Posts Tagged ‘wonder’

hare eyeCapturing nature up close fascinates me as much today as it did when I first started photographing the outdoors years ago.   The nearness amplifies the wonder I have for my subject, whether it’s a wild animal visiting the yard, a flower blooming in the garden or a fungus feeding off an old tree in the forest.

As a photographer, I’m also fascinated by how these small wonders figure into our human environment…

under the daffodil

… especially that of children.

digging around the daffodilsAs a preschool teacher, I frequently marvel at how a single earthworm, ladybug or salamander can sustain the attention of a group of children. At what point do we lose this curiosity and passion for nature’s small wonders?

Those of us who continue to dig in the dirt or walk among the trees as adults have certainly retained some of this magic.  (Do those adults who don’t get up close and personal with the natural world actually know what they’re missing?)

Opportunities for discovery are all around us.  Even older children will display amazing determination in searching a forest for fungi…


A gorgeous polypore fungus

or animal holes in trees.

what s in that hole

Hello in there! Is anybody home?

If children learn more from example than by the written or spoken word, then a few minutes spent outdoors with a child is key to transferring a passion for nature to future generationsI hope my photographs incite others to go outside and see what they can find out there with their own eyes.

bunny seen from kitchen window

A wild snowshoe hare as seen from the kitchen window

My photographs act as a witness to the wonders around me… both in the natural world and in the young eyes of those who are only just beginning to see it for themselves.

looking forward

This post is in response to Views Infinitum’s Assignment 25: Your Photography Passion  
Scott’s challenge is open to all.  Submission deadline is Wednesday May 22nd 2013 at midnight (your time zone).

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013.

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If you dug a hole straight through to the opposite side of the planet, where would you come out? Like most North Americans, Nova Scotians would find themselves in the middle of the Indian Ocean. 

Wherever we live on the planet, we tend to think of our immediate environment as stale and mundane compared to what lies beyond the horizon.  The intrigue of the unknown is fascinating to us all.  If we live where it’s cold, we long for tropical weather and dislike having to shovel snow or drive on icy roads.  Desert and tropical inhabitants long for cool fresh air and wonder about the magical qualities of snow.  We humans are a tough lot to please.

The part of the Indian Ocean where Nova Scotians would find themselves is just southwest of the Great Australian Bight, an area inhabited by marine creatures, the majority of which (like the leafy sea dragon at left) are only found in that part of the world.  Now THAT is fascinating.  Though they are pretty cool too, I believe all the plant and animal species found here in Cow Bay are found elsewhere in Canada and the United States.

Photo credit:  Traci Woods Wellington AustraliaAs luck would have it, there actually exists another Cow Bay in Queensland Australia.  Located in the Daintree Rainforest, it boasts an average annual daily temperature of 27 Celsius.  We don’t even enjoy that as an average during our summer months.  But it rains there 120 days of the year.  As evidenced by the phenomenal flooding that’s wreaked havoc in Queensland recently, no place on the planet is likely perfect.  But that won’t stop me from wondering about faraway lands (and waters) and the amazing creatures that inhabit them. 

Photo credits and references:

You can try Zefrank’s Earth Sandwich tool for yourself by clicking on the map images at the top of this post.

A larger version of the photograph of the amazing leafy sea dragon by Laurent Ballesta and other marine wildlife found off Australia’s coast can be found at National Geographic by clicking on the dragon image above.

More images of the flooding in Queensland can be found by clicking on the image of the kangaroo ferryman photographed by Traci Woods.  Thank you to Dawn at Sahlah Photos and Thoughts for inspiring me with her post on Flooding in Queensland.


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Waves can pull you in without getting you wet. One moment you’re looking at them from your vantage point on the shore and the next you’re tangled in their frothy curls.

With mist on your face and the roar of the sea numbing your ear drums, you’re soon set adrift.  As each wave rolls forward, you’re taken under into the mysterious deep.  Long forgotten memories are churned up and float on the surface like sea foam.  

Let your heart look on white sea spray
And be lonely…
~ Carl Sandburg

It’s a wonder how some of Nature’s most sensory experiences can take you so far away from the present moment.  You might recall long forgotten days at the beach, swimming or surfing.  Or your thoughts might drift farther away from the shore, re-examining what was and what might have been at any point along life’s journey. You might even surprise yourself by applying new solutions to old problems.

…  a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought… alone.
~ William Wordsworth

You needn’t go far or stay away long.  And herein lies the greatest gift the sea can offer.  Wherever you go when you look at the sea, as with all the best voyages, you’re always more in tune with yourself upon your return.  

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Over the weekend, I discovered a number of previously unseen life forms with my grandson.  The biodiversity present in our boggy woods never fails to impress, but this is especially so when you have a child along to point out the weird and wonderful.  

After weeks of heavy precipitation, the woods were full of unusual fungi. 

Once considered plants, it’s now believed that fungi share more characteristics with life forms in the animal kingdom.  While the cell walls of plants consist of cellulose, theirs contain chitin, which is also found in the shells of crustaceans, insects and some molluscs.  Unlike plants, which can make their own food through the process of photosynthesis, fungi survive by consuming dead matter.

Despite having a good field guide, I still find it difficult to identify the types of fungi I find in the woods.  There seems to be such a variation in color and shape as they age, which complicates the identification process even more.

However, from my grandson’s perspective,  it wasn’t necessary to know the names of these fungi in order to marvel at their remarkable appearance.  Perhaps Nature is most awesome to those who carry child-like wonder in their pockets instead of field guides.

