Saturday, November 13, 2010


Perhaps it is trite to say this, but nature is, indeed, an amazing artist!  If you have any doubt, just look at the interplay of color, form, and reflections in this little scene that I discovered near my home late one afternoon earlier in the week.  For one blissful and surreal moment, I felt that I was standing in the middle of a Monet painting.

Amazingly, this scene was found next to a well-traveled bridge on the upper headwaters of the Tred Avon River.  Cars were crossing the bridge incessantly while I stood on the riverbank, but no one seemed to notice the miracle of light that was occurring not more than fifty feet from the road.  Strange, isn't it?  The magic can be so close, yet most people are too busy to notice it.

After discovering this lovely scene by happenstance, I decided to take a more disciplined approach to my photography this week.  More specifically, I made sure that, camera in hand, I was near some body of tranquil water during the hour just after sunrise and the hour just before sunset, the two hours of day when the light is usually at its best, especially in mid-November.  A few of the photos taken this week are set forth below, paired with some relevant thoughts about the role that nature plays in the preservation of our sanity.

Some of these photos are representational, while others are abstract.  Each image, however, reflects that beauty than can be discovered on rivers, lakes, and ponds during the luminous days of autumn.  Enjoy!

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

I'll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.

Emily Dickinson 

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

Civilization has fallen out of touch with night. With lights, we drive the holiness and the beauty of night back to the forests and the seas; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it.  Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of the night?  Do they fear the vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars?

Henry Beston,
"The Outermost House" 

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night . . .
Rachel Carson 

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
Lao Tzu 

Each moment of the year has its own beauty . . . a picture which was never before and shall never be seen again.

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
e.e. cummings 

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
Walt Whitman 

We simply need that wild country available to us, even if we never do more than drive to its edge and look in.  For it can be a means of assuring ourselves of our sanity as creatures, a part of the geography of hope.
Wallace Stegner 

When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be — I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.  I come into the peace of wild things . . .

Wendell Berry 

If the only prayer you said in your life was, "thank you," that would suffice.
Meister Eckhart

Peace to everyone and thank you! 


  1. Fantastic images. We see herons occasionally here, near the Scioto River. They look so wild and otherworldly flying with their legs shooting out behind. The Beston quote struck a chord with me, since I've started taking my daily walk at twilight and walk until it is completely and deliciously dark.

  2. To Willow,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Willow. We have an abundance of great blue herons on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where I live. In some places nearby, I am reminded of a Dylan Thomas poem in which he spoke of the "heron-priested shore."

    The Beston quote also resonates with me. Sometimes, I think we have lost the ability to sit in darkness and stare in wonder at the stars. I love Beston's question: Do modern people fear "the austerity of the stars?"

  3. What a lovely, thoughtful post. Love the quotes That first shot is simply stunning…though if I had to pick only one, I believe it would be the third down, the flaming reflection. Luckily, I can look at them all again and again.

    This post reminds me I must dig out my copy of Outermost House; it has been years since I've read it. BTW, I'm terribly envious of your heron shots.

  4. So many of us don't have the time to spare to go out into "the peace of wild things", perhaps we simply don't live close enough or we miss the silence and peace altogether because the clamour of everyday life gets in the way.

    It takes a measure of serenity to start with to see and hear what your pictures here describe. I recently watched a heron for a good long time, leaning on the edge of some safety railings above the river bank. I was on a footpath which others used while I was standing there. Nobody really stopped and stared with me. Everybody walked on after giving a very cursory glance at the magnificent bird, who pursued his delicate dance of almost hypnotising fish out of the fast running water regardlessly.

    What else do you need to meditate. Nothing.

    What tricks do you use to produce such magnificent pictures?

  5. To Grizz,

    Thanks, as always, for the kind comments, my friend. The reflections are just stunning this time of the year; one only needs to be there and pay attention at the appointed hour, as you well know, I'm sure.

    Envious of my heron shots? Coming from a skilled photographer such as you, this is the ultimate compliment. I can only give credit to the herons, which we find in abundance in this area, especially in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, the site of the two heron shots featured in this posting.

    I simply love the quote from Beston. As I said in the above response to Willow, I share the view that we are forfeiting something vital when people lose the ability to sit in darkness and stare at the stars.

