Tag Archives: awe

Quote of the Week #82

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you will likely recall my talking about seeing a special kind of firefly that lives in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park–the synchronous firefly. I have written several posts about my experience witnessing the hundreds of these fireflies that light up night for two weeks every year in early June–Magic for your Soul, Soundless Music and 10 things you didn’t know about fireflies.

q-4278Recently I backpacked 4.4 miles to a remote campsite in the backcountry of the park with my husband and two new friends. We arrived at our site in late afternoon, set up our tents and sat back to relax until dark. We drank lemonade rum, snacked on cheese and crackers before our dinners and played a dice game called Farkle. All was well in our world.

Later, as darkness approached, anticipation was high. Our new friends had never seen the fireflies and I badly wanted them to experience the awe I felt the first time I’d seen them, many years ago after I moved to Asheville. With a nearly-full moon already high in the sky, darkness came slowly. At 9:00, I left everyone sitting by the empty fire circle, walking back down the narrow path, looking hopefully for signs of the fireflies. I saw only a few lights. Next I explored the area behind our tents, towards the wide, rock-filled river that provided constant music. Still only a handful of lights. Growing discouraged I ventured farther up the trail, hoping perhaps that would be the “spot” where the fireflies would be gathering. Again, nothing.

I walked back to the group, wondering how it could be that the fireflies were not here. Were we too early? Too late? Was the ranger who gave me advice wrong about this spot?

My friends were quiet, looking around like me.

And then! Here a light, there a light. Here a light, there a light! Tiny lights began flashing in the darkness, low to the ground. We made our way away from our open site, to another spot just on the other side of a small stream, in a denser part of the forest. There, in the silence of the woods, surrounded by darkness, the flashing lights surrounded us! They were everywhere!

Synchronous fireflies are different than other fireflies in that they all flash, flash, flash, flash and then somehow, a signal is communicated and they all stop flashing in unison, making the night black again. It remains black for a few seconds and then the lights start up again. And this goes on and on and on until somewhere between 11:00 and midnight.

Our small group of 4 stood silently in the forest, surrounded by flashing lights. At times they seemed to all dance forward, towards us before growing still again. Blackness all around.

Then the flickering of tiny lights again, decorating the darkness and creating a silent symphony of dancing light.

Later, after we all had our fill, we moved off to settle in our tents, which were by then surrounded by flickering lights. We took off the rain fly, lying in the tent and watching contentedly the dancing lights of tiny insects gathered outside of our temporary home in the forest. It is hard to describe. Difficult to convey the emotion I felt as I watched this. Impossible to communicate why I am moved to tears by this most simple natural event that happens at this time of year in this place every year and has for many, many years. It is magical. It is special. It is food for my soul…

And so, this week’s quote–two actually because as is often the case, I could not decide.

“Silence is life’s most sacred melody,” and:


“Life is passing rapidly. Fiercely commit to every moment you find beautiful and remember it. Record it. Fully, whole-heartedly inhabit it. Awareness is one of the greatest things you can possess in this life as it is as important as the very air we breathe and water we drink to stay alive.” –Victoria Erickson


Do you agree? What magical moments have you been a part of lately? Have you ventured to the Smokies to see these fireflies? What was your experience like? Have you seen fireflies in a meadow or forest near you? What was it like? Use the comment box below to share your thoughts–I always enjoy hearing from my readers.

…Here’s to making time for a magic moment near you in the very near future.

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Nature NOW, Quote of the Week | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

Quote of the Week #74

I have been spending a lot of time in a field near my house looking for Mother Nature’s treasures. Each day when I know I will be doing this I wake up excited and with a feeling of anticipation, like a child on Christmas eve or Christmas morning. I race through getting dressed and breakfast, anxious to get out there and see what I will discover. (Reminds me of a post I wrote called What Inspires you to skip?)


A most spectacular gulf fritillary butterfly on New York ironweed

There’s no telling WHAT that might be. Since finding that metallic chrysalis recently, I have been keyed in on looking for more chrysalises and amazingly, have found MANY, though most of the others were from a butterfly called a Buckeye (photos below in the slide show). These are much less impressive, though still equally miraculous in how the process occurs.

Today I found 13 chrysalises, though only 7 of them were still intact–the others were hollow inside, already eaten by some hungry insect. I brought the good ones home so I can have a chance to watch them emerge.

I know one of these days when I arrive excited for a heavenly morning of photography, I will find this field mowed… I dread this, knowing it will be a very sad day. It will break my heart in a way I suspect not all that many people will understand.

