Mission Statement

Bearing Witness to Local Natural History-- from the wildness of Indiana

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Pain of Beauty

“I HAVE felt the pain that arises from a recognition of beauty . . .” wrote Terry Tempest Williams in An Unspoken Hunger: Stories from the Field. It was an epiphany when I read this phrase and I began to ponder it. Something I had felt many times had been given words. In my life I have had many experiences of recognizing beauty. I have seen it, heard it, and felt it. Each time that I experienced true piercing beauty, it had been accompanied by a momentary twinge of pain.

   That moment. In that moment, I am overwhelmed with the sensation of beauty and it evokes a sense of ecstasy. But it is paradoxical. The joyful moment is coupled with a melancholy pain.  The joy is there and then it is gone.

WHAT CREATES this pain of beauty? I speculate that it is when we feel the oneness with all creation. It is the unity with The-Spirit-Who-Moves-Through-All-Things. It washes over us in a fleeting, yet ecstatic, moment of being One with it all. The peace and love is felt deep within a part of ourselves we don’t often contact. But it is a glorious sensation that is difficult to express in ordinary language. The pain begins when we feel the ecstasy dissipating. It does not last but we desperately want it to remain.

   In the depths of the ecstasy and pain, I am a very elemental part of creation. I am the frog basking on the log. The leaf that is dancing in the breeze. The collision of hot and cold air. The rain droplet feeding the earth. The loping coyote sifting scents. It is a suspension of time. The moment of truly being.

   And yet, as a human, I am part of it—but we forget.  We are never separate. Perhaps it is how open we allow ourselves to be with the natural world. Are we in the moment? Do we allow ourselves to be transparent to nature?

   And still the beauty unfolds . . .

(Excerpt from my book: Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History)

Saturday, October 27, 2012

If a Man Walk in the Woods . . .

If a man walk in the woods for love of them half of each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed an industrious and enterprising citizen.

--- Henry David Thoreau (Life Without Principle)

Monday, October 22, 2012



Walk beyond
Abandon your cares
Embrace this ephemeral moment
Open your mind and spirit
For here is where you belong
Among your relations of sacred unity--Home.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Enough Said

Enough Said

I WALKED to the lake to photograph the brilliant autumn color. The landscape was on fire with color and I could smell it in the air. The air was clear, crisp, and the sun was yet to rise. I anticipated the revelation to come as the sun rose to begin the illumination. What color would the light be? Would clouds form? How would the leaves reflect the light? What reflections would be revealed? I love the quiet anticipation and the solitude.

   It was extraordinary. The sun began to light the northeastern edge of the lake. It spread an exquisite light, which crept across the tree line. The leaves became a luminous paint palette. And there in the reflection of the lake surface was a very unusual shade of salmon. The lake surface was glass. It mirrored the color of the trees hundreds of feet away. I noticed a spent lotus pad and stem bent in an arc on the water’s surface. I focused my lens and composed the shot. How could the beauty have been even more extraordinary in the viewfinder?

   I thought about what I had just viewed. I contemplated the question and began to realize the answer was that within the rectangular viewfinder, I was able to hold and, yes, possess that magnificent scene. The ephemeral beauty was mine. It would not last. It was fleeting. The color. The light. The stillness. The serenity. I could visually touch it through the viewfinder. It was my form of intimacy with beauty.

   I encountered another person. He was also present to photograph the autumn. We quietly spoke of lenses, tripods, and geese that flew back and forth across the lake. I do not know if he was aware of the remarkable color and scenes in the middle of the lake inlet. I pointed out several birds to him—the grebes, the red-breasted nuthatch call—and the clouds. However, I did not share the single lotus plant or the deep salmon light. These moments are sacred and they cannot be placed into words. The extraordinary cannot be explained by the ordinary.

   Soon the dialogue ceased. We enjoyed talking and sharing the same passion, but the solitude took over again. After all, that is why we had come here. We were both drawn to the quiet and the beauty. Enough said.

(Excerpt from my book: Dancing With Herons: Bearing Witness to Local Natural History)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Kodachrome 64 Series II

Observing the light. Observing the seasons. This is what a naturalist does. It is what a nature photographer must do.
A few images from Kodachrome days when I observed and photographed a tree on a lake point at Lake Edgewood. Recording the moods through light, season, sky, and wind. 
The tree no longer exists and the point is unrecognizable. Bearing witness to the beauty of local wildness--to that which no longer exists.

Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James

Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James
Lake Edgewood Lake Point          ©Joni L. James