Saturday, August 08, 2015

With a Capital N!

Purple Coneflower

A question was recently put to me: What could I never do without? From life's lessons, we all experience challenging times when it may become necessary to rediscover ourselves because something we thought we could never do without disappears from our lives. It could be our health, a loved one, or perhaps even a coveted possession – I have lost each of these at one time or another and endured. Apart from basic needs, my answer would have to be my time visiting Nature. As I recently quoted John Burroughs: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” I really don't think I could do without it.

Sedge Wren

Indigo Bunting

A close birding friend of mine that stopped going to her church years ago recently ran into a parishioner from her old congregation who asked where she's been worshipping of late. I found my friend's diminutive and humble reply somewhat amusing: “I worship outside now.”  Readers may notice I tend to capitalize words like Nature, Universe, Earth, Sun, Moon, etc. Researching the Internet you can find justifications for and against capitalizing Nature. There are some who blame pious clerics or the Industrial Revolution for present day popular lower-case usage, but I honestly don't know if it was ever widely accepted one way or the other.

Black-eyed Susan

As someone who embraces naturalism in the scientific and philosophical sense, I believe Nature is all that there is. Because of where we are we have a tendency to think of Nature as strictly Earthly. I contend it goes all the way out; the Universe as Nature's vessel, if you will. As an amateur astronomer, I've spent many nights gazing through my telescope at distant galaxies and star clusters wondering in awe and mystery about the possibilities – is it just us? Is it only Earth? I think not. I believe Nature is at work in every nook and cranny of the Universe.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

At this point some may accuse me of paganism or pantheism, and perhaps justly so. But in truth, even those notions don't encapsulate the transcendence and humility I feel from my experiences in Nature. Nature has not only given us life (and will take it away), but can also give us reasons for living positively: Curiosity, wonderment, imagination, and knowledge are just a few of the ways Nature can beckon us. And sharing Nature with others is the 'extra credit' that's fun to do. In return, I think all who visit Nature feel more connected to something greater, whether its natural or supernatural.

Leafhopper Coelidia olitoria


Like my birding friend mentioned above, Pheasant Branch Conservancy is our church and its flora and fauna are members of the congregation. Rarely is there a visit when we fail to either encounter something new or find continued astonishment in the ordinary. I know the Sedge Wren's song and behavior quite well, but nothing about what it's like to be him. I ponder and revere in Nature's mysteries. I capitalize Nature out of a sense of respect because there is so much I do not know, and yet so much that can be known.


So much to know, so little time...

Sedge Wren

All images © 2015 Mike McDowell