  6. Fabulous, George! Thank you. Lovely throughout. I especially like the Whitman quotation which would go well with the photo above "the leaping greenly spirits of trees" ee cummings quote with its leaves of grass in the foreground.

  7. You possess the ability to truly "see," George - an amazing gift that you share with others. It's funny how we pick a favorite. Though I'm taken with all the intense fall colors in many of the photos, the one with darkness cast over glittering water immediately took me back in time about 15 years to when I stood on the shore in New Zealand, looking out to sea and watching black swans bob on the water. I remembered the happiness of that time while looking at your photo. Thank you.

  8. To Friko,

    I think you're right, Friko, about the need to have some measure of serenity at the outset if one is to discover and meditate upon the loveliness of nature. Learning how to see is the key for me, and I have been working on it for a lifetime.

    No tricks are used in the photos. After being an avid photographer for forty years or so, I have learned how to compose photographs and get the most from my camera, its settings, and my lens. Beyond this, its a matter of learning to see and then trying to find the best light in which to photograph what one has seen. Most of the shots featured in this posting were taken in small windows of time early or late in the day. Without the light of those particular moments, the photos would have fallen flat.

    Thanks for the lovely and thoughtful comments.

  9. To Dan,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Dan. I, too, love that Whitman quote about the "journey-work of the stars."

  10. To Barb,

    Thanks for the generous comments, Barb, and I am especially delighted that you like the photo with the darkness cast over the glittering water. I intentionally underexposed this photo to make the distant shoreline completely black, to prevent overexposure form the sun sparkles, and to silhouette the geese. How lovely to know that the photo evoked memories of a wonderful moment in your past. Thanks again for sharing that recollection.

  11. Thank you.

    It does not suffice. :-) Your work George demands more of a response than that!

    Simply stunning, inspiring ... and somehow deeply comforting. I could happily float away forever on the third one.

  12. To Bonnie,

    As always, you are too kind, my friend. Glad you like the the third image; I always wonder if others will find the same beauty that I find in some of the abstract images.

  13. Ahhh.

    Several things here made my heart let out sighs. The orange refrain in these painterly images came in with a giant sucking sound. That tells me that either my sacral chakra is active (or needy), or I just love orange. The water in all the images has a soft and silky quality. Like Barb, when I got to the night shot, a recognition took place, though I don't have a specific memory about it.

    You always do an amazing job choosing words for your posts. I often wonder if you have them in your head, ready for your mind to turn to them. John Muir's especially resonated in me in this one: . . . for going out, I found, was really going in. Amen.

    Have a beautiful Sunday, George. I feel good knowing you are there, watching for the light, color and serenity to be found there, doing your "job" in your part of the world for all of us.

  14. "Happenstance" how I love that word, George.

    And how I love those Impressionist photographs - yes I notice that people are often in such a hurry that they don't notice the beauty around them.

  15. To Ruth,

    Responding to an active and needy sacral chakra is daunting. I'm hope my images did the trick.

    The quotes come from all sorts of places. First, I am an inveterate underliner and often return to books that I think might be pertinent to what I am posting about. Second, I have kept quotes in commonplace books through the years. Finally, when I have an image of something interesting like the saber-toothed tiger, and no words come immediately to mind, I search for what others have observed or said about the creature.

    Have a great Sunday yourself. Mine looks great here. I'm looking our the window and the light in the fields beyond my house is splendid!

  16. To Pat,

    Anyone who has the capacity to love a word is a friend of mine. Glad that you liked the photos, and I can tell, Pat, that you are not one of those who allows beauty to cross your path unnoticed.

  17. Water.. why does it draw us so? is it that it is the source of life?
    like a magnet, we feel it pulling us and we cannot resist ... it is a mother.

  18. To Gwen,

    Thanks for the interesting observations, Gwen. Yes, I think there is some atavistic pull to water because it is the source of life. I think we are also attracted to the ever-changing quality of water, the colors, the movements, the ripples, the waves, the tides, the ebbs and flows. All of this gives us a good metaphor for our own lives.

  19. oh yes indeed, George, I was meaning even more internally than this.. deeper, almost invisibly.

  20. To Gwen,

    Thanks for the follow-up comment. I knew you were referring to the deeper meaning of water. I was just thinking out loud about what I felt after reading your first comment. Have a great week and keep us posted on the progress of that lovely stone wall.

