Stepping Out On Faith

If I had a blog, today I would write about my further adventures in pursuit of a stronger faith in The Universe.

White-Tailed Twins

October 8 – White-Tailed Twins

My Uncle Bruce, who is a Christian counselor, had one admonition for those of us seeking to grow spiritually: “Be careful what you wish for. If you pray for long suffering, you might just get it.” Well I managed to dodge that particular bullet, but I did plunge off the deep end when I asked The Universe to help me have greater faith. In so doing, I forgot Uncle Bruce’s advice and the basic tenet of spiritual growth: If you ask The Universe to give you something (faith, courage, patience, etc.) it won’t wave a magic wand and give you that power. Rather, it will put you in circumstances that give you the opportunity to develop the skill you aspire to possess. Today was proof of that, to be sure.

Normally, I work in town on Tuesdays, doing payroll and the book work at Dad’s dental clinic. Yesterday I had to postpone my sojourn to town because my labrador nephew Hank was ill. Dad did the payroll, but I had to go in today and do the rest of the accounting. I knew something was up with The Universe as I drove to town this morning, because everywhere I looked I saw flocks of migrating birds. Catching the one or two days in the fall when the warblers and other small songbirds are coming through is a high-point of my photographic year and I just knew I was missing out; and I was right. Mom took a two-hour walk this morning and saw all kinds of warblers, sparrows, and even golden-crowned kinglets. I didn’t begrudge Mom her sightings, but I have to admit I was a little irritated at my Higher Power for messing up my big day.

As I went about my desk-work, I was struggling not to be in a foul mood. “Missing one day of warblers is a stupid thing to be upset about,” I chastised myself. It is true, but I had to dig deep to find confidence that the order of the day was as it needed to be, however unfair it might seem.

I got home around 2:00 and took a long walk, but all I saw was a couple of blue jays and two very argumentative squirrels. I let it go and spent the rest of the afternoon helping Mom identify the Magnolia and Nashville warblers she had seen during the morning. Every time I started to feel jealous, I repeated my mantra, “Things are the way they are supposed to be.” It helped some, but I was definitely struggling.

White Throated Sparrow (2009)

White Throated Sparrow (2009)

After dinner, I gave birding one more try and went up to the High Field where our native grasses are heavy with seed. Clouds were gathering in the west and I was losing valuable light much faster than usual so I knew I had to make any photo-op count. As I passed by a row of cedar trees I heard a chirp and stopped to investigate. Using my long lens, I peered into the depths of the brush and saw, much to my delight, the first white-throated sparrow of the season. My spirits lifted immediately. White-throats summer in Minnesota then visit us for the winter. I love hosting these visitors from my beloved North Country and catching their arrival is every bit as thrilling as a warbler sighting.

October 8 - Stepping Out on Faith

Stepping Out on Faith

I walked back down the road with a spring in my step, content with my birding experience for the day, when I saw a movement near the woods’ edge. There in the twilight were two lovely young white-tailed deer. Children born this past spring, the twins were still small and very dainty. I snapped a few pictures and was about to wrap things up when one of the deer walked towards me. She was very alert and very confident; stopping every few yards to stamp her foot and let me know she was not to be trifled with. I stood stock still, taking pictures as fast as I could. Before the little deer satisfied her curiosity, her mother appeared in the pasture, snorting and stamping in alarm. Both young ones took their mother’s warning seriously and retreated to her side, vanishing into the woods without a trace.

Driving back to the house, I thanked the deer and I thanked The Universe for my gift of the day. As I thought about my close encounter, it occurred to me that the fawn who approached me was an example of new faith: She walked towards me with head held high, confident in herself and confident in me. She stepped out on faith and in that moment, made both of our lives something beautiful. We don’t need perfect faith in the beginning, only a willingness to take a few steps forward without knowing what happens next.

Tomorrow is another day and will present its own opportunities for growth. It scares me a little to put my trust in a being other than myself, but I will remember my lessons from today and I will pray to be as brave as a little white-tailed deer.

