the art of doing meditative nature photography

Posts tagged ‘birds’

Popping Up to Say Hello, but Knowing When to Rest: A Life Lesson From Illness and Chickadees

I was on quite a roll for a while, blogging consistently, doing my meditative nature photography and sharing it with whomever was willing to listen. Spring break came along and I took a week off from writing and photography to spend quality time with my kids. I’d just gotten back into the swing of things when life threw a new curve ball at me.

I’ve been proverbially upside-down and hanging by my toes.

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

Back in February, the first post I’d written based on my book was “Some days upside-down and barely hanging on by our toes, other days perched way up high and on top of the world”. The pictures were of chickadees exemplifying those experiences rather nicely. In that post I recounted how I’d both used meditative nature photography to face a medical issue, and how my daily nature photography finally had been ground to a halt by the illness.

Well, after a nice little run of “on top of the world”, I’ve found myself hanging by my toes again. I’ve done very little photography lately- the pollen count of 11.5 was making that a miserable experience, and too much time braving the wafting particulate monsters apparently lowered my resistance, resulting in me becoming rather ill.

One of the hardest things for me to do since my kids have been born (and they’re now 12 and 15!) has been to allow myself time to rest. They’ve been fairly high maintenance little people (both with truly significant health needs of their own) and there’s never been much time to take any “me time” whatsoever. Moms don’t often get the luxury of “time off” when sick or exhausted. We just work through it. Motherhood doesn’t stop and wait for us. With my kids that was absolutely the case. And I in no way mean that in the whiny tone of a martyr. I adore my kids and being a mom! But I won’t deny that at times it’s been hard.

So now that my kids are older and in better health, I’m having to completely re-learn how to take care of me. I’m re-learning how to slow down, listen to my body and soul, and just take time off. When this illness hit me, I was annoyed. How dare some little germs interfere with my time in nature, my photography, my sheer joy and “me time”? Hmf!

Well, as reality would have it, germs really don’t care if you “hmf” at them. Sick is sick and recovery time is recovery time. No amount of running the trails or photographing gorgeous spring blossoms can make you well when you’re really not.

I realize that my frustration with getting sick is because I had so little time off when my kids were younger. So now that I do have time for me, I relish it. I revel in it. On my daily nature hikes I’m like a kid in a candy store. Everything excites me; I can’t take it all in fast enough. I indulge myself in this self-pampering. I soak it all in with a zest for life and a passion for experience. I’m kind of unstoppable.

After all, I have years to make up for! Years when the kids who needed me came first. There was no “nature hiking for fun” then. So now that my life has the space for that, the sacred me time for that, I don’t surrender it easily. I’ll push through the offensive pollen, cold weather, even falling snow to get my outdoor communion with the deer and flowers and chickadees. This is my time, dang it, and I cling to it unyieldingly.

So this past ten days or so I’ve been fighting the need to rest. I started out pushing myself, then slowed down, then just collapsed in exhausted surrender.

And then today I remembered the last group of pictures I took as I slowed down- it was these chickadees, just like from the February post. Oh, the juicy ironies of life.

So here I blog about hanging by my toes again, poring through a folder of photographs of chickadees, giggling at the synchronicity, but interestingly, noticing that in most of the pictures the chickadees are simply being still.

Sigh. Nature delivers yet another life lesson to me. Time to stop and listen to her wise whispers.

It’s just that, well, I’ve been resisting her message.

I have a few friends here on wordpress who deal with chronic illness and pain, and who use nature photography as a healing tool as well. (An excellent blog is throughthehealinglens!)

One of the ironies I’m learning to navigate in my life is that the thing that is most healing to me- my time in nature, especially with a camera, can be thwarted all too easily by health issues. The irony is tough. What heals me, centers me, allows me the space to be healthy, well, sane, happy, and fit can also be the hardest for me to accomplish when I’m not feeling well.

