the art of doing meditative nature photography

Archive for the ‘Posts based on the book’ Category

It Takes Courage to Open Yourself Up in an Uncertain World

Even though it takes courage to open yourself up in an uncertain world

Do it anyway

I love to take my inspiration from nature, from the natural wisdom that all sorts of funky little living things seem to have. They just live their lives, with a natural ease that lets them go for it. In the countless flowers I’ve photographed I’ve never seen a blossom seem to hesitate, second guess itself, or stay closed forever for fear of the big bad world.

Instead, they gently, confidently unfurl themselves for all to behold. No fears, just an air of poise and coolness, like they know that this is what they’re supposed to do.

I blogged the other day about the sweet sensation of anticipation in buds, and in writing this I guess I’m continuing that train of thought to the courage of flowers.

This blog is a new act of courage for me.

I’m learning the ropes and putting my feelers out. I’m offering my tidbits of insight and beauty I see in nature. I’m offering up my heart.

In life it can be so easy for us to feel like we want to stay closed up. “Playing it safe” is a game that’s addictively popular in our culture. Times get tough, sometimes we get burned, we know what it feels like to lose or get hurt, and before you know it, we’ve closed up.

The funny thing is, that’s what makes this little amethyst-colored gem of beauty my perfect analogy for this post. The pasque flower opens in shady conditions but closes up tight in bright sunlight. It seems to share that fear of the spotlight that many of us have- that fear of opening ourselves up to being vulnerable.

Now I suppose I could look at this lovely lavender life-form and think to myself, see, even in nature there are shy things that keep themselves hidden from the world.

But I think there’s another, wiser way to look at our little purple friend, here. The pasque flower knows how to be true to itself. It opens itself right up in subtle daylight, but feels no need for the glaring spotlight; it knows itself well enough to say, “I’m a little more introverted than that!”

Yes, I know flowers can’t talk, but nonetheless I can relate to this fuzzy beauty. Being something of an introvert myself, the pasque flower feels like a kindred spirit.

That’s one of the great things about nature. We can always find something out there that we can relate to. There’s a “muse” out there for everyone. (One of these days I’ll be blogging about all the ways I am like a squirrel- watch for it- it should be pretty darn funny!)

It does take courage to open up, and it also takes timing. It’s not the timing you set by some rigid schedule that you demand. For the pasque flower cannot demand when the sun rises and sets, nor can it demand the clouds come because it feels like being open. No, it’s at the whim and mercy of Mother Nature like the rest of us.

So here I blog, sharing words and pictures when the timing is right, and when I’m being true to myself.

After all, I can’t go through life thinking I have less courage than a flower. I couldn’t walk down the trails and face them anymore! I don’t want to ever look down at the courageous, naturally easy flowers and say, “Yes, I know you opened up, but I just couldn’t do it.”

So as spring blossoms over the coming weeks I’m going to proudly tell the flowers I meet, “Hey, guys! I did it! Thanks for the inspiration!”  All right, I know, people are going to look at me a little strangely, but hey, opening yourself up in an uncertain world takes courage, whether you talk to the flowers or not…


Ugh. If It’s One of Those Days, Just Try to Keep Your Best Side Showing!

Ugh. If it’s one of those days

Just try to keep your best side showing.

Oh, boy is it one of those days!

It’s official. I am blaming writer’s block, creativity block, and ability-to-write-worth-a-darn block on my allergies. Pollen has taken over my brain, and my thoughts are as congested as my nose.

And to think, spring is my “favorite season”. Hmm, I may re-think that and demote spring for its pollen-y rudeness.

It’s hard to chase rainbows when you’re sneezing. Yet that’s what I do every day! As a nature photographer and writer, doing daily nature photography is the air I breathe. My hiking adventures nourish me with the inspiration, purpose, and meaning I need to be happy. This past week, however, has been a bit of a foggy, sneezy blur.

So this week’s post based on the book is about keeping your best side showing. Although for me that’s a bit tough today, given that my nose looks a bit like Rudolph’s and my eyes look like they belong on a puffer fish.

No doubt today my best side is not quite as lovely as this little flower’s.

But that’s okay, for it’s our inner beauty that counts in life. It’s putting our best self forward that matters, regardless of the situation, be it red stuffy noses or a few embarrassingly missing petals. And though my brain is a bit befuddled with the wafting bud-dust of spring, I’m still giving my best effort, best side forward to the world.

My usual hike with my camera was cut short today, by chilly dropping temperatures and a mighty wind stirring up whole clouds of my pollen nemesis.

So it’s a bit of an “ugh” day for me.

I get the impression this little scrub jay knows what I mean. He looks befuddled, too.

But since I can’t breathe without a little joy from nature every day, I came home and made my own.

I am admittedly a little bit nuts about rainbows. Since I was a small child I have collected prisms of all shapes and sizes. I hang them in every south facing window and let them splash wiggling light splotches of joy all over my home. They look like flocks of crystal birds hanging delicately in the sun.

Today I was grateful for the miracle of just enough sunlight, peeking through the clouds of our approaching Colorado spring snowstorm, finding its way through my prisms’ glass bevels. My hike in nature may have been cut short, but I still chased my dreams… and I literally caught a rainbow today.

I just made the best of a kind of lousy circumstance!

My allergies won’t last forever, and this spring storm will pass. Maybe it will even create a nice rainbow as it drifts on by! One way or the other I’ll put on my best Rudolph the puffer fish face and head out on the trails again, looking for rainbows and glorious signs of spring. My nose may dislike spring, but my eyes know it to be a magnificent season of rebirth and beauty.

It’s a dazzling season to chase dreams in, full of the inspiration of buds, blooms, and bears bravely emerging from their winter slumber to live a new adventure.

So I’ll be brave, too, and keep hiking despite the pollen, and I’ll be sure to remember what I learned from the lovely red-and-yellow gaillardia flower- just keep your best side showing.

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

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.