Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nature Nerd Wednesdays

Welcome to Nature Nerd Wednesdays!  By the middle of the workweek, I know that I'm ready for a pick-me-up, for some inspiration -- and for that reason I decided to post a nature photo or quote each Wednesday.  Perusing works of nature writing and photography helps me reconnect with the calming, refreshing, and inspiring effects of nature, which is something we all can benefit from in the middle of a busy, stressful work week! 

This week's Nature Nerd Wednesday post is inspired by naturalist and preservationist John Muir.  Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, was perhaps the greatest nature enthusiast and advocate who has ever lived.  Throughout his life, he went to any lengths necessary to experience the fulness of nature, and thoroughly examined the natural world from every possible angle: climbing into the treetops during a windstorm, literally walking across the country, viewing the scenery from the precarious edge of a cliff... he also had a tendency to stand bent over with his head between his knees, looking at the world upside-down to see its "upness".

One of these days, I promise, I will snap a few nature photos upside-down, John Muir style, and share them on Nature Nerd Wednesdays.  In the meantime though, I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of viewing our natural world from a different perspective.  The perspective this week is one that Muir sadly never had the opportunity to experience, as he passed away in 1914, before the days of modern technology, and certainly before the days of satellites and spacecraft.  Here are a few satellite photos of our lovely Evergreen State, courtesy of NASA:

 Cropland near the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. 

The recently un-dammed Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula, running from the Olympic Mountains and draining into the Strait of Juan de Fuca west of Port Angeles.

Mount Rainier

Although these are flat, two-dimensional images with none of Muir's "upness" to them whatsoever, they still have tremendous visual impact.  When first looking at them, you almost have to give your brain a moment to adjust to the scale of the photo in order to comprehend what you're seeing. Then the smaller details of the photo emerge: the sharp contrast of colors, the demarcations of light and shadow, the texture of rugged mountains and flat valleys, the spiderwebs of rivers, streams, and roadways - the man-made intertwined with the natural. Man himself is too small to be seen from these great heights, but the evidence of his presence is clearly visible, especially in the first two photos.

Muir was a proponent of unspoiled wilderness, and would likely be dismayed to see the landscape in these photos so altered by human activity. In addition to showing a new perspective from which to appreciate the beauty of nature, these satellite photos are also another perspective to see how we're impacting our planet on a larger scale.

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