Feb 24 2022

“Rewild Yourself”

This week I’ve been reading a book called Rewild Yourself: 23 Spellbinding Ways to Make Nature More Visible.  It’s by a British writer I enjoy reading named Simon Barnes.  The book begins with these disturbing words: “We’re not just losing the wild world.  We’re forgetting it.  We’re no longer noticing it.  We’ve lost the habit of looking and seeing and listening and hearing.  We’re beginning to think it’s not really our business.  We’re beginning to act as if it’s not there anymore.” 

I find these words to be alarming, sad, and discouraging.  Furthermore, I fear these words have the ring of truth to them.  So many people these days are largely disconnected from nature.  It plays only a small role, if any, in their lives. For me this is disheartening.  I firmly believe that nature is meant to play a much larger role.  Likewise, I’m convinced that there are serious repercussions for failing to give nature our careful attention.

Spiritually, our snubbing of nature causes us to miss out on one of God’s primary sources of revelation.  Both the heavens and the earth offer witness to their Maker’s love, mercy and goodness.  They supplement the Scripture’s witness to God’s majesty and glory.  As spiritual beings our understanding of God will be truncated if we fail to give nature our careful attention. 

Emotionally, our failure to notice nature will rob us of much joy and peace.  Numerous studies have confirmed that exposure to nature has many emotional benefits.  Our very health, emotional and physical, is connected to our exposure to the natural world.  We literally hurt ourselves when we fail to connect with nature on a regular basis while we reap benefits when we do. 

I would also argue that when we neglect nature we are less likely to be good stewards of God’s Creation. When we connect with nature we tend to love it.  When we love something we are strongly inclined to care for it.  Could our disconnection from nature be one of the underlying causes of the current environmental crisis?  I suspect so.

We, and the world itself, would be better off if we gave nature the consideration it deserves day by day, season after season.  But how do we do that?  In Rewild Yourself Simon Barnes offers many suggestions.  He urges us to be more intentional about being a part of nature and observing all it has to offer.  He suggests that we get a good pair of binoculars and take a closer look at nature.  Barnes believes we are missing much because we are not deliberately attempting to see what is around us. He encourages us to look for signs of wildlife around us, for tracks, scat, trails. We are likewise encouraged to listen more carefully for the sounds of nature.  If we only “look” at nature we will miss out on so much.  We need to put our ears to good use too.  Barnes thinks we would all benefit from learning to identify birds by their songs alone. 

Learning the names of various species, fauna and flora, is also strongly encouraged.  As Barnes points out, when we know the names of others we automatically enter a more personal relationship.  This is true for people; it is true for plants and animals too.   A similar suggestion is purchasing field guides or books on nature so that we can learn more about the subjects we see and hear.  Ideally, all of us should have a nature library.

There are many ways we can “rewild” ourselves and many good reasons for doing so.  Spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally we will benefit from paying more attention to nature.  Simon Barnes would suggests now would be a good time to start. I couldn’t agree more.


Jul 18 2012

Avoiding Disappointment

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  First Corinthians 2:9

A couple of weeks ago I finally finished reading the book How to be Wild, by Simon Barnes, which Rob gave to me.  Toward the end of the book there is a sentence that I think is very important.  Barnes writes, “If you go out looking for wildlife, you will get many disappointments: but you will be paid back by any amount of extraordinary things you weren’t looking for.”  He gives several illustrations throughout the book from his own experience to validate this point.  What Barnes says about wildlife can also be said about other aspects of nature.  For example, a person who goes into the woods looking for just one species of wildflower may not find it but still, nonetheless, discover lots of other wonderful things.

Many nature photographers go out intent on photographing one thing.  If they do not find what they are looking for they come back frustrated or disappointed. They may even consider the day a waste of their time.  Others, those who are wise, usually discover that even though they did not find their intended subject they still had a chance to witness and enjoy countless other wonders in nature.  These individuals may come back disappointed, too, but are filled with gratitude at the same time.  They would not think of the day being a waste of their time at all.  The other blessings experienced would override their disappointment.

John Muir once wrote, In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  The more time I spend in nature the more I realize just how true this is.  There is so much in God’s Creation to see, hear, smell, and touch.  All of us, whether we be photographers or not, should always enter natural areas with a sense of openness and wonder.  We can certainly hope to see certain things but should remain ready for serendipitous surprises along the way too.  If we do not, we will miss “any amount of extraordinary things.”

And if this is true in the natural world, it is equally true in the many other dimensions of our lives.  Experience has shown me that every single day is filled with countless blessings but some days I am so intent on receiving one particular blessing I miss out on all the other ones.  Other days I am more open and receptive to whatever comes my way and these days seem to be the ones that I am extraordinarily blessed.  We truly do set ourselves up for disappointment when we get fixed on just one prize.  If you’re not finding exactly what you’re looking for right now—either in nature or life in general—I encourage you to relax and look around you.  There may well be something even better close by.  God has a wonderful way of doing that.


Apr 11 2012

Daily Devotions

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?”  Psalm 8:3

While I was out in California a couple of weeks ago Rob gave me a book by Simon Barnes called How to be Wild.  I’ve been reading it the past couple of days and have already benefited from it.  Yesterday I came across a passage where Barnes claims there are two ways of enjoying nature.  He writes: “One is to go out and look for it: nature as a special treat, nature as something to be found in special places.  The other is to take note of what is all around: nature as an aspect of life.”  In the first approach nature is “an occasional pilgrimage.”  In the second approach nature is “part of our daily devotions.”

As I’ve reflected on Barnes’ words I’ve realized that I have probably put too much emphasis on the first approach and not enough on the second.  As you know from my writings, I enjoy traveling to and photographing national parks and other scenic locations.  Weeks, even months, before I take a trip I am excited about what I’ll see once I get there.  I’m very intentional about these trips.  I study about the flora and fauna I’ll see once I arrive; I try hard to learn where the most beautiful locations are.  All of this is well and good.  It helps me enjoy my trips more and also get better images.  Still, I must admit this enjoyment of nature falls under the category of “occasional pilgrimages.”

Unfortunately, I am not quite so intentional when it comes to the other approach to enjoying nature.  I, like so many others, often rush through my day and fail to take notice of God’s Creation that is all around me.  Because of this I miss out on a lot.  It is a shame that I give nature so much attention four weeks out of the year (my vacation allotment) and so little attention the other forty-eight weeks.

Perhaps it would help me, to use Barnes’ words, to think of enjoying nature as part of my “daily devotions.”  Every day I read the Bible and other devotional material.  Every day I pray.  I’ve done this for years.  I’m very intentional about it.  I think what I need to do now is start including the enjoyment of nature as part of my daily routine as well.  I need to make sure every single day that I take notice, if only momentarily, of the wonders of God’s Creation around me.  As I just noted, I read the Bible daily.  Shouldn’t I also be reading God’s “other book” daily as well?  I believe I should and realize that in order to do so I will have to be disciplined.  I will have to keep reminding myself how important it is to pay attention.  I cannot help but think there will be great benefit from doing so.

Is the enjoyment of nature a part of your daily devotions?  If not, shouldn’t it be?


(I took the top picture in the Alabama Hills of California.  The lady bug, likewise, was taken in California in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area.  I took the floral image here at my home this past Sunday.)