I have always loved nature photography. When I was struggling with depression during my senior year of college, my eyes ached from scrolling through Pinterest for pictures of mountains and butterflies and birds. I watched nature documentaries. I obsessed over pictures of snails taken by photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko. I sat outside in the cold and looked for the bright red of cardinals like pinholes to summer in the grey.
I wanted to be taken in by nature. I wanted to stoop down in the grass and imagine that that–the green and the soil and the sky–were all I needed to survive. Like a bird, I could live above the world that made me anxious.
In other words, I wanted to be small.
Many poets have expressed this longing to not only connect with nature but to be nature–to be without the intellect and foresight that troubles us. I didn’t think at the time how stressful it would be to actually be a bird, frightened over predators and bad weather and drought.
So there is a fault in this way of thinking. Not only do I forget the stresses of animals, but I also glorify an existence without the things that truly make me whole, like love and relationships and purpose. I refuse what God has made me for and given me by wanting to escape it.
But there is also, I think, a safe balance we can reach when it comes to stooping down and observing nature.
This year, I picked up photography again. There’s a small path outside of the apartment that I lived in where, after every rain, mushrooms sprouted, all in different colors and sizes. There were birds I became acquainted with, recognizing their songs and seeking the trees until I saw them. Baby rabbits thumped into tall grass to hide. Electric blue mayflies hovered from leaf to leaf. From a distance, this was a small patch of trees with a slow stream running through it. With my camera, I saw more. I saw the way golden light enriches the green on moss. I saw the blue mayfly’s bulbous black eyes. The mushrooms became fantastically huge, as if I could walk under their umbrella caps.
The forest was a haven for me, but not because I needed to escape my life. Rather, I needed to see my life from a different angle. I needed to learn how to savor the small things, to slow down, and remember how small I really am.
I am grateful to be a human, made in the image of God, who is able to recognize beauty and thank its Creator. When the world gets too big for me, or when I in my pride become to big and important for my own good, I know I can stoop down, take a picture, and remember how big God is, and yet how God cares for the sparrow and the lily as well as me.
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