The very first time I noticed it I was incredibly young yet the memory is very clear. When I was almost 4 years old our family moved to a home in the suburbs of Orange County in California, but before that I remember the house we had with a huge backyard. This particular home had a backyard with a perimeter lined with very tall eucalyptus trees. I remember from our patio the back of our yard looked like a forest to me but then I was only three. One day, I ventured into the way back and stood among the trees and watched the birds. I'm not sure what they were doing but they were fascinating to me. I watched them and tried to process their world in my mind. Young and small, watching from my low vantage point
I wanted to reach into their lives. They flittered about from tree to tree and I was intensely curious about them. I wanted to know, if I asked of the natural world, would I receive? I reached my hand up to them. I stood there poised, motionless, determined to test the boundaries of my own reality and dare to believe that as a child of 3 the world would respond so lovingly. Faith was never in question and on the fingers of my small outstretched hand a bird did land. I stood there among moments that I knew were magic and held a little bird and we were equals and trusting and small among the towering trees and the earth for that matter. I remember it as a significant sign, I remember it as compassion.
Running back to the house to recount my story, it was as if the magic of the moment lifted like fairy dust with each stride only to recount an amazing story falling on ears too busy to believe in such things. Looking back, the incident was significant in that I forever understood that there was so much more the to world than just what we see. In fact, the world had unseen dimensions and layers and magic if you will, if one's mind was open to it.
It wasn't a coincidence that this knowledge came to me very young for it became my strength and saving grace when in time my world would seem anything but magical. I never separated from my beliefs of the world around me even when the human element threatened disillusion. I've alway felt that I've simply navigated around people, sometimes skillfully, sometimes recklessly and sometimes the casualty. In moments of despair, in moments of pain and in moments of loss, it was this part of the world that I believed in.
One day while hiking out in Horton Springs with a friend I sat on a hollow log to rest. We chatted and ate some snacks from our backpacks and decided to head on down the trail. As I stood up, out from the hollow log came what seemed like hundreds of little electric blue colored butterflies. They didn't fly off, they gently surrounded me from head to toe. I could feel them brush against my face. I stood there and closed my eyes, tilted my head back and stretched out my arms to immerse myself in them. It was indescribably beautiful.
They released me and flew off and my hiking friend and I stood there and just stared at each other not knowing how to put the last few minutes into context then we both just started laughing and still talk about it to this day. As a landscape photographer I'm often in secluded landscapes far from others yet surrounded by immense beauty. I've seen light that danced, colors that sang, wind that whispered and met trees with stories. I've had experiences in nature that defy all explanation and logic yet somehow have imprinted upon me meaningful lessons and direction.
It is in knowing this about the world that makes the sorrows tolerable and temporary. It always seems that when I allow myself to wallow in the shallows and smallness of the human condition I'll eventually make my way back into the natural world to find and center myself. I wander around and photograph and explore. I'll climb rocks and tinker around in the sand. I'll take my hiking shoes off and cool my feet in a creek. I'll sit somewhere and look down at the ground and notice another little world going on beneath my feet and realize that magic is all around me.