But if I just stop and listen to all of the lessons nature has taught me, all of the hints on how to live well, I see clearly that nature knows when it is time to rest. In the fall, the trees don’t make a fuss about resting for the winter. They just do it. When my chickadee friends, here, had done enough flitting about, they rested. And they didn’t look annoyed about it. So I need to stop being depressed about not running the trails lately. I need to stop being frustrated by my lack of chickadee time. I need to get over missing a few of the flowers blooming this year.

But that’s the great thing about nature photography. I have pictures from all these years of meditating through the lens to pore through and look at. Nature is there for me, in photographic form, day or night, good weather or bad, sick or well.

So today I’ll peruse my folders of photos and enjoy all the nature I’ve had the joy and privilege of experiencing over the years. I’ll let myself get lost in nature’s images; I’ll let nature’s lessons come to me. I’ll be grateful for the wonderful technology that is digital photography, the marvel that allows me to re-live memories in vivid and colorful detail.

So I’m popping my head up to say hello to my blogosphere buddies. I’m not sure if I’ll be back full-time right away. This time I intend to rest as long as I actually need to! I hear the chickadees calling me to come play, but I’ll wait ’till mother nature lets me know that I’m truly up for it.

So see you soon, my cute little nature friends, I’ll be back for your doses of wisdom soon enough.

Until then… Today’s Life Lesson from Nature:

Advertisements

Why I Love My Hiking Boots (Why My Office Hours are Chickadee to Full Moon!)

I love my hiking boots.

My hiking boots remind me that my office hours are “first morning chickadee chirp” to “wow look at that midnight Moon”.

Hmm… I guess that means I work all day, but hey, such is the life of the work-at-home-writer/ work-in-the-wild photographer.

These boots are the physical representation of my life on the trails. As I see them sitting next to my desk, they’re looking somewhat like a dog staring longingly at a leash, begging to be walked. My boots are waiting patiently to be taken out on a hike. I swear my dog gets jealous of my boots on the days it’s too cold or wet for him to come along!

These well-worn pieces of footwear describe me.

My hiking boots mean that my “research” for my writing gets to be trotting along looking at grand vistas.

My hiking boots say that I’m adventurous, even when the terrain is filled with boulders and prickly beings ready to poke me if I dare to bump in to them!

My hiking boots give me traction. I don’t always have the best traction out on the trails. I’m often caught in spots where the footing isn’t so great. Well, isn’t the same sometimes true in life?

I often feel like I can’t find my traction, like I’m slipping, sliding, or stuck. I feel it on the trails and in moving through this world. Even in writing this blog and my books I feel it! Some days the traction is there, and I’m on a metaphorical run down the dusty, winding path. Other days, I’m lost for words, lost in the trees, lost in a fog, or just plain, well, lost

As the boots give traction on the trail, my hikes in nature give traction in my life. My boots anchor me steadily to the ground beneath my feet. Hiking anchors me in this world. It gives me perspective, a grounding point from which all other things are measured. It is my sanity, my balance, my joy. I can handle what life throws at me when I know the mountains will be there for me, whether I need the trees to whisper softly to me or the birds to sing my blues away.

My boots give me support. They wrap my feet up and keep my arches from pancaking. Trotting on trails and hiking to new heights can be stressful on the tootsies. It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Well, those rugged roads we travel chasing our dreams are craggy and uneven, challenging us at every twist and turn. We fight to keep our fragile footing and not lose our balance or our way. Sounds like quite the trek. Better have supportive footwear.

My boots protect me. They are my armor against the twigs, boulders, bee stings and prickly pear cacti out to maul my toes. Hiking in nature protects me. It is like getting the clearcoat protectant at the carwash. Time in the outdoors braces me against the harshness of modern life. Wandering in the wilderness gives me both a gentle eye for beauty and a toughness that only the rugged outdoors brings out in us. Nature forces me to handle it all- the wind, the cold, the snow, the rain, the relentless sun, the bugs, the aches, and the pains. Nature makes me sturdy.

