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.

 

 

The Best Bad Luck

If I had a blog, today I would write about my having the best bad luck in the world.

Halloween, the year I was ten.

Halloween, the year I was ten.

I used to think I was the unluckiest person in the world. There was some basis for my assumption, after all, my medical record read like (and looked like) a textbook on unusual medical conditions: At age ten I was diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, I had brain surgery when I was sixteen to remove a tumor that destroyed my pituitary gland, found out I have a rare blood-clotting disorder when I was thirty, discovered I have Asperger’s Syndrome in my early forties, and have suffered from migraine headaches for more than a decade. When it was all said and done, I had trouble finding a specialist to help me manage my kaleidoscope of conditions. I was a medical marvel. To say I was angry at God would be the understatement of the century.

Me and my horse, Jamil, just before my surgery

Me and my horse, Jamil, just before my surgery

I wore my anger like a badge for close to thirty years. Counseling helped a little, maturity balanced things here and there, abut I was nearly forty years old before I had my epiphany; before I realized I didn’t have common bad luck, I had the best bad luck of anyone I know.

My lightning flash of insight came one night while I was journaling. I was doing a retrospective of some sort when I saw a pattern emerge in the events which caused me so much angst: Yes, the events were unfortunate and unpleasant and maybe even unfair, but in every case, there were occurrences that were really pretty marvelous. For example, when I was diagnosed with diabetes I knew I would be giving shots of  insulin for the rest of my life, but if I’d been born even fifty years earlier, before insulin was discovered, my prognosis would have been grim. Today, Type 1 Diabetes is not a terminal illness. I could have been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, cancer, or worse. All in all, if I had to have a serious condition, diabetes wasn’t a bad way to go.

My epiphany expanded when I thought about my brain tumor. Not only was it benign and fully operable, my second cousin, Dr. Don Long, was chief-of-staff of neurosurgery at John’s Hopkins Medical Center, the place where the surgery I needed was developed. Don would perform the surgery alongside the specialist who invented the procedure. Talk about spectacularly good-bad luck!

My Girl Rain

My Girl Rain

These realizations began a change in perspective that is the center of my life today. Whatever happens, it is now second-nature for me to look for the good fortune in the bad. Yesterday was a case-in-point: My beloved horse, Rain, turned up lame yesterday morning. Her leg was swollen and hot and she couldn’t put any weight on it at all. My first instinct was panic. It could be blood poisoning, some kind of infection, a fractured bone, or even a snake bite. It was Saturday and although our vet will make weekend house-calls, he isn’t always the vet-on-call. The voices in my head told me I’d have to wait until Monday, then try to get an space in Dr. Berger’s very busy appointment schedule. It could be two or three days before Rain would be seen. At that point, I had a few moments of meltdown behind the barn. Once I’d composed myself, though, I decided to give fate a chance. I called the emergency phone number for the vet clinic and wonder of wonders, not only was Dr. Berger on call, he could come right out. Good Luck Number 1. After a thorough exam, Dr. B diagnosed Rain with a bruised hoof. He gave me a daily regimen of foot-baths, poultices, and bandaging, but he assured me my Rain would make a full recovery.

If I had a dime for every time my brain predicted gloom and doom, then was proved wrong, I would be in the Fortune 500. I don’t know what defense mechanism makes us think assuming the worst is helpful, but it seems to be hardwired into the human genome. The good news is: There seems to be a treatment. Like my diabetes, it is more management than a cure, but approaching the fearful things of life with the intent of finding the best of bad luck does work miracles.

I am a little nervous as I head to the barn this morning. Rain should be better, but the committee in my head say, “No, no, things could have gone downhill over night.” Nevertheless, I will take the high-road and dare to hope for the best, not expect the worst. After all, I want to maintain my title. I want to remain the human with The Best Bad Luck in the world.