Serendipity

If I had a blog, today I would write about serendipity.

White-Tailed Deer Fawn

White-Tailed Deer Fawn

I have been a nature photographer for more than twenty years and while I do take credit for my technical skill with a camera, many of my best photographs are the result of serendipity. While serendipity can be defined as pure good luck, I have a different theory. I believe this kind of “fortunate happenstance” occurs when I am as one with the world around me. When I am in harmony with nature, something amazing is just around the corner.

This morning I was getting ready to go to town and had gone into the storage room, when twin white-tailed deer fawns emerged from the woods.

White-Tailed Deer Fawn II

White-Tailed Deer Fawn II

Because I carry a camera with me everywhere I go, I had it at the ready and was able to get several photos of these delicate beauties before they vanished back into the forest. It was a much needed pick-me-up after a bit of a creative dry spell. Thank you Brother and Sister White-Tail.

 

Before the Storm

After the Storm

When I took this photograph, I was pleased to catch the colors of sunset on the towering cumulonimbus cloud to our east, but had no idea this little hummer had flown into the photo until I looked at it on my computer later that evening. Thank you Brother Hummingbird.

 

The Gift

The Gift

I took this photograph on a holiday trip to Northern Minnesota in 1997. We rented a small cabin on a remote lake north of Ely and spent a week cross-country skiing, dogsledding, and reveling in the savage beauty of this wild country. My birthday is December 27th and when asked what gift I wanted, I said, “I want a wolf.”  Even though we saw wolf tracks on the frozen lake almost every day, I knew the chances of seeing and photographing on was a one-in-a-million chance. The 27th was our last day at Lark Lake Cabin and our spirits were a little low as we snowshoed the 4-miles back to our car. Then. as we came to the woods on the edge of Triangle Lake, a movement in the brush caught our eye and out of the forest stepped a huge wolf. We froze. He froze. For five minutes he let me take one photo after another before he turned and loped off into the bush. “Happy Birthday,” Mom said. Thank  you Brother Wolf.

Pine Marten

Pine Marten

Almost every year, Mom and I often rent a cabin just outside of Ely, Minnesota for an autumn retreat and every year we talk about what animal we want to see the most. In 2007, I wanted to see a pine marten. These elusive members of the weasel family are fairly common in Northern Minnesota, but they prefer to stay invisible to the human eye. As I wandered down the woodland path to our cabin one evening, I said aloud, “Come Brother Marten, I’m here waiting for you.  Please pay us a visit.”

A few days passed and I had forgotten my invocation. Mom and I were eating breakfast when something big hit the window. We thought it was a raven or even a hawk, but when we looked out, it was the Marten. He was sitting beneath the window, as if to say, “Hello! You wanted me to visit you and now you aren’t even paying attention!” I apologized profusely and was able to take several great pictures of our honored guest before he went his way. Thank you Brother Marten.

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Where owls are concerned, one needs a lot of serendipity. Denizens of the night, they are seldom available for photo-ops  and their shy nature generally keeps them just out of reach. This owl, however, was waiting for me one evening as I went out to do chores. I was driving the four-wheeler between the house and dairy-barn that evening and when I passed the hay-barn, there she was: Familiar of Athena, the Barred Owl. I stopped the four-wheeler and slowly, oh so slowly, lifted my camera. Birds like owls and hawks tend to think the lifting motion means a gun, so I’ve learned to move gently in their presence. I took several photos from about 30 yards away, then began to move forward, a little at a time, taking pictures as I drew closer. In the end, I she let me come within about ten feet and when she departed, it was with grace and aplomb, not fear. Thank you Sister Owl.

Experiences like these reinforce my belief that Nature is willing to communicate with us, but only if we come into Her world with respect. When I go into the woods, I am walking into a holy place. If I hope to become part of that sacred world, I must abandon all pride and enter as humbly as a sinner going to confession, “Forgive me Mother and Father, for my people and I have sinned.” If I am sincere, Nature will share Her mysteries, open Her secret doors, and let me stand in the presence of the gods.