  21. Such superb photography, George. And as always, you marry each striking image with what suddenly becomes the perfect quote. This makes for a beautiful continuum with earlier discussons here of the miraculous and the fleeting miracles we so often ignore. Indeed, much of what you capture here, skillfully plucked from scenes that happen everyday (or more precisely, every sunrise and sunset) would be hailed by us as miracles if they happened every thousand years. I agree with that last quote, if we could only have one prayer to say, 'thank you' would suffice.

  22. To Lorenzo,

    Thanks so much for the lovely comments, my friend. It's always a delight to see your name pop up on my screen.

    Miracles, miracles! It's strange, but when one is open to them — indeed, expects them — they often occur. I'm so glad that the Meister Eckhart quote resonated with you. Gratitude is an antidote for almost any spiritual or emotional malady. May miracles come your way in the week ahead.

  23. George
    You catch so well what is there for us all to see, if we choose. Reading these comments I feel in good company as I browse through them. Lady and I witnessed a phenomenal sunset this evening and we are both charged by it.
    The trees here have a starker texture to them already, most having been stripped of their remaining leaves by the strong wind at the end of the week.
    Thank you.

  24. To Tramp,

    Thanks, as always, Tramp. To be on a walk with your beloved dog and enjoy a stunning sunset together — it doesn't get any better than that. Winter is on our doorsteps, of course, but we will be sustained by the beauty we have seen in the waning days of autumn. May the coming week bring many blessings to you and Lady.

  25. Pleased to meet you, George. I'm here from Ruth's blog. Your photos here so beautifully reflect the quotes you have so generously shared with us here and vice versa.

    It's a wonderful journey through such exquisite sights: 'the geography of hope'.

  26. To Elisabeth,

    Nice to meet you, Elisabeth, and thanks for dropping by. I've seen your name on Ruth's site.

    I'm delighted that you liked the photos and quotes. Please drop by again. During the meantime, I'm going to skip over to your blog and see what you're posting about. Thanks.

  27. I'm thinking one of my next practice hikes for the Camino, may well be on my own. Everyone I walk with is in a hurry to "git'er done!" I am, thanks to enjoying your pics, going slower and slower and enjoying trying to get pics of all the amazing things around me as I move thru the Pine Barrens. I've lived around this area most of my life, and only recently seen parts of the forest that I never knew existed. Thanks for so quietly teaching that lesson, it's appreciated! Gracias, Karin

  28. To Karin,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Karin. As for practice hikes and how to approach them, you might be interested in "A Walk Around Wye Island," which I posted on April 24 of this year and which can be found in the archives on my sidebar. Good luck. It's great to practice for a future hike, but equally important to remain present with every step every day. Have a great week and Thanksgiving holiday.

  29. These are just fabulous photographs and it can never be trite to notice that nature is a magnificent artist. I'm happy to discover you are back blogging....

    I live near a heron rookery in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and love watching them in the spring, flying about with pretty large branches in their beaks, building their nests.

    You pictures with water are heart stopping.

  30. To Kristi,

    Thanks so much, Kristi, for the lovely comments. Living near Cuyahoga Valley National Park must be a great blessing, especially if you live near a heron rookery. I hope that you having a lovely autumn.

  31. Your images and words are like perfect wine pairings. I savored Emily Dickinson's sunrise ribbons with your liquid orange abstract.

    Lao Tzu's quote is a great example of one of my favorite Latin phrases "festina lente", make haste slowly.

    Thank you for standing on that bridge and freezing your Monet moment. I'm so happy that you shared it with us.

  32. To Dutchbaby,

    Thanks, as always, for your kind and generous comments. Thanks also for "festina lente." I didn't know that expression, but I like it! Have a lovely weekend.

  33. George,

    I feel so blessed in life to meet, even if only virtually, kindred spirits.
    This post overwhelms, and comforts, and sings a resounding yes.

    I can't possibly compare my words or photos to yours , but humbly add my seeing eyes and heart and soul to yours, to all of those who take the walks . Take the gifts of the stars.

  34. To Deb,

    Thanks for the lovely comments, Deb. You are, indeed, a kindred spirit, and it's nice to find so many in the blogging community.