbers, scaling patterns, and networks across widely diverse natural objects. Almost always, these logical sequences produce patterns that have a strong aesthetic appeal as well. Fractal images, for example. What is quite surprising is that many of these unities work in harmony with each other. They are interrelated.

So, nature’s analytical voice can express, in quantitative terms, the harmony and the interrelationships that are communicated by nature’s aesthetic and spiritual voices.

The next and final post in this series on Nature’s voices summarizes these ideas. Please feel free to comment.

A Synthesis Of Nature’s Voices

“Great things are done when men and mountains meet.”
-William Blake

Nature’s three voices, the aesthetic, the spiritual, and the logical, are separate expressions from Nature that are deeply interrelated and sing in harmony. Science has shown that there are many diverse patterns in Nature that exhibit similar characteristics that are interrelated. It is almost as if Nature’s spiritual voice that focuses on relationships is in synergy with Nature’s logical voice. Moreso, these same patterns in Nature exhibit great aesthetic beauty in their symmetry, order, and self similarity. Again, a joining of voices.

In my view, it is difficult to explain the synergy of these three points of view simply as happening by chance alone or simply a product of our imagination. The trend is way too prevalent in Nature. The synergy exists between seemingly diverse patterns in Nature. In metaphorical terms, Nature’s patterns are interconnected and sing together with the same three voices.

I leave the reader to ponder this Unity of voices among Nature’s patterns — both animate and inanimate.

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.

The Character of Nature’s Patterns

I am a nature photographer because photography provides a wonderful conduit for engaging patterns in nature.  I am not looking for wildlife “trophy” shots or artistic landscapes that can be hung on a wall.  I am looking for encounters with nature where I am engaged at a perceptual and spiritual level. Whether I get a picture is secondary to the experience of my senses. The joy of living in that moment becomes paramount.

Mike Moats is also a nature photographer. Like myself, he publishes eBooks on his special areas of expertise. He has published a wonderful book called Finding Character In Nature. He emphasizes the importance of “…finding the features that reveal the unique character of a flower, leaf, rock, or pattern in the earth…”.  Mike says that distinctive shapes, remarkable lines, exceptional contrast, unusual patterns, unique textures, and special lighting are all character. All of the items in his list appeal to the perceptual — the senses. For this reason, I believe that Mike’s list is important.

Miksang is a Tibetan word meaning “good eye”. It is a form of contemplative photography that attempts to bring the viewer back into the original contemplative state of the author of an image. Miksang requires letting go of the currents of mental activity that obscure our natural insight and awareness. With a quiet spirit that permits living in the present moment, one is able to let his or her senses engage the character of nature’s patterns that Mike Moats mentions.

So, find yourself a quiet spot in the woods or seashore. Acquire a quiet spirit by shaking off past and future thoughts – focusing only on the present moment. Then, through your perceptual senses, lock your soul onto a pattern in nature and engage its special character. Its distinctive shapes, its remarkable lines, its exceptional contrast, its unusual patterns, its unique textures, or the special lighting by which it is illuminated.

Thank you Mike for a wonderful idea.