Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shapes of nature


Like most years recently, 2012 is coming to a close with a whimper instead of a bang. I haven't been birding in a while, as the weekend weather insists upon being gray and drizzly (despite days of sparkling sunshine whenever I'm stuck indoors at work), and I haven't been seeing much when I do manage to get out.

In other words, it's December. For whatever reason, although I enjoy winter (in moderate doses), I just don't care for December. The month limps along to the finish line. Everything feels stale. I don't find new birds. And, of course, I'm sure it doesn't help that the month is dominated by "the holidays," which manage to evoke both a feeling of disdain for the spectacle of consumerist frenzy, and all the unmet, impossible expectations of the season.

I don't even like the holidays, and yet there is still, simmering away deep beneath the surface, some archetypal expectation that they should be different--crammed with happy, laughing people (holding binoculars, of course) effortlessly skating through a snow-dusted fairy-land, humming the refrain from "Frosty the Snowman" under their breath. (It goes without saying that I detest Frosty and consider the month-long barrage of cheery Christmas tunes to be one of the worst indignities of the season.)

I'm sure it doesn't help that my birthday also falls in December, and I am of an age where that just means an annual reminder of being one step closer to the grave.

So I say bah, humbug to all of it.


January is different; January is fresh and new, and once again every house sparrow and rock pigeon seems fresh. January represents new opportunities and a brief span of time that we won't let ourselves down (again).

The antidote to all of this is, obviously, to get out take a long walk in nature, no matter how challenging that may be (Saturday's forecast is for more rain), because there is a peace and strength in the quiet winter landscape that I can't find anywhere else. Most of the birds may be gone, as well as summer's foliage, but the bones of the land reveal a silent beauty in their shapes.

Earlier in the month, I was struck by the subtle curves of the trees and banks along Salt Creek at Weldon Springs Park; this line of trees, in particular, made me think of passageways in Moroccan old cities or the flying buttresses of cathedrals.


Everything seemed to curl inwards to meet the adjacent arch.


Circular shapes appeared everywhere.



Some of them seem to be leading to secrets:


At a certain level, as I sank into a camera's-eye view of the woods, I saw images that seemed to invite me to stop and contemplate for a while:


Look at the reflection as much as the object for a different point of view:


But don't get too caught up in them; the reflections are just another level between what you see and what is there to be seen. This is a nice image of geese, reflected in water. The real birds, of course, are flying far overhead,


We are all on a spiritual quest, whether we know it or not. Birders and others who allow themselves to be fascinated by nature might be closer than others, as our lives are spent at that intersection between the material and the real. Of course, what we do at that intersection is up to us, and I can usually be found blindly chasing a life bird (Arrgh!! Spruce grouse!) right out of that angle and back into the woods.

Or maybe it's just me. Really looking at nature provides so many invitations to get to the root of the matter.


That, in turn, might lead to being suffused by the numinous:


You might even, at last, find your heart:


 No matter how hectic the rest of the world is, seeing the shapes of nature always takes me home.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful post! I love the photos, and the way they support the words. I find December hard, too. I think part of it is the vanishing light. I can't wait for the solstice, and for the days to start getting longer again! MOM

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