Saturday, March 15, 2014

In My Own Back Yard

My husband has warned me of the dangers of continuing to share snowy, wintry images at this time of year, for this has been a long, cold winter, and the general consensus is that winter can go away now, thank you very much, and let spring take hold.

Nonetheless, I'm going to risk it...

We had a mixed bag storm this week with snow, sleet, and ice. By the end of the day, after the storm had ended and the sun came out, I found myself in the middle of the woods filled with awe and gratitude, and I can't resist sharing the beauty with you.

Once the precipitation had ended, I heard birdsong outside the window as I sat indoors by the wood stove appreciating the warmth. I have noticed more birdsong lately, which (literally!) is music to my ears. When I stepped outside, I noticed several flashes of red darting about our snow-covered back yard. Cardinals! Lots of them! I adore the sight of bright red cardinals against the whiteness of winter. So I set up near one of the bird feeders and enjoyed the show as all sorts of birds came and went - some squabbling, others coexisting peacefully.

Meanwhile, the robins congregated in the corner of the yard next to the kayak shack.

All was well and good. I went back inside, content with the back yard birds being the subject of the day. But eventually the sun came out, and the treetops glistened with ice still clinging to the branches. And then I knew there was more to see.

I took a 15-mile drive along the river to see what I could see but didn't find anything worth stopping to photograph. I thought of Dorothy's reflection in The Wizard of Oz about not needing to look beyond her own back yard for her heart's desire - as it occurred to me that perhaps my own back yard was precisely where I would find what I was looking for. Why hadn't I answered the call of the glistening trees and gone into the woods in the first place?

It was a white and sparkling world in the forest, silent except for a woodpecker nearby and the delicate sound of ice-covered tree branches blowing gently in the wind. The trees were like crystal chandeliers, glistening.

And then...oh, my! I was surrounded by such breathtaking beauty that I didn't feel the cold.

All was Yes and Thank You.  

And Oh. My. God.

As those words escaped my lips, I thought of something my favorite filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg, said during his TED presentation on Nature, Beauty, and Gratitude:

"When people see my images, a lot of times they'll say, 'Oh. My. God.' Have you ever wondered what that meant? The 'oh' means it caught your attention. It makes you present, makes you mindful. The 'my' means it connects with something deep inside your soul. It creates a gateway for your inner voice to rise up and be heard. And God? God is that personal journey we all want to be on, to be inspired, to feel like we're connected to a universe that celebrates life."

That is exactly what it felt like to be in the forest that afternoon.

Yes, our polar vortex winter has been very long and cold. Yes, we are ready for spring. But to be in the middle of the divinely glistening forest filled my heart to the brim with gratitude and awe.

The sun was setting, and it was time to return home. As I followed deer tracks through the forest, I thought of a line from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:

"The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

Yes, sorrow has carved deeply into my being during this long, cold winter. But it has carved a well capable of holding so much joy. And that joy is my fuel. I go in search of it every day with a grateful heart. Every day, despite all the sorrow. And then I need to share it so others will know that the possibility for such joy and beauty exists.

Even when I am not steeped in the beauty of nature, I can pause to sip from the well of joy by recalling beautiful imagery and the way it felt to be there. Imagery is very powerful and can induce a relaxation response as if I were there in person.

May we find beauty and goodness where we can today and every day. It's out there waiting to be discovered. And when you find it and immerse yourself in it, nothing else exists. No worries. No fears. No sorrows.

Imagine that.

The photographs in this blog and in my Flickr photostream are available for purchase as prints or cards through my Etsy shop by selecting a "custom print" in whatever size you prefer and indicating either the name of the print or the blog post and order in which it appears. 

© Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including all text and photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Susan Meyer and River Bliss Photography ( with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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