Easter Sunday. Traveling a rural road in Virginia. Camera gear in the back seat. Hey. There’s a field full of flowers. Wildflowers. Herd of butterflies bobbing from bloom to bloom. I hit the brake. Plop myself in the middle of the show. In the dirt. Surrounded by swallowtails. In every direction. Yellow Resurrection. Aim my lens. Again and again. Song comes to mind. God, Great Artist of the Universe.
January. Northern Wisconsin. Wake up to hoarfrost. Trees are thick with it. The whole world is white. Quick. Before it’s gone. Get out there. Grab the camera. Tripod. Snap. Snap. Snap. Close-up. Wide angle. From this angle. From that angle. Frost disappears. I’m standing there. Satisfied. In my nightgown and Sorel boots.
March. Maryland. Heading to the Chesapeake Bay. Sixty miles per hour. Wait. Was that an eagle in that farm field back there? Feeding on a deer carcass? Make a U-turn. Yes, it is. A dead deer. An American bald eagle. And vultures, too. Holy cow. What a scene. Park on the shoulder. Stick the camera out the window. It’s the food chain in operation. Kind of gruesome. Nature isn’t always pretty.
July. A Minnesota prairie. Just before sunset. The golden hour. Hoping to see some monarchs. No such luck. There used to be so many here. I’m an eyewitness to a species becoming extinct. Don’t know how to bear the tragedy. This must be a sin of some sort. Maybe the unforgiveable sin.
December, a few days before Christmas. Northern Minnesota. It snowed all night. I step out of the cabin. The forest, clean and pristine. Exquisite. A red squirrel. The comedian of the north woods. Looks at me. Recognizes me. Not that we’ve ever met. He knows my species. We’re the ones who feed him. A sign says we’re not supposed to. But I can’t resist. No one can resist. I throw popcorn in the snow. I back away. He steps forward, cautiously, eagerly, jittery. Grabs the popcorn and runs off. Cheeks full.
Close-ups. We do this for an hour. Popcorn. Pictures. Popcorn. Pictures. I haven’t had this much fun since . . . I don’t know . . . maybe never.
Holy Saturday. Virginia. It rained all day Good Friday. A muddy puddle has formed. Frogs are making those mating noises. I get down in the muck. Inch forward. Spot an American toad. Warts and all. I fire off photos. Get closer and closer. He puffs up his vocal sac. Thinks he will scare me away. Silly thing. I’m 800 times bigger than him. I’m not going anywhere. Neither does he. For a long time we stare at each other. He’s actually kind of cute, in a prehistoric reptilian sort of way. God must have had fun coming up with this one. I’m pretty sure the toad thinks the same of me. I emerge. Wet. Shoes ruined.
January. Minnesota. The lake is frozen. I am on my belly examining air bubbles caught in the ice. Frosty little circles against the deep dark water. God, Abstract Artist of the Universe. I crawl with my camera through the world you made and whisper words of praise.
Sister Nancy Bauer, OSB, is a Sister of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. She is an assistant professor of canon law in the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.