In my bios and artist statement, I often say I have had an intimate relationship with the natural world since I was a child. I suspect this baffles some people. Intimate? With nature? Huh?

But it is hard to describe it with any other word. When you return again and again to the same plot of wild land–whatever size it happens to be– you begin to learn things about it, just as you would a lover’s body.

I love this intimacy with nature! I am beginning to be able to predict what butterflies I will see, where the turkeys will be, where the deer bed down, where to look for chrysalises, and what plants I can expect to find caterpillars feeding on. I have watched deer browsing along the woods in the back corner, have enjoyed the calls of a pair of red-shouldered hawks that are often nearby, have heard the turkeys gobbling in the adjacent field and have seen goldfinches and other birds feeding on the seeds of the flowers. I have lain in the grass surrounded by yellow and purple blossoms, looking up into a sea of blue, watching turkey vultures soaring on invisible air currents. In spending such quality time there I have become attached to the field and its inhabitants.

And so… this week’s quote, a long one to be sure, but one of my very favorite from a man I very much admire–Henry David Thoreau who said:


“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs…–that is your success. All nature is your congratulation and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… the true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.

It is a little bit of star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”

I have written about this theme before– quote #42 about each moment of the year, or #44 about everything having a voice, or #58 about getting to know something in nature or #68 about nature making you whole.

What do you think of these? Do you know what I mean when I say an intimate relationship with nature? Have you experienced this during your lifetime?

Check out some of the photos from my recent visits to this field:

A most beautiful gulf fritillaryA buckeye covered with dewA backlit sulfurA monarchA skipperCaterpillar of a buckeyeA crab spider waitsA buckeye chrysalis in NY ironweedA moth with dewLadybugSkipperHaven't identified this caterpillar yet!Ailanthus webworm mothA jumping spider with preyAnother sulfurA variegated fritillaryAnother skipper!Haven't identified this one yet either!Wow, what beauty!A gulf fritillary and a variegated fritillary togetherA buckeye on goldenrodDotted with dewA buckeyeA variegated fritillaryA fuzzy caterpillarBeauty in the little thingsWater on cloverWater art!SuspendedMy favorite--web art!More web artA crab spider with dinnerPraying mantisSwirls of a passion vine

Posted in For My Soul, Just for Fun, Lessons from Mother Nature, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , 2 Comments

Do You See What I See?

1-It’s that time of year again–the time when I can’t seem to get anything else done because I just want to be outside, looking for spots of beauty to capture with my camera. Mornings are my favorite time of day –when the birds are singing and the sunshine is just beginning to wipe away the dew. Time disappears in those moments. Do you know what I mean? What activity do you do that makes time disappear?

Since you can’t come along with me into the fields, I thought I would share some of my recent photos. As you can see, there is no shortage of beauty! Which one is your favorite?

Enjoy! And have a wonderful Thursday!!

TogetherField of black-eyed susansShadowsCurvesDelicate fernsOnePollen grainsIn a lineAweReady to fallFlowersCommon whitetail dragonfly, maleLong legs!A beetle on a lilyAnother beetleA bee gathers pollenA jumping spider! I see you!DropsBacklitWater marblesZigzags One flowerRed-lined leafRaindropsBeautyA beetleUnfurling its proboscisReflectionsA female widow skimmerWater artA stink bugSimplicity A female hummingbird!VeinsPinkYellowHalloween pennantA slaty skimmer at the pondA painted ladyBanded pennant femaleStar-dust caught!! Calico pennantBlack birds chase an osprey! Such big eyes!A damselfly at the pond

If you need some more inspiration for the day, check out these past posts– What causes me to skip? What gift should every child have?  and finally, on Intimacy with the natural world. Enjoy.

Posted in For My Soul, Just for Fun, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , 5 Comments

Quote of the Week #36

If you’ve ever spent any time around children you probably know that they tend to have a sense of wonder about anything and everything. I spent the weekend visiting family in Ohio, enjoying time with my niece Kylee, who just turned two. Like many this age, (all?) she is a fun mix of adorable and inquisitive.

Kylee’s infectious spirit got me thinking about one of my all time favorite Rachel Carson quotes so I thought I would feature this as the quote of the week.


