Seasons Change

Winter has shaken off its icy grip here in the Pacific Northwest, and purple crocus are showing off their new satiny petals. Color has returned, and am I ever glad!

Every season ushers in something to appreciate. Winter this year gave me time to reflect. I bought a new journal and a blue gel pen. I cleaned a couple of closets. Donated excess. Helped a team start a Good News Club at a local elementary school on their early-release day. Learned the basics of painting with acrylics just for the fun of it.

Spring is waving goodbye to Winter, and I’ve been cleaning up the ugly flowerbeds, which are littered with old blackened plant debris. I’m one who never cuts back the plants from the prior growing season, because birds congegrate to peck at the seed pods throughout the colder months. Come Spring, I tug at the old while daydreaming of the new–what I’d like to plant for spring and summer.

It’s a constant battle between letting my faithful perennials just do their usual thing or listening to the voice inside my head that asks, But wouldn’t new annuals brighten things up? Home Depot’s nursery always wins.

Seasons change, and so does life. I’m ashamed to admit that I hate goal-setting. Always have. Rigid goals (for me, at least) don’t leave room for the unexpected. I love what I’ve come to know as God moments. Unexpected meetings with someone who needs help. Conversations in a store line that connects me to another human being with similar interests. Time to think and read and ponder the beauty of nature. I’m in my sixth decade of life, which allows me to ponder more and work less, and for that I’m thankful.

This season will usher in reasons to celebrate as well as inevitable new challenges. That’s life. I’m looking forward to playing in the dirt, tugging weeds (yes, really), and watching my perennials color my world again.

What are you looking forward to most this Spring?

No Words

No words. That’s how I often feel when I’m out photographing nature. There really aren’t adequate words to describe the awesomeness of discovery. 

Soaking up the beauty of a forest, or hearing a waterfall from a distance is better than anything money could buy. I’d rather spend a week in the woods with my husband and my camera than go on a fancy cruise to Anywhere.

Nature is where I refuel, not because of the beauty itself, but because it’s where I’m reminded of the loving Creator behind it all. 

*Images ©Bonnie Bruno Photography, Music (“On My Way”) by Composer/solo pianist Tim Neumark (used with permission).

By Still Waters

Every time I take a walk near a reflective body of water, I can’t help but think of Psalm 23. I used to connect that passage of the Bible with the process of dying. The “valley of the shadow of death” part even made me cringe when I was much younger.

I now realize that it represents so much more than a final journey from this life to eternity. It’s actually a picture of my relationship with God–secure in His care, no matter what lies ahead. Because I’ve chosen to trust Him with my very life – from now to the day He takes me Home – I don’t fear the process. Not at all. In fact, I rarely think about how it will happen or when.

It just so happens that I’ve been recently studying Psalm 23 with a group of women from my church. Written by a king (David) who once was a lowly shepherd boy, Psalm 23 speaks of God as our loving Shepherd, tenderly watching over our comings and goings, leading us beside still waters. (I also learned that sheep do not naturally like fast-moving streams. It startles them into running the other direction.)

Earlier this week, my husband and I walked along snowy trails at a local water garden. As usually happens when I’m out with my camera, I kept pausing to capture pictures of the Winter wonderland. Nick walked on ahead, and waited for me at one of several wooden bridges a short distance up the trail.

The winding path was slippery and mushy in places, but so worth the walk! To the left of me was the most beautiful sight–a body of water with not a single ripple. Each step I took seemed to echo Psalm 23:2: He leads me beside still waters.  Trees stood tall, perfectly reflected within a rim of freshly fallen snow. It was both majestic and humbling, a gift to remind me of what my heart already knew.

Life isn’t a body of still water. It’s filled with unexpected ups and downs of joy, sorrow, celebrations and disappointments. It’s sticky and unfair and confusing at times. But as a friend who is currently battling cancer declares, “God is BIGGER!”

And that’s very good news for each of us.

Goodbye, Hello…

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Twenty-four hours. That’s how long we’re given each day. One twenty-four hour block in which to make a difference, mend a fence, or determine to start all over again in the pursuit of personal change.

When I was a young child, I could hardly wait for the next day to arrive. I loved staying up late with a flashlight, reading until my eyelids drooped shut. As soon as daylight hit my window, though, I was anxious to start all over again. No sleeping in for me. (I’m still wired that way, and crawl out of bed by six every morning, sometimes earlier.)

My seven-year-old self had too much to do to waste a single minute! We lived out in the country, with an orange grove behind our house, and walnut trees to the left of us. Beyond the orchard was a grassy hillside, where I’d lay on my back on that sun-warmed slope to watch fluffy clouds float by. A summer day brought plenty of cloud pictures to discover–my own sky-high treasure hunt.

