Nature and the Soul, Explored Through Photography


This is the time of year when I feel like a fraud.  This is the season when my personal mantra of “live in the NOW and celebrate this moment” doesn’t spring from felt conviction…It seems I have to get behind it and SHOVE it forth, this sluggish belief, wondering when the ole gal took on so many extra pounds.  It’s not officially autumn yet, and already the melancholy is setting in.  Why? Though a professed lover of nature, I DO NOT LIKE WINTER.

Maybe it’s my addiction to prismatic experience.  In summer, the senses are assaulted by myriad hues riding the backs of Summer Tanagers and slathered over the satin surfaces of roses and kaleidoscopic insect wings.  You don’t have to search for it, you can’t even HIDE from it.  It’s surrounds you  like skin, holding in blood and sinew, a part of you.

Yeah, sure, I understand (intellectually) the cyclical nature of the earth, how death necessitates rebirth, yada, yada… But I FEEL it about as much as one feels the 10th consecutive recitation of “Hail Mary…” It’s ritualistic at that point, thought without heart.  (My apologies to those whose experience is otherwise).

That said, this post is a personal lecture. These are the points I want to make to my Seasonally-Affected Disordered Self:

A)   Regarding nature, winter just means you have to look a little harder, search a little deeper for delight.  Think of it like a geocache… takes some sweat to locate the thing, but the “goodies” inside are always a surprise, so make it a game.

B)    Take advantage of the silence.  Yes, you’ll miss the soft calls of those blue-gray gnat-catchers, the throaty “garr-rump!” of the frogs… but if spring, summer, fall are urgent, often ecstatical Prayer, then winter is a quiet Listening for the Answer.  As Rumi suggested, “Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it.  Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing, where something might be planted; a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.” Take walks alone, without your I-Pod, your I-Phone, your I-Mac,  or your I-Anything (and even — dare I say it? your CAMERA) and just see what happens.  Forgetting clocks and calendars, take Grace on its own terms, in it’s own time and chosen form.

C)    Learn to let go.  I know you grieve the leaving of these PARTICULAR flowers and insects. Attachment, though, is not the equivalent of love.  Trust that the Universe is functioning as it should, unfolding at perfect speed and precision.  Events, relationships, careers – like nature — are marching in and out of your life according to perfect, Divine Order, and each passing fords the way for another to enter.  To hold on, stubbornly tugging at one who is being led away, is to wound both them and you.  Trust your dear creatures, both the human and animal kind, to their own path.

D)    You get what you need, when you need it.  Have faith in the process.  Are you not like a barn cat, shamelessly rubbing your soul against the Divine, asking for what you didn’t’ earn? But God is ever willing, is He/She not, (and so often through the soft glove of Nature), to scratch that divine itch, press Its body near to yours, simply to hear you purrrrr.

E)    Lastly, remember that the hushing of all that summer din affords air space for your own gratitude solo.  Fill the quiet places with THAT.  Let it fall in with the floating autumn leaves, let it fill the spaces in the trees that the warblers have vacated. Cover the icy lake with it where the Great White Egret used to feed, scatter it like seed on frozen ground…. You’ll be surprised what’ll grow…come Spring.

So this, friends, was my pathos and my pep-talk, my purging and my prayer.  I’m closing it like Emily Dickinson, the Belle of Amherst, did her poem-prayer “Summer Obsequies” so many years ago,

“In the name of the Bee,

and of the Butterfly,

and of the Breeze,



16 responses

  1. So very beautifully said!
    I, personally like winter for 2 weeks. Then am ready for spring. You’ve inspired me to do my best to find other things to reflect on the other weeks after those first 2!
    I would also have to say to your B) = I couldn’t agree more, leave all of the I’phones, etc at home when you go for that walk, but NOT the camera. I personally find that I can be in the moment, capturing the beauty with my camera while simultaneously thanking God for the beauty while taking in the peace. My camera & I create my zen.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    • Christy, I do agree about the camera/zen! And yes, 2 weeks pretty much does it for me too, unless there’s a deep snow or ice storm… wreaks havoc on the trees, which I lament, but can be incredibly beautiful! Here in S.W Missouri we tend to get more ice than snow, and there’ve been many magical moments enjoyed lakeside, shooting “frozen fog.” I’ll have to share those pics with you sometime 🙂 And I have to admit that “absence does make the heart grow fonder…” by the time Spring rolls around again I’m as giddy as a teen on her first date, and just as in love. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, my friend.

      September 13, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    • Christy, your camera and you DO create Zen…and lots of other wonderful magic! We’ll just have to make a point to inspire and challenge one another after those first two weeks of winter, LOL! Deal?

      September 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  2. Mickey

    My how quickly one can become addicted to a wisdom source!!