A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against boredom and disenchantment of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. –Rachel Carson

Have you heard this quote? What do you think of it? Do you continue to have a sense of wonder even as you age? Do you notice others around you having that same sense of wonder or just the opposite? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

Posted in Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , 4 Comments

Nature For Your Soul

Mud Lake in Nederland, Colorado

Mud Lake in Nederland, Colorado

Years ago I worked at a small nature center in Nederland, Colorado and directed a book project with a group of 5 and 6 year olds called The Most Important Thing. Each student created one page in the book, filling in the blank after “the most important thing about me is….” Of course I had to make a page too. On my page it reads, “the most important thing about me is I love not man less but nature more.” I borrowed the lines from the end of a beautiful poem by Lord Byron.

There is pleasure in the pathless woods, There is rapture on the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, By the deep sea, the music in its roar, I love not man less but nature more.


My intimacy with nature defines me. Nature nourishes my spirit and makes my soul dance with joy. I am happiest when I am outside, surrounded by the beauty and wonder of nature.

Do you feel this way too? What would your page say? What is the most important thing about YOU?

lake-2416Lately I have been raising Monarch caterpillars   (because I feared their field was going to be mowed) and just recently, the first three emerged from their chrysalises, entering the world for the first time as winged adults. This morning I sat watching and waiting for close to 5 hours, wanting to be present when they emerged. In studying them so closely I noticed subtle changes that took place throughout the process. It was fascinating! And I was captivated. Not wanting to go anywhere else or do anything else for fear of missing it.

Have you ever had the pleasure of witnessing this? My gosh, it is absolutely miraculous! Breathtaking. A moment that rivals some of the most extraordinary natural events I have ever seen.

4 weeks ago, the creature was an egg the size of a freckle. The creature guess--2struggled out of its egg and became a caterpillar, eating, eating, eating, eating for two weeks until it was ready to make its chrysalis. And then. Then there was stillness. And inside the thin green walls of that chrysalis, the caterpillar was rearranging its parts. Close to two weeks later, it came out as a winged adult. 2 Weeks! My gosh, how is this possible?

“How does it do that?” someone asked at my recent Little Wonders program when we were talking about the metamorphosis of butterflies.

lake-0190I am sure science has a better answer than mine–which was simply that “I don’t know. But wow, is it miraculous!” Sometimes in nature it feels okay to me to not know EXACTLY how. I don’t need to know every single detail. My awe and wonder at the event brings me to tears, I am so amazed that such a thing is possible. And then, so incredibly grateful that I get to see it, know about it, learn from it, be inspired by it. Then watch it again. And again.

It makes me think of this great quote I came across many years ago by Albert Einstein. I will share it with you now–a bonus quote of the week for this last week in August:

“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”

Would people appreciate butterflies more if they witnessed this emergence? How can these miraculous events not make national news? These things happen every day! How can people see this and not feel compelled to share it with every single person they know? And then do EVERYTHING IN THEIR POWER to protect these amazing creatures, to make sure that they continue to thrive! (Read HERE about ways you can help Monarchs and coming soon, 10 things you didn’t know about butterflies…stay tuned.)

Watch with me as the first butterfly emerges… is it nature for your soul too?


Now, if that wasn’t enough and you are still wanting more, here’s a bonus... the BEST drug commercial you’ll ever see!

Do you take this drug? Are you– like me– addicted? Woo hoo, isn’t it wonderful!!! Amazing everyone doesn’t know about this! How can this be?

(Read the fine print as it goes along… what is your favorite part? Mine is the sentence that says “nature is not golf.” )

Hope to hear from you! Today I will be watching the last of the 4 original Monarchs emerging from its chrysalis! Can’t wait. Here’s wishing you a bit of magic in your day too….it’s everywhere, you just need to look!

Posted in Animals, For My Soul, Insects, Spiders and other Invertebrates, Just for Fun, Little Wonders, Nature NOW, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Soul Food

ablo--7There is always a lot in the media about the value of putting the right kind of foods in our body and doing the right kind of activity for our body and our minds, but what about our souls? That place within us that has no concrete location but in many ways defines who we are, giving us our sense of identity and our emotional or intellectual energy. What kinds of activities do you do to feed your soul?

aheart-1000575There has been so much in the way of disturbing news this week that it’s sometimes hard to not succumb to sticking my head in the sand and saying, “The heck with world news!” The news is often filled with depressing stories. At the top of the list for me is the story about the man from Minnesota who paid a lot of money to shoot an endangered lion in Africa. It saddens me beyond words and as Jane Godall said, “I have no words to express my repugnance.”

