Still Learning To See

Morning meditation

Just as I opened my eyes this morning, the flock of pigeons flashed by, splashed in the gold of the rising sun. Snap! A mind picture. A good time to rise!

A day of making lists, mostly of things to do to prepare for the inevitable changes ahead, both winter and a new president. There are, of course, similarities: be prepared for tough times, protect the vulnerable spots, be with friends to enjoy what can be enjoyed and endure what we have trouble enjoying.

While I will look at predictions—it will absolutely get colder!—it is what actually happens, not what is predicted to happen, that in the end is important. And, of course, we are already seeing some of that: Norway Maples still in full leaf due to the warmest summer in recorded history and, on the human scene, a dramatic rise in hate crimes—as predicted.

The sun is up and I’m on into this day.


One of the delights of this time of year, “stick season” as it is often called, is finally being able to see what was hidden all summer by leaves. Bird nests show up in the most unexpected places. I saw one yesterday that was three feet off the ground and an arm’s reach from a heavily used bike path. My bird-watching daughter-in-law might have spotted it this summer but I never did. I suppose I should have seen many other things coming, barely hidden just out of view, but I did not and here I am.


And I love to see the shapes of trees, now bare, to marvel at the variety and the strength you can see they have in a gusty wind. An American Beech tree I have watched grow and die for forty years, once again revealed as a decompose trunk hidden all summer in heavy brush. It still speaks to those who listen, reminding us it started life long before Europeans settled along the banks of the Winooski in the late 1700s. Much of the structure of the world has changed, has, in fact, from the human point of view, declined. It is useful for me to look at what is essential for keeping us stable in the storm.


I marvel to know the owls are around, silent, hungry, causing hundreds of crows to seek safe refuge together closer to town at night. And to see insects still flying on sunny days, moths and midges, and spiders still spinning. To see the impossibly beautiful colors of lichen slowly turning million-year old stone back into living tissue. This planet is one miracle after another, intertwined so delicately and so obviously. Who cannot see that?


All of this beautiful, sunny morning is a reminder of what is really important to me: this planet, our home, and the delicate imbalance we have created. Today, inspired by the world out my window and by the family and friends in my heart, I’ll do what I can, both for my fellow human beings and for Mother Earth—first, to keep us from tilting further out of balance and, second, to help us return to “the place just right.”

— Please help me share these photographs and words further by passing this post onto your friends and family. Thank you.

This entry was published on November 12, 2016 at 9:57 am. It’s filed under John Snell, John Snell Photographer, Photograph, Sunrise, Trees, Vermont, Winter and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Morning meditation

  1. Lois Broeker on said:

    I do so enjoy your photos. I was thinking of you as I read and had a smile from the “old days” with you and Lowry!
    Lois Broeker

  2. Deborah Leu on said:

    Comfort and wisdom in your words, John. Certainly a time to get inspired and work harder. Be well.

  3. Dale Dailey on said:

    A few thoughts from “Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way” by Mary Oliver:

    All important ideas must include trees/ the mountains, and the rivers.

    To understand many things you must reach out/ of your own condition.

    For how many years did I wander slowly/ through the forest. What wonder and/ glory I would have missed had I ever been/ in a hurry!

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