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HENSLEY: The joys of nature

By Judith Hensley
Contributing columnist

Set me out in the middle of nature with a camera and I am truly content and at peace. When I consider the world and all the beauty God created, my spirit rests and my faith soars.

Someone described the evolutionary theory without faith in a divine plan is like walking out into a city trash dump and expecting a rocket ship to create itself from the bits of trash, metal, and wire that are there. I agree.

As a middle school science teacher for many years and a student of the Bible and of science, I have never found anything to diminish my faith in a creator God or increase my faith in the development of millions of species from a single spark of life in the ocean somewhere randomly taking place and from it coming all the incredible variety of plants and animals the world over.

In the last week I have socially distanced in the car with individual friends to drive the backroads and look for photo opportunities in nature. Deer, flowers, bear, and even a very long black snake showed themselves for the camera. The sight-seeing has taken place in my car, in a four-wheeler on top of the mountains, here and there and in between. I’ve not been disappointed on a single day.

If I gave a number for the amount of bears I’ve seen in one week in southeastern Kentucky, few would believe me except the individuals who happened to be in the car with me.  Incredible. The Smokies have nothing on us as far as bear population.

Watching the clouds roll in over a mountaintop and blanket the earth with lightning flashing and rain seen clearly in the distance brings a special kind of joy. The smell of freshness and the change in temperature precede the storm and warn animals and humans alike to take shelter.

I experienced a first this week. I’d always wanted to take a photograph of an owl in a tree. I’ve seen them before, but by the time I got close enough with a camera, they flew away into the trees never to be seen again. This time, the beautiful bird perched on a tree limb and let us take several photographs before it glided above the car and down the road to another perch. This happened four times before it got too dark and the owl flew away. I snapped about a hundred digital photos of this amazing creature. It was almost as if he’d been sent to guide us down the road and let us admire his beauty.

A similar thing happened with a bear on one back road. It appeared to have a hurt foot or hip. I kept a respectful distance, so the animal didn’t feel threatened or pushed in any way. We followed it down the road for about a quarter of a mile before it turned down the mountain into a laurel thicket.

Sometimes I long for a particular photo of an animal and never get it, and then some days the gift of nature is right there waiting to be appreciated. One day in my cousin’s flower patch, I took dozens of photos of gorgeous butterflies flitting around brilliantly colored flowers. The shots were magical.

The Bible passage of Job 12:7-10 describes my heart toward nature.

“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you;  or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the [a]life of every living thing, And the breath of [b]all mankind?”