My hiking boots get me up the hill to where these flowers wait for spring to arrive, to bloom again and let the sun kiss their leaves and petals. My time in nature gets me up the hills in life. Wandering the forests on lush mountain trails inspires me to create my own internal spring. It brings out my own desires to bloom, to grow, to be more than I am and keep reaching for who I could be.

My hiking boots whisper to me… “Let’s go to the trails!”

They take me along the path, and help me find new friends.

They tell me, “Remember, your office hours are from ‘first chickadee chirp at sunrise’ to ‘full moon lighting your late-night trail’….”

I do love my hiking boots.

And don’t even get me started on how much I love my camera…

Lean In and Listen to Life’s Sweet Whispers

What is life telling you?

Are you even listening?

Have you ever noticed how often we find ourselves scrambling madly about, “looking” for answers to life’s biggest questions. We’re shouting at the wind, often loudly, all 7 billion of us. A confused and befuddled lot we are, creating a cacophonous roar of humanity, all screaming, “What am I supposed to do?!”

I hike in nature nearly every day. I see animals making decisions, encountering obstacles, dealing with predators, building nests and seeking out the nourishment they need to face another day. And while the occasional noisy uproar takes place, for the most part they‘re not a screaming bunch. If anything, they’re a pleasant, musical bunch, happily going about their business with tweets and chirps. They’re not generally freaking out or creating any sort of inharmonious hullabaloo.

How do they do it?

Why are these wild animals, out in the dangerous “wild” so generally at peace? What do these cute little critters know that we don’t?

They listen to the whispers of life. They’re quiet enough to hear them. These seemingly meek and simple creatures exist in a very natural state, uncluttered by the demands, the noise, the chaos of our modern human lives. They know when to shut up, be still, and tune in.

They do far more listening than chattering.

Even the much-maligned squirrel, the notorious “spaz” of the forest, actually spends a great deal of time just being still. Just, well, being. They spend hours lounging lazily on comfy bark-covered branches. And when they need information to help them make a decision, they don’t run around chirping and squeaking and chattering madly. They stop, hang from a tree, and just listen.

Human critters don’t spend enough time listening. The squirrel only chatters when it has to. When it’s figuring something out (including what the heck that clicking sound is coming from my camera), it is quiet. It tunes in. It listens and absorbs information instead of shouting at the wind that it doesn’t know what to do. I think we humans need to learn a little critter wisdom!

Today I got fabulous practice in the art of listening and lending an ear.

Ironically, in the middle of writing this, I spent two hours conversing with a dear friend in the throes of a mammoth life upheaval. Oh, boy, out came my human instinct to talk! But instead I listened. I stared at the draft of this post as we talked and made sure I really listened. And then she listened. I listened because she needed someone to hear her news, and she listened because there was information I had that she needed. In the stillness of the space we created, information could get through and understanding could be born. In that space we could hear answers, whispered softly across the ocean from one friend to the other. That’s how good communication works.

The answers are there for us, just as the animals know. Sometimes all we need is to quiet our minds and discover that the answers, really, are within us. We know what to do, if we just listen to ourselves, and listen for the cues the world offers to us. Stop shouting “What’s the answer?!” long enough to hear the reply.

Animals know that whatever information they seek is probably right in front of them. We humans may think we have the smartest brains, but wisdom lives in all kinds of beings. Pride won’t get in the way of me seeing that I could learn something from a stellar’s jay. Arrogance won’t blind me to the sage-like ways of the raven who stands confidently on the cliff’s edge, waiting, listening.  Humility moves in and tells me I’m the student of life, here.

I’ll gladly walk in the paws of the wise squirrel who hangs in the stillness, the attentive bunny who cocks her little head to hear more clearly, and in the feet of the astute chickadee who holds on tight and listens to life’s sweet whispers.