Is Man Connected to Nature?

MN flowers + gas station

As Chuck so eloquently talks about Hosea in the last post, you can see immediately how connected God is with nature. But what about us? Are we part of nature or separate from nature?

In nature photography, we often keep out obvious references to man. That is a part of photography — selectively deciding what to include or exclude from an image. And we might keep out other parts of nature, such as a woodland that lost its leaves from tent caterpillars, so simply keeping nature photographs focused on a particular part of nature, including nature without man, is always a valid part of nature photography.

Yet, I think it is a mistake if we never see man or man’s influence in nature. In Psalms 36:6, the Bible says, “You save humans and animals alike, O Lord.” That certainly implies we are part of something larger. In Psalm 148, we read about praising God, and the Psalm specifically talks about everything from sea monsters to mountains to trees to wild animals all the way to “kings of the earth and all peoples” all praising God. That pretty much puts everything together!

When man is separated from nature, we are implying a gulf between nature and man that does not exist in the real world. Nature is highly influenced by man, from the severe effects such as the Gulf oil spill to small effects such as a trail through the woods. As a saying goes, “You cannot do just one thing.” And man is, though some people try to deny it, strongly influenced by nature, which is always very obvious as the weather changes in the fall.

I admit that I am not too fond of photographing some of the nasty effects on nature that man can do, though that can be an important type of photography. I love spotting and photographing bits of wild nature coming into “man’s world”, rather than simply man going into “nature’s world.” The image with this blog post is of butter-and-eggs flowers, also called yellow toadflax (I much prefer the fun first name), in a scruffy bit of land next to a gas station in Northern Minnesota. This is not a flower bed, or at least not one deliberately planted by man. It is a small bit of unattended land near the entry to the gas station where the butter-and-eggs plants found a home and started to grow on their own.

The yellow toadflax is a lot like us — it is an immigrant from Europe, where it is native. This relative of the snapdragon tends to colonize open, disturbed soil and doesn’t seem to be able to compete in truly natural conditions. It needs us, yet it is not particularly invasive, so it often provides a pleasant and brightly colored accent to lands near human habitation. And finding these pretty flowers near a gas station does not, in any way, diminish for me their God-given beauty. In some ways, they provide a nice accent to man’s works.

— Rob