Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands...
A Photographic Journey of Inspiration by Susie Binkley
Where did the idea come from?
Susie's adventures in the wild
From the book:
Life is a balancing act, and nature really does understand!
We see a reflection of many of the wonders, struggles and triumphs of our own lives in nature.
Our experiences are mirrored, our feelings are reflected, we glimpse a vision of the recurring themes in nature, not just in the recurring patterns we see (spirals, colors, shapes), but literally in the shapes of our lives. We are part of nature, and it is part of us. We are natural beings, and this book captures the spirit of nature- and how it reflects our own spirit. No matter how you personally give meaning to that “spirit”, whether you experience it as simply a love of nature, or in the form of a more personal religious or spiritual meaning, or even in a scientific context, the intricate beauty and complexity of nature is there for us all to see, feel, and appreciate, if we just take the time to get out there!
In my most beloved places, the mountains and redrock country of Colorado and Utah, I connected with that universality of life. I felt and saw and experienced the vast empathy, wholeness and wonder of nature, all by just interacting with the living things around me. By taking the time not just to smell the roses, or notice the larger, glorious landscapes around me, but to look at the smallest of things, to notice the nuances, the rhythm of the place, to get in harmony with the life that calls these wondrous locations home. By lying on the ground, flat to the Earth to photograph the eyes of a chipmunk, the antics of a lizard, the opening of a flower’s petals, or the kiss of a mother squirrel on her baby’s nose, I saw “stories” in the situations I observed in the animals’ and plants’ lives. Stories that so mirrored our own experiences.
I felt I was stepping in to their being for a fleeting moment. I was seeing nature through the eyes and lives of many, and through those individual encounters I was glimpsing the intricate, interwoven complexity of the whole. Yet within that complexity lays a tapestry of patterns that repeat for us all: struggle, triumph, contentment, decisions… we lead parallel lives with the living things we coexist with on this small planet.
This is my photographic journey of discovering how much nature mirrors and understands us.
Through the eye of the lens I captured these moments of connection, of bonding, of resemblance and shared aliveness. Caught in magical moments where creatures would surprisingly stay still, meet me in the moment, and allow me in to their world to glimpse their souls, I found the magic of nature. The universality of us all. In their eyes I saw myself reflected. I felt their calm and my calm. I could deeply empathize with them and stand “in their shoes”, or paws, or roots, for a while.
The “message” for me was loud and clear: nature understands. Because intrinsically we are all part of the same nature, the same small oasis of life in the vastness of space. It’s all too easy for us to lose sight of that simple fact, but spending a moment in the eyes of a butterfly or the curls of a blade of grass brings back our perspective- of the large and the small, the parts and the whole, the vast and the dainty all together. It suspends time, and brings us back in to balance with ourselves and with the nature that is our oasis home in the cosmos. Life is a balancing act- the balance of all nature, and we’re all balancing together, all the time!
And as serious as this could perhaps seem, what I really found was happiness- pure delight, serenity, peace in my heart, laughter… so many emotions and states of mind that pulled me out of the everyday. It was like meditation through a camera lens. When I was eye to eye with a fawn, playfully following a chickadee through the trees, or wading through meadows of wildflowers looking at each little flower “face” for just the right “story” (often accidentally finding some new interesting bug friends staring at me, doing something rather humorous), I wasn’t thinking about bills to pay, world problems, or what homework I’d have to help the kids with that night. I was at peace, calm, my blood pressure down, my tension gone, and I was often excited and in a wonderful adrenaline rush as something unexpected flew by, ran by, or appeared unexpectedly.
I hope I captured some of those feelings in this book, for you to share and experience over and over again when you need a break from the everyday, and to restore your own balance.
I am blessed to live in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado, with my husband, two kids, four dogs, and a whole host of wildlife including six generations of wild Nuttall’s Cottontails who live under our deck. I’ve been crazy about nature since I was a child, and I love sharing that enthusiasm with others!
For me, and many others, time in nature has restorative, health-giving powers. It balances our minds and spirits and brings a peace that washes over our hearts. It can be an exhilarating rush of adrenaline or a quiet retreat from the hectic world. Time in nature is a precious gift, and helping others find creative, fun, mindful ways to enjoy that gift is my passion.
My academic training is in philosophy and environmental studies, so I guess it’s not surprising that I found my life’s niche to be poetically discovering meaning in life through experiences in nature. Everything about nature fascinates me. From geology to ecology to meteorology, I’m fairly well-versed in the sciences. I’ve been a hopelessly romantic stargazer (also known as amateur astronomers!) since I was eleven, spending countless nights lying on the front lawn fending off mosquitoes as I memorized constellations, watched meteors blaze across the night sky, and stared breathlessly at the rings of Saturn through my telescope. And when the stars weren’t out? I’d be off hiking in the woods, listening to birds sing and watching sunlight dance through the trees.
