The Moon-lit Waters of a Costa Rican Cliff

moon night on the sea with waves and rocksIt’s very misty up here, and the windy road’s edge seems to fall into nothingness. Fog makes the trip up the mountain look like a horror movie. When I reach the top, we go down, but this time the sun greets us, just as it is getting ready for bed. Splashes of red blue purple yellow and orange create hypnotic patterns in the sky. The sun begins to kiss the horizon line, and the orchestra of exotic birds, animals, and bugs comes to an end, with soft light provided by the moon. Just as a day on a Costa Rican cliffside ends, the night begins.

At night I look up to the night sky and see every star as if it was as bright as the sun, while the moon illuminated the ground beneath me. I could see constellations, and watch the shooting star pass by. It seems almost magical, unreal even, and yet there I was; witnessing the beauty of the glittering sky above.

I look down, and see a small patch of sand where I could stand. I climb down the rock face and plop myself in this small area. It had to have been almost two in the morning, and somehow I never get tired of standing on this little sand bar, I didn’t even get a single fear of the nocturnal predators around me. I see a fin poke out of the water, and now a second one as well. That’s when I begin to feel that these creatures are giving me some company, enjoying the moonlit shallows. The light makes the patterns as the bottom of the water, to which is when I would jump in.

I could see so much beautiful sea life, and confront the finned creatures. With the help of the moon I could see them, and the flow in their movement. I came face to face with one, and learned their real secret. They are afraid of us. They don’t know what they do, and all they want to to be shown true respect. They are afraid of us because we are afraid of them, so to speak. We should treat them as equals to us, because all life is significant. I learned all of this while sliding my hand down their sand paper backs, and with my eyes open. They shall now forever be opened, always. Whether it be warm water in the cold night, or cold water in the heat of day, I now see them clearer than ever

I wake to the dancing of colors across the sky of dawn. Splashes of red, blue, purple, yellow, and orange create hypnotic patterns in the sky. The sun rises from the edge of the forest and over the cliff. I am back on the sand bar, and begin my way up the face of the cliff. Just as a night on a Costa Rican cliff side ends, the day just begins.

Photo by Pavlo Vakhrushev

The Sunflower Way

closeup of golden sunflowers and blue skyWhenever the yen for discovery returns, it is time to be off again on a road trip. Not for us—the freeways with their endless lines of speeding traffic and sterile scenery. By choosing to explore an unfamiliar back road or byway, delightful and unexpected surprises often result.

The Queensland road between Warwick and Toowoomba is usually a busy highway. While searching for an alternate route, we discovered a 50 kilometre stretch taking us from Warwick to Allora. Since this lovely little town is only a stone’s throw away from Toowoomba, our newly found road, the Sunflower Way, proved irresistible. At Warwick we entered it via Victoria Street, turned right into Rosehill Road, and followed the signs to Allora. This was a perfect choice!

A patchwork countryside of ploughed black soil, green lucerne, and brick-red sorghum delighted us. But it was the fields of golden sunflowers in full bloom that provided a magnificent sight, even in late March at the end of the sunflower cycle. Drifts of deep yellow fields stretched as far as we could see.

Sunflowers are majestic, towering over most people’s heads, and they grow best in full sunshine. The seeds are sold as a snack food or as a component of a bird seed package. Sunflower oil, extracted directly from the seeds, creates inexpensive cooking oil and is also an additive to biodiesel fuel. After the seeds have been processed, the remaining cake becomes healthy livestock feed.

The name, Sunflower (helianthus annuus), possesses only one large flower head, sitting atop a tall unbranched stem. It may have derived its name from the blooming yellow gold head, which resembles the sun. A number of fields had already been harvested with their brilliant flower heads gone and the stalks standing alone – like solitary sentinels. These will finally whither and fall, waiting to be ploughed back into the soil as green manure. Thankfully enough fields remained in all their blazing glory to make our drive along the Sunflower Way a memorable one.

When we reached the township of Allora we explored its historic streets. These feature buildings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, together with lovingly tended gardens and parks. The area also offers an opportunity to visit the heritage listed, ‘Glengallan Homestead.’ Our drive was a delightful way to finally reach our destination of Toowoomba. If you find yourself here in high summer, its radiant fields of gold will take your breath away. Yet in any season this back road is a beauty, so be sure to put it on your bucket list and make time to enjoy the Sunflower Way.

Click here to visit Mary’s website of photography and writing: Nature as Art and Inspiration.

