Chaos and Purpose in Nature: A Photography Walkabout

photography hike banner - chaos and purpose in nature - thinking about photography with nature and human turmoil - banner

Ever walk through nature and stumble upon the unexpected thoughts? Discovery is a thrill I need. Although I’m all grown up, the childlike sense of wonder continues to put a smile on my face. During this tough time across the globe, I decided to visit a local State Park. Of course, the cold blustery weather didn’t let up. Not fun, but something told me to go outside.

I took my camera and favorite lens (a Voigtlander 40mm f1.2) and ventured for a short hike. I know from experience, my mind tends toward philosophy on a good walk through nature. Here’s a bit of what I learned from digging into my thoughts without actually being with anyone else.

Key Thoughts on This Nature Hike

  • Bring your camera (or smartphone), because you’ll never know what you’ll discover worth sharing with others
  • Nature always reveals a clear purpose, even though we may not realize it on the surface
  • Humans are a weird conglomeration of purposeful and chaotic (irrationale) behaviors and thoughts
  • A good walk is good for the soul

Nature Has a Cold Purpose: But, Nature Has a Beating Heart

Survival. All I saw were living things consuming the dead on my hike. The dead fed the living by rotting on the ground, or in the dirt. There was a simplicity to it, and I crushed all of these thoughts under my feet.

An Natural Example of Your Inner Conflict - A cold purpose - photo of lake during winter overcast sky and cloudy - reflections in the water and sky blue and brown
Nature has a way of surprising you, even with how light creates reflections in unexpected times and places.

Yet, it was beautiful. The overcast skies created the perfect diffuse light for the colors I’d hoped to capture with my camera. The blues and browns of the colder season encompassed the sense of somber enchantment only the shortening of days brings.


Therein lies the question as I meditated the idea, mulled over, that nature doesn’t care: What does survival mean for us? We are a silly people whose complicated lives and festooned efforts to survive often lead to a dichotomy of disaster and great achievement.

An Natural Example of Your Inner Conflict - A cold purpose - photo of lake during winter overcast sky and cloudy - reflections in the water and sky blue and brown - Beaver home in the woods and forest by the water
A Beaver log home sits serenely in a pod. Check out that reflection!

In this magnificent desolation, I’m reminded that non-human life around us goes on. Life doesn’t stop going forward in the midst of human crisis, big or small. Politics and pandemics, be damned.

Politics and Pandemics, Be Damned

In fact, often times the non-human life around us seems unbothered by the human drama at all.

How many times have you heard people say, “there’s no use getting upset about it because nothing will change?” It’s a fair sentiment, but it doesn’t always hold up in practice when it comes to our primal instinct for survival.

In the wilderness of day-to-day life, we immediately turn into a kind of survival mode and start to learn as much as possible about our surroundings through observation and experimentation. It’s simply exhausting!

We need to be able to feed ourselves so that we can continue down our path of exploration or whatever it is that brought us here in the first place. 

And, I guess this is where my brief photography adventure started. I came out here to relax to chill out, and yet my mind raced to learn even more about “stuff”, this philosophical meandering. I walked in a big circle loop, literally and mentally.

Animals Tell Us a Lot About Living, Purposefully

Late in the afternoon and cloudy, I hiked there along a path by a pond. And, there was the evidence of a simple purpose. Beavers. I discovered their handy work in the wooded forest along the treeline.

An Natural Example of Your Inner Conflict - A cold purpose - photo of lake during winter overcast sky and cloudy - reflections in the water and sky blue and brown - log chopped down by beaver teeth
I love close ups of nature. Look at how clean the beavers gnawed off the log.

These relatively large rodents built their “beaver” home with the sheared off logs and other natural resources around them. As I approached a few of these logs that they chewed down, I took a few photos. The perfect cylindrical severing of these trees fascinated me.

I Wish I Had “The Instinct” of Natural Engineers

How perfect was their log chopping by gnawing with just a few sharp teeth! I also noticed that they only seemed to chop down trees that looked nice and round. The trees had a diameter of about 6″ and that didn’t deviate much tree to tree. This invariant behavior intrigued me.

An Natural Example of Your Inner Conflict - A cold purpose - photo of lake during winter overcast sky and cloudy - reflections in the water and sky blue and brown - close up beaver home with logs and dead trees
A home created by the true engineers of the natural world.

This was the work of true engineers. Beavers took exact measurements and worked toward unwritten specifications. The beavers’ instinct drove them to seek out the “right” logs, the perfect raw materials to create their amphibious dominatories. Something inside them, perhaps a voice or instinct, told them that they needed to build this way.

Not only did they succeed, their homes were beautiful and elegant. Underneath, near the waterline, the beavers had everything they needed to live–food, shelter, and a social life. All of this natural wonder, built through something hard-wired, instinctual, and mysteriously effective.

Final Thoughts: How About Our Chaotic Lives?

Why are our lives always so chaotic? It is like we have no idea what to do. We fight and clean up messes all the time. But, it’s a mess. Humans don’t seem to appreciate their homes. We always more, bigger, fancier. This ambition seems unnatural, even detrimental because there are beavers (and other animals) who only build, purposeful things, like log homes and dams. They construct these structures with purposeful order.

What is inner voice that drives us to madness, and yet spurs our creativity, our ingenuity? If a voice or instinct drives us like the beavers, why are the infrastructures of our lives in such chaos? One must believe that there is something that drives us how to think, to act, and to live the way we do. And, it’s broken.

Obviously, it seems that the typical human life is a dynamic balancing act between chaos and the purposeful, ordered structures that Beavers construct. A beaver who makes a proper home must have a singular instinct. The instinct that offspring inherit, so through the ages, they as a species can continue their livelihood.

Maybe the problem is we are listening to different things. Are you in conflict because you are not sure which to follow?

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