Fast forward several decades. I’m still a fan of sunsets and sunrises, as is my outdoors-loving husband. We can drive from our valley over to the coast, where the sunrise at Heceta Head never disappoints. Sunsets there tease the senses. Just when I think the colorful display is over…BAM! The horizon’s edge suddenly shoots fingers of gold, orange, and pink straight up, like a fireworks show.

Last summer, I was strolling along a beach one evening with my ten-year-old granddaughter. Waves rolled in gently, rippling the inlet in a spot where an orange reflection kissed the sand. Our day was almost over. I pointed to the orange-gold horizon. “Behind the horizon, way over on the other side of the world, lives another ten-year-old girl. The moment the sun disappears over our horizon, it’s the start of a new day for her.”

And so it goes. Goodbye and hello, over and over and over again–a part of God’s amazing everyday plan since Creation.

Each new dawn broadcasts its arrival across bedroom curtains, walls, and roofs worldwide. A new day offers hearts attuned to Hope a fresh start. Had a rotten yesterday? Just face the day and begin again. Missed sleep over a problem that seemingly has no solution? Seize the sunrise like a brand-new, never-been-written-in journal.

God’s all ready to bless and guide us, and He delights in new beginnings.

Wonderment

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The first time my husband and I stopped at the dahlia gardens, I’m sure my face turned blue from sucking in my breath. Spread out before us were acres and acres of flowers in all stages of bloom–Nature’s colorful quilt. I’m sure I looked like a crazed kid in a candy store, wandering from row to row through those open fields, trying to choose which amazing blossom to photograph first.

Then it happened. This enormous pink dahlia stopped me in my tracks. It was sun-puddled and fluffy, its petals only partway open like a floral version of the gradients of all gradients, with luscious pinks running into purples and golds. So beautiful, a one-of-a-kind Masterpiece.

So there I was, feeling happy-sappy. I was the one with the Nikon, leaning waaaaay in with my macro lens, dodging bumblebees to get a closer shot. I mumbled to myself, oohing and ahhing with abandon.

Sometimes it feels like I was born clutching a camera. I can easily lose track of time, and sometimes–people. I’m guessing that the benches spread throughout these public display gardens are for weary husbands. And then it’s time to leave, Wonder-filled until the next outing.

My sense of Wonder was actually hatched back in fourth grade, when I received a surprise for my tenth birthday, my very own Brownie camera. Shortly after, I headed off in a caravan of cars loaded down with sleeping bags, pillows, and bags of clothes, on my way to Camp Tehama. For seven days and nights, I would escape the valley heat and make new friends from various churches in our area.

Camp Tehama gave me an opportunity to break out of my shyness. It’s also where I first discovered God’s creative fingerprint all over Nature. Each morning, our camp schedule allowed an hour of quiet time where we were encouraged to venture out a ways into the forest by ourselves, to spend time alone with God.

Our Creator became very real to me in that tree-thick setting, and it didn’t take long to find a perfectly huge, moss-covered log to claim as mine. There I’d spend my hour straddled at one end, admiring all the tiny plants that had turned that fallen tree into a nurse log. I was an easily distracted thinker, though, interrupted by the creaking of brittle pine branches lifted by a cool morning breeze.

Pretty warblers gathered at the very top of swaying trees, belting out their morning melody. I spotted ants marching in formation, disappearing under loose bark. And there on the soft, spongy ground, tiny purple wildflowers peeked through years’ worth of fallen pine needles. I snapped hurried pictures of every detail, forgetting that I only had two packets of 36-count film to last all week.

Sometimes it takes a mountaintop experience to shake loose the Everyday of the hot valley where most of us live our lives 99.9% of the time. My early camp experiences rooted my life in a sense of wonderment, and I’m fairly certain that I wouldn’t be so consumed today by dahlia fields and bumblebees, treetops and waterfalls if I’d not had my Camp Tehama experience.

One summer in fourth grade made all the difference.

Behind Every Image

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Glance at any nature image. What do you see? If you’re like most admirers of nature photography, you see the obvious. Color, objects, shadows and light.

But behind every image is a story. I’ve been blessed with a sharp memory and can look at any image in my archives and remember where I was and how that moment made me feel.

The sunny image above might look like morning sunshine sneaking through a forest, but it’s so much more. You see, this is a hillside on the east side of Pacific Hwy 101 where we love to camp every summer. This isn’t just any hill, either. Nope.

It’s the bumpy, mossy “mountain” that quickly became a favorite of our two youngest grandchildren. Last summer, we changed plans and drove them over to the Oregon coast for a few days of camping, instead of to our usual campground closer to home.

One glance was all it took. Wide-eyed and open-mouthed, they roared up the hill, waving their arms and calling down to us every couple of minutes.

“Papa! Grandma! Look how high we are!”

That hill offered hours of adventure that I hoped would etch itself into their memory banks. Maybe someday they’ll describe it in great, exaggerated detail to their own grandchildren.