Photo by the author

Easter Morning Worship

Mist hangs at heart level in the field beyond the stone wall, just out of reach of the sun’s angled rays. The melody of a childhood hymn blends with the song of a white-throated sparrow on this still Sunday morning. One bird on this very tree. Why here? Surely not for me. Singing mightily for another. “Oh, sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.”

Listen. I whisper. So beautiful. I want to share it. Joy can ache with loneliness. I add my own voice to the morning. “Alleluia . . . “ In the vastness that is this world, we find ourselves, one person, in this very place, singing our own song. Singing mightily for Another. Alleluia.

All Shall Be Well

great blue heron feeding on fish in Florida wetlandsThe raucous bark of a great blue heron echoes by the pond. Night is falling as he hunts a final bedtime snack. An unwary frog, a slithering snake, either treat would settle his belly for a good night’s sleep.

Suddenly the heron snares an unsuspecting fish. I know what is about to happen, yet I don’t turn away. Head back and with great convulsive swallows, the huge bird gulps his prize deeper and deeper into a dark gullet, even as the terrified prey continues a visible and frantic contorting. To an onlooker it seems forever until the frenzied spasms are stilled, yet from catch to struggle to swallow, less than five minutes have passed.

Afterward, the heron remains at water’s edge. Still regal, still watchful, unaware that his swift transition from beautiful bird to voracious predator has been so closely observed. I will not watch this feeding frenzy again.

Even as steady traffic continues to hum in front of our house, the backyard offers a quiet respite. Large pots of geraniums nurtured inside last winter continue to bloom. Tall purple blossoms of bordering hosta plants lean slightly into a soft breeze.

Yesterday a flock of geese departed the pond in V-formation. Whether a training run or the start of a long journey southward, I’m not sure. I do know this signifies the beginning of Fall, a welcome coolness after stifling summer days.

I look forward to this new season with a mixture of hope and a courage I do not always feel. I know that life, like the great blue heron,contains elements of light and dark, great beauty as well as extreme cruelty. We sink, we swim, we fall, only to rise again, sustained by hope and by those who love us most.

The words of an old Quaker hymn remind me:

All shall be well,
All shall be well,
And all manner of things shall be well.

This courage, this hope and trust is ours for the asking. In the darks and lights of our lives we can believe that all shall be well. All shall indeed be well.

Photo of Great Blue Heron by Svetlana Foote

Nature’s Flowing Force

Pine needles crunch under my sneakers as I make my way up the steep slope. Their fresh earthy scent strengthens as I go deeper and deeper into the woods. It’s hard to maintain balance as we go further off the trail; rough tree bark aids me in preventing myself from toppling over. Beads of sweat roll down my skin as the sun peeks its way through the thick canopy of trees. I pray that we have almost reached our destination as my tired feet begin to ache. The sound of trickling water fills my ears, alerting me that we are getting close.

As we reach what seems like the top of the hill, it finally comes into view. The waterfall, approximately 45 feet tall, flows into a small water pool surrounded by dozens of boulders. The water flows downward over them in the form of a small stream. The boulders are warm; they’ve been baking in the sun’s rays all day. I drop my belongings onto them and begin taking off my t-shirt to reveal my bathing suit underneath. My toes embrace the boulders’ smooth surfaces. The only sounds I hear are those of nature: birds calling out to one another, insects buzzing among the tall grass, and the sound of water falling to the ground below. There are no cell phones ringing, no computer games beeping, no TV’s blaring; everything is the way it should be. That’s what I love about this place most. It provides me with a break from our normally stressed out world. It is in places like this that I truly feel connected with nature. Nothing stands in between me and the natural world.

I step into the cool pool of water, quite a contrast to the warm rocks. The pool is rather shallow, in fact it only reaches up to my knees at its deepest point. The bottom of the pool is covered in small rocks with larger ones in between. I step carefully from one to another making my way over to where the water falls from above; I do not fear standing under it. I finally come face to face with the shimmering curtain of water. First I stick my hand under; my skin embraces its cool and refreshing touch. I turn and face away from the falls, then take a step backwards into them. A smile spreads across my face as the water flows over me.

I think back to this moment often. It was the closest I had ever felt with the natural world. Nothing prevented me from touching, feeling, and enjoying nature. There were no barriers or fences telling me to stand back. Part of me desires to go back again to re-experience the serenity of nature and holds onto this moment deep in my soul. It proves that people not only shape nature, but nature shapes people.

Photo by efired