    You have of course, done it again Sydnee. This was a wonderful read, and a lovely source of insight and joy. I love the view through your eyes. It’s always from up so high…

    September 14, 2010 at 7:43 am

    • Oh Mickey, trust me, my view is NOT always
      “from up high….” but there’s just something about the writing process itself that pulls my lazy, lagging perspective up by the bootstraps and nails it up there where it SHOULD be, LOL! I do FULLY understand your sentiment, though, about how quickly one can “become addicted to a wisdom source”….it’s why I stalk your FB page, my dear! ((((hug))))

      September 28, 2010 at 1:26 pm

  3. Laura Pfeifer

    ahh, my warm weather friend, I think you are catching on to the beauty of winter. Think of the wonderful crunch of snow under your boots on a hike through the park; the bright color of a cardinal perched in a snow/ice covered tree (now you can really SEE him because there are no leaves to hide in!); the bright red berries on a holly bush; the way the sun glistens off the snow/ice and sets everything alight; the brisk, cool/cold air on your cheeks and nose when you step outside – that exhilarating feel of coolness; the muffled silence of a snowing day; and of course, SNOW ICECREAM!! Yes, dear Syd – there is MUCH to love (or at least, APPRECIATE)in the winter. :~)

    September 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

    • LOL, keep going, Laura….ALMOST CONVINCED! You’re very persuasive. Of course, Missouri only has the snowfall a very small portion of the winter, unlike your home state, and when we do get moisture it’s often in the form of ICE…it doesn’t crunch under your boots, it throws them every which way…with you in them! But thank you, my friend, for your valiant efforts to retrain my dour thinking! 🙂

      September 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm

  4. Bob Korpella

    Laura’s right! Each season holds its own magnificent beauty. Streams flowing beneath a thin coating of ice, finches scattered around feeders and doves pecking the ground below, also easily visible in winter, like those cardinals. The way the sun’s light looks different, sharper somehow, because the earth is tilted away during the winter months. And with short days, the challenge is to seek that beauty as quickly as possible. Don’t despair a passing, look forward to another beginning. Nothing is gone for good and all will return next spring or awaken after a winter’s rest. I agree, Laura. There is much to appreciate about winter, and all seasons.

    September 14, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    • I confess, I DO love that the finches flock to the feeders in winter. Although their color is dulled, their song is not…and it’s a kick just to know you’re helping them through the long months. Thanks for inspiring me!

      September 28, 2010 at 1:30 pm

  5. Following advice eases the transition through what we call the shoulder season here on Mayne Island. It is a time of year I love even when I am reminded of the long weeks of rain, gray and short nights broken occasionally by high winds and power outages. Your writing Sydnee, is inspiring, vivid and engaging.

    September 17, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    • As is yours, even in a COMMENT! Now I want to experience the “shoulder season on Mayne Island!”

      September 28, 2010 at 1:33 pm

  6. This beautiful post should help you during those darkest days of the Solstice that is coming up. . . I’m not a SAD sufferer, but I know a few and it tends to color the thinking about the short day/long night season — color it drab and dreary and depressing.

    Personally, I find winter to be exilirating — the woods echo with the sharp calls of jays and cardinals, the snow and ice refract the sun and spread tiny rainbow glitter colors all around, the crisp air stimulates. At home, I love to watch the gases burn in my airtight stove, floating about the burn chamber hypnotically, like tiny aurora borealis right in my living room.

    I always try to remember that my favorite flowers, daffodils and peonies, need a cold dormant season to bloom. Perhaps we humans do too.

    September 28, 2010 at 5:42 am

    • You have HONESTLY inspired me. Thanks to ALL of you for your comments, I really am starting to see through “new eyes…” (and what a GREAT bunch of writers you are, with your active, lively and enchanting descriptions! It’s incredibly fun to “hang out” with you all!)

      September 28, 2010 at 1:36 pm

  7. What a great pep talk for those of us that struggle with the changing season! I especially love the Emily Dickinson quote at the end. Documenting nature really will be a different experience once the snow flies and this helped me look forward to that -thanks!

    September 28, 2010 at 5:55 am

    • Cait, thank you for your comment…I can’t wait to read about your own discoveries and documentations “when the snow flies!” We’ll keep each other cheered up, my friend 🙂 And yes, I was introduced to Emily D. back in high school ( a loooooong time ago! ) and though much of her work is dark and brooding, there is a gem of wisdom to be found in every single one. She could say more in one sentence than I could say in a novella!

      September 28, 2010 at 1:38 pm

  8. Stephanie Smith

    What beautiful imagery and ideas. Our winters in North East Texas are gray and dreary, with snow rare but rain frequent. Black gumbo after a week or a month of rain makes for tough slogging. I always long for the spring. I shall try harder to find beauty in the winter.

    October 28, 2010 at 3:56 pm

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