To attain knowledge, add things every day.  To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

~ Lao Tsu

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You’re alone, walking along the shoreline and enjoying the sunshine and the warm sand between your toes, when suddenly you see it:  a bottle with a piece of paper in it, lying on the sparkling beach.  You open the cork and read the contents and there it is… a message for the ages… words of wisdom that promise to give your mundane world new meaning and passion…  or perhaps a connection to another kindred soul on the planet.  Ah… if only it would happen like this. 

If such life-changing messages are to be found, they’re not lying there on a sunny shore, waiting to be chanced upon.  There’s a price to be paid for their discovery.  More likely, they’re to be found on a rainy day among plastic bottles and broken lobster traps in a heap of storm debris.

They may be enmeshed in a mass of wet seaweed, recently thrown up on the shore by crashing waves.  It may be winter when the sky is grey and oppressive, and you’d much rather be indoors than outside with the cold wind biting at your face and fingers.

If the message carried within the bottle is truly magnificent, you can bet the glass vessel is  lying close to the edge of the water, destined to be pulled out to sea again if you don’t act quickly enough to pick it up.

Anyone who has ever valued wisdom or soulful connections with others knows that these are treasures you have to find for yourself.  Neither can be passed from one person to the next.  Likewise, the person who finds the bottle on the shore is the one destined to acquire its contents. 

‘I always believed the sea could bring surprises and joy.’  So said Hsiao Wei-chen of Taiwan, who recently found a message in a bottle thrown into the sea 3,000 nautical miles away by container ship seaman Oliver Hickman.  His note wished the finder health and happiness and also said the world is full of fun, love and beauty.  Apparently, Hickman makes it a regular practice to throw bottled messages into the sea.  For more on the story, see Times Live.

The world is indeed full of fun, love and beauty.  It’s also full of wonder.  You just have to get out there and discover it for yourself.

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You must not know too much, or be too precise or scientific about birds and trees and flowers and water-craft; a certain free margin, and even vagueness – perhaps ignorance, credulity – helps your enjoyment of these things…
~Walt Whitman

Sometimes, it’s good to know less than more.  Acquiring more knowledge of a subject often removes a soft veil of mystery that leaves only the bare facts visible.  The magic disappears. 

The numerous types of lichens, mosses and fungi make the woods seem more magical for many of us.  Is this because we typically know less about them than other living things in the forest?  If I encounter new, unknown varieties on a walk in the woods, why does this make the excursion more enchanting?  Perhaps, sometimes, it’s best to not know the names of things so that mystery and wonder can survive.

Though correct identification is helpful if they’re going to be eaten, nature’s myriad types of fungi need not be named in order to be enjoyed for the beauty of their subtle colours and forms.  Their ability to uplift our spirits are nonetheless.  And it may just be easier to imagine them eaten by elves or sat upon by delicate faeries if their exact variety is unknown to us.

I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.
~  Harry Emerson Fosdick

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Witches have been leaving their brooms in my yard for some time now, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to recognize them for what they are. 

Witches’ brooms are not uncommon in coniferous forests across North America.  Here in Nova Scotia, they’re often found among the balsam firs.  A forest novelty, they look like mutant branches on otherwise normal-looking trees.

From a distance, they appear as a ball mass of twigs.  In winter, they’re bare of needles and look especially gnarly.  On large trees, they can measure several feet in diameter.

In spring, witches’ brooms grow nutritious shoots that are eaten by grouse and porcupines.  The new needles are a pale yellowish green and grow in a spiral pattern around the twigs in a manner that’s different from the tree’s other branches.  These needles dry up and die in the fall.

The broom is actually a fungus (Melampsorella caryophyllacearum Schröter) that depends on infection of alternate hosts for survival.  In my yard, the spores grow on the needles of the fir tree  in the spring and are picked up by chickweed that also grows nearby.  Later, the fungus on the chickweed passes its spores back to the firs.

Witches’ brooms aren’t  welcome on Christmas tree farms where they disfigure trees and weaken them for other diseases to take hold.  

In the wild, large witches’ brooms are sometimes used as a foundation for dreys (squirrels’ nests).  Northern flying squirrels and red squirrels are both known to make use of them for this purpose.  High above the ground in the canopy of the forest, they’re sometimes also used as a base for the nests of  birds of prey.

It’s funny how what man sees as messy and an eyesore in nature, wildlife employs for both food and habitat.  Perhaps we should get our vision checked. 

This past December, a friend was delighted to find a small witch’s broom in the Christmas tree she purchased on a tree lot.  Though the seller was eager to cut it off for her, she believed it added something magical to the tree. 

For more information on the Yellow Witches’ Broom in Nova Scotia, see here.

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hydrangea bush

Hydrangea shrubs become so heavy with blooms towards the end of summer that their branches begin to droop.  Their tired appearance might make it easy for you to walk past.  But stop.  Take a closer look…

hydrangea 1

Despite the droopiness of the branches, is not each bloom still exquisite, still perfect in its form and softness?  Peering through the bloom, one can get a glimpse of the fragile inner structure that holds each of the tiny flowers together in the rounded shape that is often mistaken for the flower itself.  Look more closely…


Each individual little flower consists of three tiny petals with its own centre.  Look!  The tiniest of flies is taking a rest on one of them.

hydrangea 2Like flowers, the more closely we look at people, the more wondrous they become.  Although they might appear tired and worn from a distance, up close, their resilience and beauty is revealed.  Sometimes it’s only when they begin to fall apart a little, that we can see what holds them together beneath the surface.  Each one is more complex than we could ever have imagined.  But such discoveries don’t come cheap.

It takes time, patience and energy to focus on a single flower or person.  Some open themselves more easily to revelation than others.  Yet each one will open and disclose its beauty in its own time.

So much is waiting for us to discover, in both flowers and people… if only we would take the time and look carefully.

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.

~ Albert Einstein

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