To escape from all of this–if only for a little while– I try and schedule several sessions a week where I can get outside with my camera and just BE in the moment.

For me, nature is the greatest therapy. I go to reconnect with simpler things, to be inspired, to be soothed, to be renewed and rejuvenated.

This free therapy only works if we leave our heavy thoughts behind and allow ourselves time to do nothing.


Sigurd Olson said it best:

“Simplicity in all things is the secret of the wilderness and one of its most valued lessons. It is what we leave behind that is important. I think the matter of simplicity goes further than just food, equipment and unnecessary gadgets; it goes into the matter of thoughts and objectives as well. When in the wilds, we must not carry our problems with us or the joy is lost.”

On many mornings recently, as the fog hovered in the valleys and drops of dew glistened on every surface, I moved through the meadow with no plan or goals, simply searching for beauty. Something not difficult to find once I leave the troubles of the “other” world behind.

Here are some of the things I captured in my recent photo sessions:

A fly in the grass A damselflyInsect eggs on goldenrodguess who?Silken treasureFog in the valleyWater dropsWater artThe drops line upDamselfly loveA Calico Pennant dragonflyGrassSuspended on silkA damselflyWhat beautiful eyes you have!My favorite kind of spider! A jumping spider.A red maple borer mothWhat iridescence! Bugs hatching from their eggs.A cicada DragonflyA mockingbird finds a berryMorning TreasureA robin finds a berry too! Web artA spider in her webWater drops!An immature wood duckWhat beautiful wings!Wow, he's lovely!

Have you scheduled some Soul Time lately? If not, perhaps you should!

Check out these posts about the same subject: What inspires you  to skip? , Quote of the week #22, Magic in the night, Magic comes to a backyard near you.

Posted in 1 minute meditation, For My Soul, Just for Fun, Little Wonders, Nature NOW | Also tagged , , , 2 Comments

Quote of the Week #15

Have you ever been in the woods on a rainy day–by choice, not circumstance? With the right mindset and pair of eyes it can be an amazing experience, often inspiring awe and wonder at the endless beauty to be found. Yesterday it rained on and off all day but I decided to spend it in a lovely place called Jones Gap, just over the South Carolina border. My 45 minute drive had me flipping on the high-speed wipers several times but I carried on, suspecting I was in for a glorious day of solitude and serenity. It was raining! And I was thrilled!

Rain often transforms a forest into a mystical place where dark tree trunks melt into fog and wet leaves on the trail steal your footsteps. Infinite tiny beads of water decorate every newly opened leaf and bud and branch, hanging like silver diamonds for a moment, or several moments, before falling silently to the ground, like a firefly in the dark–there and then gone, there and then gone. Miniature leaves of maple, beech and oak decorate gray branches like ornaments on a holiday tree, perfect versions of their future selves. Spring ephemerals carpet the floor around me in every color of the rainbow– purple irises, green leaves of mayapples, yellow, white and purple violets, blood-red trillium and pink azaleas.

As I inched along the deserted trail, I was serenaded by the music of the river beside me, falling over rounded rocks as it made its way to places unknown. Oh how I reveled in my solitude! Such joy there is in being totally IN the moment, free to go and do whatever feels right with no strings attached. Singing birds added to the chorus of the gently falling rain, not affected by the cloud-filled sky or precipitation. Looking carefully I spotted several salamanders including red spotted newts and dusky salamanders who were out enjoying the wet day. Unlike people, they seem to love the rain, always out when the world goes in. Further up the trail I was surprised to see a small garter snake and then around the bend, I gleefully discovered two pale green luna moths, hanging together from a small branch, their perfect wings lined with magenta….

This brings me to this week’s quotes followed by a few pictures from my rain-soaked adventure: (If you move the arrow to the right of the photo box, the button in the center will go away)

Rain showers my spirit and waters my soul. –Emily Logan Decens

New Leaves and a Blanket of FogA Fresh New LeafRed-spotted NewtMay Apples decorated with raindropsSuch perfection in the spaces!River MusicSuch perfection in their tiny feet!Dusky SalamanderA DogwoodWater Drops on Pine NeedlesForest TrailWater Drops Rainbow FallsMore Water DropsLuna Moths Mating Luna Moths! Colorful FungusNew leavesLike DiamondsDiamondsFresh blossomsBright orange warns predatorsEven a snake ventures out
Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. –Langston Hughes


Posted in For My Soul, Just for Fun, Quote of the Week, Wisdom for your Wednesday | Also tagged , , , , , 1 Comment