Wonder and Awe in Nature and Watercolors

Have you ever captured wonder? Ever been (lovingly) slapped in the face with awe?

I have.

This day it was the wonder of this sky.

I’ve driven this dirt road many times. Sometimes I notice the dust and unevenness of the road. But today I was present to this. Or perhaps more accurately this was present to me — calling me to look, to see, to breathe, and to be open to the wonder of the ordinary. I snapped a picture in my mind, and with my camera.

My brother and I hiked, chatted, and pointed out various things to each other. I’m blessed to have him as my hiking partner. No matter how many leaves I notice, or how many times I say “Oh, look at that!” he never tells me “You know we just saw that last week.” or “You said the exact same thing 5 minutes ago.” He, too, is open to being in the moment, present to the wonder, joy, blessing, and amazingness of nature.

We walked and noticed new paths, and different vistas. And we sat. Exploration is super. Hiking is a joy. But sitting, sitting is absolutely necessary! It reminds me of Savasana in yoga. It’s a few moments, intentionally taken, to allow ourselves to experience who we are in the moment, to notice what our practice, our hike, our noticing, our awe, has produced in our bodies, minds, and spirits. It’s a time to rest.

We always find at least one lovely spot to sit. Sometimes we chat. Sometimes we photograph or paint. Sometimes we just rest in the awe of the present moment.

Ginny Graves wrote — in A Healthier Life (Real Simple Special Edition 10/21)

Positive emotions, like awe, love, and gratitude, suffuse your body with an uplifting sensation that can make you feel more at peace with yourself and at one with the world.

Mindfulness might help you train your brain to be less worried and more buoyant.

I love the idea and believe it to be true. Another day I’ll find the science to share with you. For now, I just share my experience.

My brother and I practice mindfulness as we hike. Sometimes it’s in mindful walking, sometimes it’s being present to the sights, sounds, and smells that surround us as we move. Other times it is the discovery of something we hadn’t yet seen. And always, it’s the sitting, and soaking in the space.

Look at all the shades of green. The plethora of plants. The amazing reflections in the water. This was a day for breathing and allowing the awe that I felt, and the almost magical bigness of the space and moment hold me. It’s funny to speak of it in that way. But that is the experience. It is being in the presence of something greater than me, of being surrounded by beauty. As I sit there I don’t know how to describe it other than being held, supported, with space to just breathe and be.

Another day at the same spot, I captured my wonder by looking deeply and using watercolor to capture a tiny bit of nature in my mini hiking journal. It’s funny because watercolor is something else that fills me with wonder and awe, and draws me deeply into a place of mindfulness. After painting I captured the moment to keep with me.

This is, for me, the image of an day well spent. Hiking shoes off. My feet in the green bed of clover at the bottom of the step on which I’m sitting. My view captured on the mini watercolor journal I carry with me. Looking at this image brings me back to that moment. I feel the joy I felt as I looked at all this in front of me. I see the brilliant green that stretches out in front of me, and I hear the water gurgling over the rocks. Amazing the wonder that can be held in an image, on the page, and in my heart and mind.

I couldn’t get out to hike the next day. Instead I brewed a big cup of matcha and sat in the quiet coolness of morning. I flipped through some photos from previous hikes. I took them with the intention of having watercoloring inspiration.

I decided to use this image of a small patch of flowers. The wildness of overlapping leaves, a plethora of different plants, and flowers popping out all over drew me. I liked the wildness — somehow it seemed like sweet cacophony of beauty. Is it possible for a cacophony to be sweet and beautiful?

As I sipped my tea, and zoomed in on the various areas of the photo, I was brought back to that moment in nature. I revisited the many different shades of green in the leaves, the darkness of the shadows and the soil, the textures, and the pops of color. I played with the paint and water mixtures, noticing how it moved on the page. As I did, I felt my breath and my spirit ease a bit. I painted and sipped tea in joy-filled silence.

4 thoughts on “Wonder and Awe in Nature and Watercolors

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