At the end of this post I’m sharing some of my favorite photographs from the past few weeks. I’m also adding a new Photographs category to my blog to showcase my budding photographic artistry. But first I’d like to ruminate on how the simple act of taking more pictures ties into my spiritual life.
Recently I’ve picked up the habit of actually using the camera on my phone and taking pictures of the natural world around me. I snap pictures of interesting plants at the nature center where I volunteer – in between chasing after small children delighted to be let loose in the woods. I document the slow but inevitable shift of seasons in my neighborhood as evidenced by the changing color of leaves and the sudden explosion of bright red berries on the dogwood trees along my street – in between fighting with my dog for control of the leash with one hand while I try to steady my phone’s camera with the other. This photography, coupled with my new devotional habit of picking up trash along the sidewalk, has really encouraged me to slow down and notice the world around me. I find that I’m less anxious and bored on my walks, no longer needing music or podcasts to numb my brain so that walking is a bearable activity.
My Paganism has had on-and-off flirtations with nature, just as it’s had on-and-off flirtations with devotional polytheism. I think for so long there was an expectation of what a “good Pagan” should be that even when I felt like communing with nature, the response was underwhelming and disappointing. Just like my attempts to talk with the gods. (I’m sensing a trend here.) However, also similar to the new developments on the devotional front, my appreciation of nature is occurring on my terms, guided by my own interests and passions, and with an open mind and heart.
For me – and I suspect, for many out there – experience needs to precede belief. I have tried and failed to force myself to adopt certain theological stances without personal encounters to back them up. I am not a pantheist; I believe that everything is sacred, but not everything is part of a deity. I have never had a sense of nature spirits returning attention when I’ve left offerings in the past. I have never thought of my Paganism as a nature religion at all.
I have appreciated beautiful things in nature, felt comforted by the familiar mountains that enfold my home, found joy in the scent of honeysuckle, laughed at the gentle paradox of bright sunlight paired with gentle summer rains. As I have written elsewhere: that is where I am, and where I am is enough for me.