“I will not hurt you, little one,” I say softly to the dark eyes peering at me above the rippling water. The wet, whiskered nose is in the air, the small round ears flattened to the sides of its head. Most of the long, chocolate-colored body is submerged as it glides effortlessly through the water.
Quietly I pull the lens cap off, click the camera on, and begin focusing on the animal swimming nearby. It is not a fancy camera, a simple point and click. But it has taught me what it means to be fully present; to be so immersed in Nature that I am one with the subject I am trying to photograph. When this camera hangs around my neck, I notice the little things: the florescent turquoise of the damselflies’ hair-thin bodies flitting among the reeds, the bulging eyes of a curious bullfrog peering at me from the shallows, the opaque wings of two dragonflies mating on a speckled boulder near shore. With each click of the camera, I am overwhelmed with the beauty found in Nature, humbled by the diversity of Creation, grateful to be alive. No matter where I am, when I pause and take the lens cap off, I am a different person.
I am the person I want to be every minute of every day.
The beaver dives, the splash of his tail breaking the hush of early dawn. Drifting in a small, inflatable dinghy in Covered Portage Cove in the North Channel, I see our boat anchored in the distance, its stark white hull providing contrast to the muted blues of water and sky. The cliffs towering above the cove are softened by hundreds of fir trees jutting through cracks in the rock. Near shore, a blue heron stands erect, all neck and legs camouflaged in the same palette of grays, silvers, and peach as the boulders creating the platform on which it stands. A dark navy stripe runs along the top of his beak, above his eyes and then splays out like two wispy thin braids of hair behind his head. He stares intently at the water below.
While I have always owned a camera, I never experienced its power to transform the ordinary into the magical until I hiked the dunes shaping the eastern coast of Lake Michigan. Cold, alone, struggling to find my life’s purpose, I noticed the brave faces of spring’s first wildflowers poking through the earth’s brown-crusted floor. Determined to learn their names, I began photographing the intricate details that made each flower unique. Through the lens of a camera, I saw the extraordinary richness of things I barely noticed most of my life as I rushed to click items off my never-ending to-do list.
The beaver resurfaces closer to the boat in which I sit, slapping its tail against the water before immediately diving again.
“I won’t hurt you,” I repeat. But the beaver is not listening, clearly agitated. Its eyes are pleading every time it surfaces, as if trying desperately to communicate. It stays only a moment before dousing the air with droplets and disappearing beneath the clear, cold water.
“Oh, you have a nest nearby,” I say, finally understanding its message. Placing the cap back on my camera, I pick up the oars and row silently away.
Nature will provide an encore elsewhere. It always does when I choose to be present.
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