Finding the Sacred with Nature Photography
In Beth and David Booram’s book When Faith Becomes Sight, they take time in their second chapter to talk about transcendent moments. When I hear the word transcendent, I think of something extraordinary or something spiritually way beyond me, but they explain that these moments don’t have to necessarily be rapturous or extraordinary. They write, “ . . .these experiences with the sacredness of someone, something, or some place that take you beyond the horizons of your current awareness may be encountered in ordinary events.” Beth and David explain that these times where you are taken beyond yourself “awaken you to God in and beyond the veil of temporal existence and remind you of the magnitude and mystery of the Creator and Sustainer of Life.”
Whew, that can seem like a lot, but when I slow down and think of the simple moments of sacredness in my own life, the concept of transcendent moments becomes much easier. The morning light swaying back and forth on my countertop as I get my tea. The evening sky aglow with coral clouds. Five minutes of prayer as I sit with legs crisscrossed on my bedroom floor. A much-needed chat with a friend. Family gathered around the table. In these quiet, everyday, sometimes humble occurrences, I feel God’s presence in the physical world.
Maybe that is why over the years I’ve grown more and more tied to nature. Whether it’s at the foot of a mountain or the sweet face of a young white-tailed deer or my boots sinking in a muddy marsh, I feel – yes, there is more to this place, more to this physical world than I can explain. When the wind caresses my face, when a green heron lands over my shoulder, when a mother moose nuzzles her newborn calf, when my heart feels like it is going to burst after seeing a grizzly and her cubs – I am taken by the majesty of God and his willingness to breathe his kindness over me. I’m reminded that joy is right there across the veil. Kindness and goodness are within reach. The God of the Universe not only created this majestic world, he takes time to let personal words of encouragement fall over me.
In Rocky Mountain National Park there is an entrance to the Cub Lake Trailhead in the Moraine Valley. You walk over a little bridge and water rushes under your feet. You follow the path and the water follows alongside for a while; you might even see a fly fisher or two and kids dipping their feet in the cool water. Then the dirt trail leads you gradually up and around boulders, welcoming you to a view over the whole valley. Depending on the weather or season, you could see a storm rolling in over the peaks, snowflakes glistening down through fog, or sun shining over the grasses and wildflowers. I remember seeing two herds of elk, all cows, calling and bugling to one another from opposite sides, eventually meeting in the middle and then circling one female who we thought might be about to give birth.
At this spot there is a huge boulder my kids like to sit on. And with help or lots of determination, they can climb up and peer out over the whole valley. Normally, this kind of spot would be a time to stand and give a silly pose, but this certain place immediately calls us to silent reflection. I have numerous photos of my kiddos sitting there, looking over the misty valley and taking it all in. This spot is more than a rock; it transcends our earthly expectations and calls us to something larger than ourselves.
I’ve felt this so many times while out in nature with my camera, and usually it’s when I’ve needed it most. I hear . . .
You are enough.
You are mine.
I created you for my purposes, and I am with you.
I am in all of this.
You are created in my image and are very very good.
Do not be afraid.
I am “reassured,” as Beth and David explain, that “God is solidly and purposefully involved” in my life – even through nature and wildlife photography.
So as I look back on 2020, I can’t help but close my eyes and be thankful for moments of wonder, mystery, and beauty placed before me. Whatever that source is for you, may we be open and expectant for transcendent moments as this new year unfolds.