Mar 13 2013

Celebrity or Ordinary Wildlife

Wakodahatchee Preserve, FLI have been working on a big photo e-book project that I hope to complete by the end of the month, Reports from the Wild. It expresses some things that are very important to me related to how we see nature. A chapter on the green heron, “Swamp Hunter,” made me think a bit about how we see and glorify nature.

The green heron is a simple swamp hunter, ordinary, common. You can find them throughout most of the U.S.  It is no wildlife celebrity like penguins, polar bears or whales (these animals could care less about being celebrities — we make them so). The green heron doesn’t care much about being a celebrity, but celebrity animals do get attention in our sometimes celebrity crazed culture.  Everybody knows about penguins, polar bears and whales, yet far fewer people know a green heron, even though they are far more likely to see one.

SC GH-03Now I am not going to pretend that the Bible tells us anything about green herons or celebrity wildlife.  I do think, however, the following passage is worth thinking about and meditating how it might resonate with nature.

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ “On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.'” Matthew 9:10-13

Of course this is a passage about Christ’s nature to be inclusive and to challenge the self-righteous. Yet, Christ is consistent on this message, about paying attention to those that need attention, not just those who are popular or powerful.  That can make us think about nature.  Green herons are just one species of so many around us that need our attention, just because they exist, just because they are part of God’s creation. Yet, notice how often the media plays up the celebrity wildlife, the celebrity nature.  It sells.  And it often misses connecting us with all of God’s Creation.

It is not the big names in wildlife, such as those penguins and so forth, that need “a doctor”, or our attention, but the little things that make nature work so well every day. Penguins, polar bears and whales are important, but they can become so dominant in the media that people start thinking that is what nature is, celebrities.  The small stuff, like green herons, are then unknown, often unappreciated, and a little bit of nature dies around us. We become less connected to God’s Creation, to God’s second book.

SC GH-02

— Rob

Sep 16 2012

Seize the Day!

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” Isaiah 55:6

Yesterday afternoon a friend from my church called to tell me that she had a possible “photo op” for me.  She went on to say that in a tree behind her house there were several great egrets.  I really didn’t feel like getting out but I decided I’d grab my camera and go check things out.  Sure enough I found around twenty great egrets perched in a tree above the lake in town.  What I also discovered was that this was not the tree she was talking about.  There was another one on the opposite side of the lake that had just as many egrets sitting in it.  No one seems to remember ever seeing that many great egrets in one place in Pikeville but for some reason they found their way here yesterday.  I ended up getting some nice images of these beautiful birds.

After spending about an hour watching and photographing the egrets I drove back home.  I stopped on the bridge that crosses the creek that runs across my front yard so I could check our mail.  When I did I looked down and saw a lovely green heron looking for something to eat along the creek bank.  Since I had my photo gear in the car I quickly grabbed my camera and tripod and was able to capture some good images of this bird which is also rarely seen in our community.  I felt quite blessed to have had an opportunity to photograph both the great egrets and the green heron right here where I live.

When I drove past the lake on the way home from church today I noticed that the great egrets were no longer here.  When I got home and crossed the bridge to our house I also looked down and saw no green heron in sight.  It dawned on me then that it was a good thing that I got up and went out yesterday.  Had I not, I would have missed both opportunities.

There is a lesson here we would all be wise to learn.  Each day we should take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.  Just because something or someone is here today does not mean that will be the case tomorrow.  Life is that uncertain and unpredictable.  A few years back I often saw bumper stickers that said “carpe diem,” which means seize the day.  That is good advice.  We should make the most of our opportunities each day to tell people we love them, to do kind deeds to those around us, to learn something new, and to “seek the Lord while He may be found.”   And, of course, if you are a photographer you would be wise not to put off until tomorrow what you can photograph today.  There are numerous areas of our life where this same principle is true.  That’s why it is so important to “seize the day” and make the most of each one God gives us.  I’d suggest you start today.


Aug 25 2010

Avatar and Creation

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1

morning glory 811While on my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest I spent some time photographing in the Hoh Rain Forest found within Olympic National Park.  While taking pictures of a beautiful scene a woman walked up to me and said, “It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?  Just like something out of the movie Avatar.”  I responded in some polite fashion but after she left I found myself thinking that her thought processes were a bit backwards.  She was comparing the glorious beauty of God’s Creation with a high tech animated world from a hit movie.  It would seem that any worthy comparison would have to start first with Creation.  Perhaps this is simply a sign that we live in a world where reality and fantasy often overlap.

mushroom top 791Later I thought some more about the woman’s comment.  I got the impression that it would take something as stunning as the Hoh Rain Forest to evoke awe in this individual.  I have a feeling that she is not used to seeing the beauty in her everyday surroundings.  This, of course, is a problem for a lot of people.  We are too busy to really take notice of the wonders of Creation all around us.  Or perhaps we are unwilling to look closer.

Orb Weaver 801With these thoughts in mind I walked outside my house this afternoon and took three of the pictures you see here.  In the top picture what might look like an astral background in the movie Avatar is actually a close up image of a morning glory next to my house.  The second image that resembles a lunar landscape is the top of a mushroom growing beside my driveway.  The orb weaver to the left has been hanging out (literally) at our pool house for several weeks.   I guess she can represent the scary creatures we typically see in fantasy movies.    The bird photograph below was taken this past Saturday.  As we prepared to go swimming we noticed an alien creature stalking the pool.  Turned out it was only an immature green heron.  A friend told me the bird was migrating and likely stopped by the pool to see if there were any fish in it.

green heron  779I enjoyed the movie Avatar and was encouraged by its environmental message.  The visual imagery was stunning.  Still, when it comes to beauty and excitement, I’ll take the wonderful world God has already given us any day.  For those with eyes to see, nothing can compare to God’s handiwork!