Jun 21 2014

Loving the Ordinary

sassafras“God has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Recently I saw a saying posted on Facebook that went along with my last blog, “Removing the Blinders.”  The saying was “Anyone can love a rose, but it takes a lot to love a leaf.  It’s ordinary to love the beautiful, but it’s beautiful to love the ordinary.”  The source of these words is unknown but they certainly convey a truth that is worthy of our consideration.  We do, in fact, often overlook the ordinary for the beautiful.  That does not mean, however, that there is not much to love and appreciate in the ordinary.

baby-turtleThe saying quoted above spoke to me because I am one who tends to focus on the beautiful, especially when it comes to my nature photography.  I have a propensity to take pictures of those things that are beautiful and extraordinary.  These are the things that thrill and move my soul.  They also tend to be the things that editors buy.  For both reasons I rarely photograph that which is not widely considered beautiful.

mono lake hdr 4My close friend and co-writer, Rob Sheppard, takes a different approach.  When we are out photographing together it seems we seldom take pictures of the same things.  He is quite content to photograph what most people would consider ordinary things.  I remember once being with him at Mono Lake in California.  Neither of us had been there before.  I spent the biggest part of my time photographing the lovely tufa that emerge from the lake.  The scenery at this location is spectacular!  I’m not sure Rob, on the other hand, ever photographed the lake or tufa.  He spent the biggest part of his time photographing a tiny wildflower that he found nearby.  I couldn’t imagine how anyone could choose a small wildflower to photograph over the vast beauty of the lake, tufa and surrounding mountains.

You’d have to check with Rob to get the final answer on why he did this but I do believe that it is related to the saying quoted above.  Anyone can love a rose or Mono Lake but it takes a lot, someone special, to love a leaf or tiny flower.  There are countless photographers like me who love the beautiful; to do so is quite ordinary.  There is a scarcity of those like Rob who have learned to love the ordinary and that makes such people extraordinary.  There is something truly beautiful about people like that.  Perhaps one day I can become one of their tribe.

Rob at Mono Lake not shooting Mono LakeMy personal theology leads me to believe that God loves ordinary people as much as God loves those the world deems “beautiful” people.  It also leads me to affirm the goodness of all of Creation, not just the beautiful parts.  I am convinced that the ordinary—both people and the various aspects of Creation—deserve more of our attention.  In fact, I suspect if we were more spiritually mature we would realize, to quote a well-known Ray Stevens song, that “everything is beautiful in its own way.”  To see the beautiful in the ordinary is to see with the eyes of God and that is a beautiful thing indeed.  It is my hope that more of us can come to view the world and others with the eyes of God.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

–Chuck

The top two images I took in my yard while living in Middlesboro, KY–a sassafras tree and a common box turtle.  I took the bottom two images at Mono Lake.  I call the last image “Rob at Mono Lake not photographing Mono Lake.”


Feb 22 2012

God’s Amazing Artwork

Over six hundred years ago the Italian author and poet, Dante Alighieri, said “nature is the art of God.”  I would be the first to affirm Dante’s sentiment but recently I have been reminded of just how outstanding God’s art revealed in nature is.   The last few days I have been working on scanning slides I took during my first fifteen years of photography.  Last night I worked on some images I captured at Arizona’s famous Coyote Buttes.  Looking at these pictures I found myself once again in awe of the Master Artist’s work.  The sandstone formations and patterns found at Coyote Buttes are mindboggling! 

Looking at the images made me stop and think about all the wonderful “art work” I’ve seen in nature.  I thought about the beauty and symmetry found on a dewy spider web.  I remembered being overwhelmed by the colors and patterns in petrified logs I saw at Petrified Forest National Park.  I thought about the intricate detail and beauty I’ve seen when I’ve looked closely at seashells, flowers and insects.   I remembered with great delight the first time I saw the dancing patterns of the northern lights in Alaska.  All of this led me to think about God’s artwork that few people ever get to see.  Through the lens of a microscope one can find incredible beauty.  At the same time, the Hubble Telescope is constantly sending back images of galaxies and nebula that look like great works of art.  The universe is filled with beauty that few, if any, will ever see!

When I was quite a bit younger Ray Stevens had a hit song that declared “Everything is beautiful in its own way.”  That the world is filled with much beauty simply cannot be denied.  I know some say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but for each beholder there is plenty of beauty to see and acknowledge.   As we recognize and enjoy the beauty we see we should offer thanks to the Artist who created it.  The wise writer of Ecclesiastes wrote concerning God, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (3:11)  There is certainly nothing wrong with pointing to the beauty we see around us but let us not fail to give credit where credit is due.  God deserves to be worshiped and praised for sharing His art with us. 

When I was in New Mexico a couple of months ago I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe  Museum.  I enjoyed looking at her wonderful work but was amazed at how many security personnel were on hand.  It was obvious that the museum recognizes the value of O’Keeffe’s work and is determined to protect it.  I concur that her work is valuable but nowhere nearly as valuable as that produced by our heavenly Father.  For that reason we need to do everything we can to preserve and protect the works of the greatest Artist there is.  Wouldn’t you agree?

–Chuck

(I took the top two pictures at Coyote Buttes in Arizona.  The spider web was photographed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The petrified log was photgraphed at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.)