Not much has changed! I still spend my days hiking and my nights gazing at stars, teaching my kids and anyone else who will listen about cottontails and trees and stars.
And now I channel that love of sharing nature into books and blogs and photographs. Read on to see how a chance walk down the hall led to me write Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands: A Photographic Journey of Inspiration and starting my blog- Balance Through the Lens™ The Art of Meditative Nature Photography™ .
I love helping people find meaning, beauty, balance, adventure and serenity in their lives. Enjoy the book, this site and my blog; I hope it brings you as much joy to read as it brings me to write.
stories of my adventures ....
In the main hallway of our home is a collage of nature photographs I’ve taken over the years. They make me happy and remind me of the places I’ve been and the beautiful, humorous, and inspiring things I’ve seen. The photos touch me, center me, bring me back to places I was smiling.
But one special day they had a different effect. As I walked mindlessly down the hall, I found myself glancing at the wall as I usually do, fleetingly noticing the images there. But I slowly stopped, my eyes fixated on a photograph of a Golden-mantled Ground squirrel that I’d taken at Bryce Canyon. I tilted my head and stared. It was as though he was looking right at me, and into my mind popped the words “Ahhh! You can’t see me! I’m blending in!” I giggled to myself at the thought of this creature wanting desperately to stay hidden in his shadows, and glanced around at the other pictures. Opposite him on the wall was a bold yellow sunflower flashing its showy petals. “Hmm,” I thought. That flower certainly doesn’t seem to want to hide. It’s busy standing out boldly from the background!” I shifted my weight a bit as I scanned the other pictures.
Suddenly “stories” were popping out at me from the photos of my adventures. Another ground squirrel looked at me with confused smirk, a tiny blue-grey gnatcatcher in mid-air was telling itself “Keep reaching, keep reaching!” I noticed a picture of Blodgett Peak in fall and thought “That’s a blurry landscape of possibilities”. Flowers of various shapes and hues were splashed about the wall, some with their “heads” or “faces” drooping, while others cheerily turned their “faces” to the sun. And then I saw the two flowers with the buds hanging around them. “Wow,” I actually said aloud, “some of those hanging around you sure look a little weird!”
In that moment I realized that there was a book in those photos. My little flower, chipmunk and bird friends were reaching out to us humans through my lens. Through witnessing and capturing their experiences with the camera, I had given myself a gift: the gift of feeling understood. The gift of empathy. The gift of being reminded that in my best moments and my worst, I'm not alone in what I feel. Nature understands! That small revelation felt so good. And I had to share that feeling. Besides, I had a quote taped to my computer monitor from Tama Kieves’ fantastic book This Time I Dance: Creating the Work You Love- “The path of inspiration defies navigation. We arrive by revelation.” I wanted to run with this revelation.
I was later chatting with a particularly creative, insightful friend (amazing visual artist Alayna McKee). I couldn’t resist sharing my experience with her. When I confided the book idea she immediately “got it” and thought it was a wonderful idea. Thanks to her simple enthusiasm and encouragement that day, a year and six days later, Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands: A Photographic Journey of Inspiration was published.
As I wrapped up photography for this book, which admittedly became quite intense at times, I realized that I’d stumbled upon another revelation. While I’ve hiked in nature my whole life, I haven’t always done so with a camera. Spending a year in nature, nearly every day, I noticed that my walks, hikes, and adventures took on a different quality when I had the camera with me. I was more focused; I slowed down. I saw more. I paid attention more. The camera, quite literally, focused me.
Being the natural teacher that I am, I had to share this wonderful experience, this remarkable feeling of being understood and finding my focus with others. My life was now so much more balanced. How many others could I help find understanding and balance and focus in their own lives? Thus a third revelation: I'd found my calling. So out of the making of the book, Balance Through the Lens™ The Art of Meditative Nature Photography™ was born. Read the Photographic Meditation page to learn more about it!
I hope this book and my balance through the lens blog warm peoples’ hearts, make their days brighter, and helps them feel less alone and more understood. But more than that I’m hoping it gives them a new way to find their equilibrium- beyond reading the book- a way through doing nature photography to center themselves, focus, and find a restorative inner peace.
So please stop by my blog to read expanded musings on the themes and page sets from the book, read new inspirations from my adventures in the wild, and share your own experiences! I’d love to hear from you!
Read below about where the idea came from and Susie's adventures in the wild!
Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel, Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunflower, Colorado Springs
flower in the helianthus family, Garden of the Gods
Blodgett Peak in fog, Colorado Springs