Beauty of Nature, Nature, Seeing, Vision

See! I Mean It!

Sunset Over Beaver Lake Sunset ~ Northwest Arkansas ~ Photography by Gregory Ballos

One thing pandemic isolation has done is to inspire me by images of places I cannot see in person. Now that I live in Georgia, it is difficult to travel back home to Arkansas. So if I am to once again see and enjoy the beautiful landscapes in Arkansas, I must see them in images like this stunning photograph by Gregory Ballos.

There are images to see everywhere one looks—in nature, in books, in National Geographic photographs and videos, in blogs like this one, in one’s imagination, everywhere we are willing to look. The Creator paints swashes of vibrant color across nature’s enormous canvas, and it is there for those who have eyes to see. The sky, the forest, the mountains and the valleys, the oceans, the streams and rivers, the lakes and the waterfalls—in greens and blues and grays streaked with every hue imaginable—all of it is there if we take a moment to look.

To all my pandemic brothers and sisters all over the world, I pray that you are in the places you want to be seeing the things you want to see. Yet I am very aware that many of you, like me, are not where you truly want to be. I long for my home, for Arkansas, where I can see my son and my grandchildren and where I can see the natural beauty I took for granted in the thirty-five years I lived there. The pandemic holds me fast, right where I am at this moment, and I cannot see my heart’s desire.

There is another kind of seeing. It is the seeing that involves both the eyes and the soul. You and I have some control over what I call soul-seeing. I have to admit that my problem with soul-seeing is that I rarely truly see when I look. It doesn’t matter really whether I am looking at nature or at a photographic image, I seldom look long enough to really see. I admit that I am the problem, because I feel compelled to be busy, all the time, with projects and writing and various endeavors that have the potential to consume me. Truthfully, I allow those endeavors to consume me. I admit it. I am far too busy to intentionally see. Soul-seeing is being able to see beauty with your eyes and your soul.

You may have seen the lovely books of the late Beatrix Potter, who was was an English writer, illustrator, natural scientist and conservationist. From her life’s work, one can assume that she is a keen observer. I imagine that she was a person who was able to truly see. She wrote, in fact, that she was grateful to have what she called ”the seeing eye.”

Thank God I have the seeing eye, that is to say, as I lie in bed I can walk step by step on the fells and rough land seeing every stone and flower and patch of bog and cotton pass where my old legs will never take me again.
— Beatrix Potter

For Potter, seeing seemed natural in her ability to consider nature and conservation as well as prose and art. Seeing is natural. We see without thinking. Truth is, seeing seems easy, doesn’t it? Everyone with the gift of sight knows how to do it, and those who are unable to see physically figure out how to ”see” in myriads of ways.

I wonder about it, though. I wonder if I am too preoccupied to really see what’s around me. Is my busy-work more important to me than mindfulness? If seeing is so easy, how do we miss all of the magnificent beauty that surrounds us?

It’s a ponderable question

Why not take a few quiet, meditative moments to answer it? The video below is two minutes and eight seconds long. Can you spare that much time? If you can, I invite you to relax in those two minutes and eight seconds. I invite you to mindfulness, to be fully present in those few moments. I hope you will see, with your soul’s sight, nature’s beauty in this video.

See! I mean it!

Video editing by M. Anthony Black ~ Song: “The Tides of Time” ~ Artist: Joachim Horsley
Beauty of Nature, Birdsong, Challenge, Comfort, Creation, Inner joy, Music, Skies, Social distancing, Trees

For the Beauty of the Earth

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All the beauty of the world,
the beauty that calls our admiration, our gratitude,
our worthship at the earthly level,
is meant as a set of hints, of conspiratorial whispers,
of clues and suggestions and flickers of light,
all nudging us into believing that behind the beautiful world
is not random chance but the loving God.  

N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth

These days I give over many of my thoughts to the millions of devastated lives that have been besieged by the coronavirus. I cannot stop the tears at times when I hear people tell their stories on news reports or when I see the ugliness of images around the world — people suffering, people in hunger, people grieving and languishing as the lives they once knew are snatched away from them. My one solace is a gift from a friend who is a lover of nature. She graces me every time we communicate with the many ways she has learned to find peace in the beauty of the world.

This morning, a cool wind was blowing as the sun warmed my face. I was warmed not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. All was quiet, except the wind, the flutter of hummingbird wings, the gentle tinkling of the wind chimes and the birdsong that I could hear all around me. I looked up into my favorite tree with its background of a perfect, cloudless bright blue sky. I could not help but notice the leaves in the tree, moving in the wind and presenting a shimmering display showing off hundreds of shades of green.

It carried me away, even if just for a few minutes, and I found myself embracing the beauty of the earth and the God who created it. I found a smidgen of comfort, peace and the kind of inner joy that is beyond any sorrow I might feel. Instead of being swallowed by the ugliness of the television news, I was blessed by delighting in the freshness and the beauty of the world around me.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.  — Genesis 1:28-31

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created through him and for him.  — Collosians 1:16

In this present moment in time, I cannot help but see the finger of God in all of creation. I cannot help but offer praise to God through the words of the hymn we often sing, For the Beauty of the Earth.

For beauty of each hour
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon and stars of light:
Christ, our God, to Thee we raise
This our grateful hymn of praise.

Text: Folliott Sandford Pierpoint; Music: William Chatterton Dix (1864)

I invite you to listen to the video below. For just a few moments, pay attention to this lovely hymn of praise, perhaps as part of your meditation time.