Aug 3 2014

No Ugly Landscapes

_DSC2766Last night I came across the following quotation by John Muir: “God never made an ugly landscape, so long as it is wild.”  Muir’s words made me smile.  In the past couple of weeks I have stood in the presence of a variety of landscapes.  I’ve looked up at 700 foot tall sand dunes and down into a 565 foot gorge.  I’ve driven through the high Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountains and across barren desert flatlands.  I have photographed wildflowers in the sloughs near where I live and wandered amongst some unique geological formations in southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest.  The landscapes I have beheld in just this short time have been amazingly diverse and just as amazingly beautiful.

e_DSC3572e_DSC3572RGG3572I’m convinced Muir was right; “God never made an ugly landscape.”  Now there was a time when I would not have said this.  When I was much younger I was quite prejudiced concerning landscapes.  They had to be green or I didn’t like them.  Needless to say this gave me some trouble when I visited the desert.  I also loved  mountains and found it hard to appreciate any landscape that did not include these.  This is another prejudice I’ve been able to overcome.  Once you take the time to visit and truly get to know the various forms of landscape that exist you cannot help but come to the same conclusion as John Muir, there are no ugly landscapes.

All landscapes bear something of the beauty of their Creator.  Admittedly, that beauty is easier to find in some places than others but it is everywhere if you have the eyes to see or are willing to take the time to let that beauty make itself known to you.  Just as we often discover beauty in people we never thought we would once we let go of our prejudices and spend time with them, the beauty of natural landscapes can become clear when we approach them with an open mind and heart and without rushing past or through them.  Since the Bible declares that God makes Himself known through His Creation it is very important that we learn to find the beauty that is present in all wild landscapes.

_DSC5600Some of the prejudices we have concerning landscapes seem to have been imposed upon us.  Many have no desire to visit Death Valley National Park in California just because its name seems to imply a horrible landscape.  That is hardly the case.  Death Valley is beautiful!  Some would not consider visiting Badlands National Park in South Dakota because, after all, it is “bad land.” Wrong again.  In early and late light the beauty of the Badlands will take your breath away.  Titles like these are about as useful as the labels we give people.  They prejudice our thinking and keep us from exploring the beauty that is to be found in such places.

DV-986Muir believed that God made no ugly landscapes but he did not say there are no ugly landscapes.  The fact that he added the words “so long as it is wild” indicate that what ugly landscapes he had beheld were not made that way by God but by the hand of man.  Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed a number of those ugly landscapes myself.  I’ve seen the scars left from mountain top removal and the clear cutting of forests.  I’ve visited many places where natural beauty once was prevalent but now can hardly be found.  Perhaps it was inevitable that this would happen but that makes it no less sad.  In such places the glory God intended to reveal will not be found.

BL7199I feel incredibly blessed to have traveled as much as I have during my life and to have seen so many different types of beautiful landscapes.  Each one has led me to a greater admiration of the Creator and has also taught me things I needed to know about God and myself.  If you’re looking for a good reason to visit some new landscapes, I’m not sure there is a better one than that.


(I took the first image at Great Sand Dunes National Park, the second one at Rio Grande Gorge, the third at Illinois’ Garden of the Gods, the fourth at Death Valley National Park, and the fifth one at Badlands National Park.)

May 25 2014

Travel On

“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land that I will show you.’”—Genesis 12:1

Giant Geyser 1 (v) crDo you like to travel?  I do.  I know there are some people who have no desire to leave the area they live in but my life has been incredibly enriched by the travels I’ve made over the years.  I see much value in going other places.  You can, no doubt, learn much in books or by watching television but for me there is no substitute for travel.  A few days ago I did a presentation on the beauty of the area where I am currently living.  As I put the show together I found myself thinking that a person residing here doesn’t have to go far to find beauty.  I even commented to a group that I’m surprised more people don’t travel here to view or photograph the beauty that is all around us.  But that doesn’t mean I am or should be content with seeing or experiencing what is found only in my local area.

Kenai glacier calvingTomorrow I’m flying out to Los Angeles to meet up with Rob.  We will spend a good part of the upcoming week exploring an area of Nevada neither of us have visited before.  I know very little about the places we will be going to but I have no doubt that I will learn much in the days to come.  I will see and do things I could not if I stayed home.  The journey will broaden who I am.  It will allow me to experience aspects of God’s Creation that are not available to me here where I live.

Mark Twain once said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”  There is much truth in these words.  In my travels to Europe and the Middle East as a young adult  I had my eyes opened to a number of things that challenged my own prejudices, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.  When I spent some time a few years ago on a medical mission trip to Haiti the same thing happened again.

whitetail fawn 6 (h) crMy travels throughout North America to photograph its scenic wonders have, likewise, caused my mind and understanding of things to be altered time and time again.  There is more than one kind of prejudice, bigotry  and narrow-mindedness.  For example, I once thought of deserts as vast wastelands.  I now see them as marvelous and magical places where life abounds.  By visiting other areas and seeing new places and things I have come to appreciate much that I once did not like or understand.  In numerous ways my life is richer because I have traveled as much as I have.

_CES1723I would not be the same person I am today had I not viewed the northern lights and watched glaciers calve in Alaska.  I would not be the same person had I not found myself dwarfed by giant redwoods and sequoias in California.  I would not be the same had I not watched geysers erupt in Yellowstone National Park or heard pounding waves crash against the rugged shores of Maine.  I would not be the same person had I not viewed the simultaneous lift-offs of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes in New Mexico or spied on newborn fawns taking their first steps in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.

I could go on and on.  I believe I am a wiser and better person on many accounts because of the travels I’ve done over the years.  I have even learned much about God that I might never have discovered had I not ventured out beyond the safety of my own home and community.

Throughout the Scriptures it seems like God is always calling someone or another to take a journey.  I think I understand why…


(I took the top image of Giant Geyser in Yellowstone NP, the calving glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, the newborn fawn at Shenandoah National Park, and the redwood trees at Humboldt State Park in California.)