the art of doing meditative nature photography

Life Is a balancing act… and nature understands

Some days upside-down and barley hanging on by our toes, other days perched way up high and on top of the world

Heck, not just some days! It’s true of ‘some years’, ‘some months’, ‘some projects’…

I was on top of the world at the beginning of last summer, reveling in sunny warm weather, daily hikes in nature with my camera, and progress on my book coming along beautifully. But by September I was barely hanging on by my toes. A crippling medical issue had brought my photography jaunts in nature to a grinding halt. I couldn’t bear the pain of sitting at the computer to write, either, and despair was wrapping its ugly arms around me in an unwelcomed grizzly hug.

This book began as a delightful exploration of finding our balance through time in nature. (See the post: Welcome to balance through the lens.) But in some grand karmic joke my life absolutely became a balancing act as I wrapped up the last few months of photography and editing. On one side of the cosmic balancing scales sat my happy desire to complete the project, my love of my daily photographic jaunts in nature, and a sweet anticipation of the satisfaction I would feel when it was finally done. Heaped on the other side of the scale like a pile of bricks was my old nemesis- an excruciating neuralgia (nerve pain) in my left cheek, left over from a not-so-fun adventure with shingles eight years prior.

It had been many years since the pain had flared up, but evidently the stress of- okay, I’ll admit it- somewhat obsessive photography, too little sleep, and my kids just starting middle and high school had pushed me over the edge. A month after the first twinge, I was also down with bronchitis, probably brought on by the constant worry of it all, my disappointment at (I thought) not being able to finish the book before year’s end, and the frustration of being denied my daily hike-n-shoot. My time in nature is the air I breathe. It gives me freshness, light, and joy.  It also gives me a few aches and pains. Let me explain…

(Click on any of my photographs to see an enlarged image)

 My husband is perpetually embarrassed when I’m doing nature photography. I once posted on Facebook that it was akin to engaging in contortionist yoga with a two pound camera in your hand! Well, that’s how you get fabulous pictures of bugs’ eyes and bunny faces. You bend over, twist around, lie in the dirt, wiggle through trees and bushes, and basically make and enthusiastic ass of yourself in public. My husband thinks I look like a dork. But people on the trails usually just smile and ask me what I’m taking a picture of. They think it’s cute and funny. He thinks it’s silly. But I don’t care. At times I can be a very shy person, but that just disappears when I’m chasing chickadees, gawking at fields of wildflowers, or whispering softly to deer, “It’s ok, I’m just here to take your picture! Want to pose for me?”  Well, the animals seem to think I’m pretty cool- they almost always hang around and pose for me. And the humans who think I’m a dork? Oh, well, I’m too happy to care, usually…

With the throbbing pain in my face spreading to my head, my neck, and my shoulder, and the bronchitis in my chest, I could no longer Gumby myself like a master Yogi to take pictures of tansy asters hiding under shady bushes. I couldn’t bend over to meet the bugs eye-to-eye. A good trot through the trees chasing scrub jays raised my blood pressure too much, and set the nerve to throbbing and my lungs whining. My days as some nature yoga diva were ground to a screeching halt. And wow was that depressing.

My sanity comes from my time in nature. It truly is meditation through the lens. It is balancing, restorative, relaxing and exhilarating all at once. Odd that writing a book about that threw me out of balance! But I think I needed to be reminded, viscerally, of what kinds of challenges we all really do face. Modern life is stressful, no doubt about it. And I’ve had my share of stress. Our family has had its share. I think that’s what drew me out on to the trails in the first place. Seeking my own balance as water seeks its own level. That’s why I wrote the book- and why I write this blog and post on Facebook- to bring others with me on the hiking path to the glorious land of equilibrium and sanity. This is a crazy world. And we need some un-crazy.

So I guess that in order to really mean what I was publishing, to really share some deep and profound truth, I had to really live the balancing act. So in the process of writing this book I got the full ride on the cosmic balancing scales. But if I’ve learned anything from my time in nature it is resilience. I write about it several times in the book. Something tries to cut you down to size? Brush it off and grow back even stronger than you were. Trip and fall right on your face? Hey, it happens to the best of us. Smile and keep going like nothing ever happened.

So along this book journey I made a conscious choice- to look to each new tomorrow with hope, joy, and love. What else could I do? I’d learned from the best, from those who don’t over-think it as we silly humans do, to just flow like the water, not underestimate myself, and keep my best side showing. I chose not to let anything fence me in and I never stopped reaching. I chose to believe the future could be as bright as I made it. In short, I took the advice that I’d perceived in nature and written in to the book. Life is truly a balancing act, and I’m glad nature understands.

I’m healthy and back on the trails, now, even in the cold of winter. Just the other day I spent time with the most raucous flock of American robins.  A feast of juniper berries had them flapping about by balanced rock in Garden of the Gods. They were so happy, in spite of the 22 degrees on the car thermometer, and sharing their morning with them, focusing through the lens on their joy, I was happy, too.

So I’m done hanging on by my toes- for today, anyway. And like my little robin friends, here, I’m perched way up high and on top of the world.

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Comments on: "Some days upside-down and barely hanging on by our toes, other days perched way up high and on top of the world" (2)

  1. Gorgeous and so inspiring!

  2. Love the pictures and the words. Keep it going! You are a talented photographer.

    Sonia

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