the art of doing meditative nature photography

Posts tagged ‘healing’

A Celebration of National Wildflower Week

May 4th-12 is National Wildflower Week! I would be remiss in my duties as a lover/photographer of wildflowers if I didn’t share some Colorado beauty in celebration. So, a collection of just a few of my favorite wildflower shots from the past few years…:)

One of the most uplifting aspects of spending time in nature is being soaked through your senses in beauty. There’s beauty in the smells of nature, the sounds, the feel of the sun on your skin and the wind through your hair. But come spring and the arrival of wildflowers, the eyes are offered the biggest treats. Splashes of color and grace blanket wild landscapes in lush displays of nature’s grandeur. Delicate, sunny faces smile at us with a cheery “Hello!”

May you all be uplifted by wildflowers this week! Enjoy all that nature offers us to heal, center, and delight us.

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Do Everything in Life From a Place of Love

Do everything in life

from a place of love

Nearly every day I am blessed to see the “Kissing Camels” rock formation at Garden of the Gods.

I always find life lessons in nature, and this lovely red rock has softly been speaking to me for years.

It is a gentle visual push to soften my heart.

It is an unspoken voice telling me to be open.

It reminds me to always act from a place of love

rather than fear

or anger, or jealousy,

or any of the emotional states that sabotage our well-being and close us off from the love we all need.

(Click to see enlarged images!)

We all shed tears after any tragedy, hurt, or loss. (In memory of Grandpa)

In memory of Otis Persons

1929-2012

Today my husband’s Grandfather passed away.

To relieve our sadness the kids and I went for a hike, and found this this tree that was badly burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire last month.

It seemed to be weeping along with us, and I felt the connectedness, resilience, fragility, and specialness of life.

We love you grandpa…

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:

The Healing Surprise of Sweet Deer on the Trail

I blogged last week about the sweet anticipation of flower buds hanging on the edge of blooming.

Anticipation is one of my favorite sensations in life, but another feeling caught me today and set my soul beaming with joy- “happy surprise”.

This morning was far too cold to stay out hiking for very long. I stopped at my usual morning “meet the animals” spots to say hello, see who was up to what, and see if any critters wanted to pose for my camera today. But apparently all the critters at Garden of the Gods thought it was too cold to play, too.

For two weeks, now, I’ve been watching a pair of magpies build a nest, but they weren’t in a building mood today. No, today they were just shivering on a branch. The mountain cottontails that hop about playing “chase” games this time of year were off hiding under the bushes.

The spunky family of fox squirrels I love to hang out with were nowhere to be found, and the landscape in this very early part of spring still has a bland look to it. That meant even the mountains and great stones of Garden of the Gods weren’t all that exciting this morning.

So I decided to spare my fingertips the agony of frozen nature photography. No, I decided. Go home and catch up on some house cleaning today.

And with that, I set off for home.

But on the way out of the park after leaving the magpie homestead there’s one more turn in the road I had to pass. This stretch of road runs alongside the stunning, towering rock formation known as “Cathedral Rock” (left in the top picture, blocking Pikes Peak), and as I approached it in the morning sun, I saw I was not alone.

My dear friends, the deer, a small herd of does and fawns that roam the park, were doing their happy morning munching on the hill in front of the south face of the great stone. Some had crossed the road; others to the west seemed to be thinking about it.

I parked and jogged up the hill, just in time for a mother and her babies to cross right in front of me on the trail, between me and the great stone Cathedral Rock.

I couldn’t have timed it any better had I actually tried.

Once they had all crossed the road and settled in on the hill in front of me, I couldn’t help but stand there in awe and reflect on the graceful timing of our encounter. Five minutes earlier, my cute deer buddies would have still been deeper in the park, out of sight. Ten minutes later, they would have been all the way over the ridge they were climbing.

So what are the chances that I would happen upon them, at just this magnificent moment, to cross the very path I was walking? How did I get so blessed as to spend the morning with these placid sweeties, when my mind had been in such a funk and on such a mundane mission: to go clean the house?

I have long told friends who were facing indecision, an unclear or boring path, or who are in crisis to stop trying to figure things out. So often in life, the answer, the solution, the inspiration that leads to the change we need comes not from thinking our way through something. It often does not come from reasoning, plotting, planning, strategizing or analyzing (shocking advice from me, a trained philosopher!). It comes, all on its own, when we just relax, and let life unfold, naturally.

Today I tried to plan my morning, in a nice, responsible, practical way. Looking back my thoughts amuse me. Yes, Suze, spare your hands the cold today. Yes, yes, go home and do the dishes and vacuum, that’s a much more reasonable use of this time.

Ha! Inspiration knows nothing of reason, and I have made a choice in life to follow the inspired path, to trek the tantalizing trail, to flow like water and see where the muse of nature takes me.

That’s when the inspiring things happen. That’s when the clouds part and the angels sing and the herd of deer crosses in front of the great stone at just the moment I happened to go by. Ah, that’s the path I’m taking.

What will heal a problem is so often something you cannot foresee. What will thrill you is often something you cannot foresee, either.

I’ve had some emotional pain to deal with this week, and the disorientation of a hectic, out-of-sorts, busy schedule. I had no idea how much I needed some down time to just let my soul do some healing. I had no idea how much I needed a little thrill.

When we’re stressed there’s nothing quite like having an experience where time suspends, emotions soften, thinking quiets, and all becomes still and wonderful. In those moments, when we’re truly in the present- not in the past, not in the future, not in worry or tension or pressure- we can heal. Answers come, smiles appear, paths seem clearer, and life takes on a new lightness.

So after I’d taken enough pictures to exhaust my poor camera (I do work the poor thing hard!), I sat down in the dirt. The one momma doe looked a little quizzically at me at first, but then decided to ignore me and give her baby a bath.

These deer have seen me and my annoying clicking machine before. Perhaps she remembered that, and knew I was okay to hang out with this morning. So I stayed with the little herd. They munched and played, groomed and bathed. And I sat a few feet away, enjoying their gentle sweet presence, their relaxed, quiet ways, their big brown eyes and the crunching of twigs.

I had a morning full of bliss. Not the morning I’d “planned”. No, this was way better than that….

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.