Tag: nature

Go Deep Into Nature, Find Your Answers


By Michael Traynor 


For millennia, people have sought answers by venturing deep into nature. They did so even when not consciously aware of their actual questions. Any natural venue will suit the purpose. Many people throughout recorded history choose a desert.  I thought to give it a try, and want to share what I learned.

After crossing the Atlas Mountains in Morocco from Fez, and heading toward Marrakesh, we headed south, deep into the Sahara Desert, traveling across rolling sand dunes in all-terrain vehicles, until randomly stopping at an utterly desolate dune to set up camp. After a warm meal around a fire, huddled above more stars than I had ever seen, I resolved to rise early the next morning to greet the sunrise.

Waking early, I walked far out from camp to mount a high dune and from there surveyed the emptiness, silence, and utter absence of life in every direction, with nothing but rolling sands for my company.  Sunrise was magnificent. Then I glanced down right where I stood. What was there?

A rock, it too utterly alone, sitting atop this empty sand dune.  Marveling at its perfect egg-shape, I later learned such rocks are honed to that precision through millions of years of weathering sands. It bore the markings of a larger fossil, with smaller creatures beside it.

About 400 million years ago, during the Devonian Period, this shelled sea creature was swimming in the Sahara Ocean, where it died sinking into the ocean bed.  Calcifying through the drying out of the ocean, baking as the climate further shifted, and formed by rolling sands, it had risen to the very top of this deep sand dune at the moment of my arrival and at the place I chose to stand.  Here I greeted this once fellow living creature!  It had traveled far from earth’s distant origins and improbably succeeded in keeping our appointment and offering me its gift.

And so I received my answer. I am where I belong, where I need to be, doing what I need to do, and being who I am intended to be. Only then did I understand that those were my questions.

Go deep into nature. It can be into the Sahara, or simply strolling in the local park at your doorstep. Keep your own appointments, and receive the gifts that await.

Happy New Year: Spring’s Not So Far Away

By Michael Traynor


“O, Wind. If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?” – Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

If Percy Shelly had lived in Chicago, we all could have answered him immediately. Of course Spring can be far behind! It can be really far behind, you naive romantic poet! No wonder you died young. You should have worn a heavier winter coat!

In Chicago we need binoculars, a magnifying glass, and ample patience to catch first glimpses of spring. Here are some of the “first glimpses” seen in 2020 Chicago. All emerged just prior to the March pandemic “shutdown”. Spring however did not shut down, and the pure moments of joy that came from experiencing moments like these continued on into the year unabated. They await us in 2021. Just stop for a moment once in a while, look, listen, and then behold. Happy New Year!

March 8 (11:53am CST exactly): This first Scilla of spring popped out and shouted “ta-daaa!” near the Conservatory. Look for them first where the angle and heat of early March sun focus intensely.



March 11: Light puffy mounds of snowdrops begin carpeting the barren earth. The center of the mound is slightly elevated, and snowdrops lazily drape downward amidst still dormant trees.



March 12: The first black-crowned night heron of spring flies in, alights at the north pond, and is greeted by a welcoming round of applause rising up from every park denizen. The breeding cycle of new life begins.



March 13: One solitary purple crocus springs forth in a remote, untended corner of the park. It is one plucky crocus to have emerged there at all, let alone be first. It must be a labor of love. A love to shine, to shine for us.



Michael Traynor’s photo essay is the first of four views of the changing seasons at Lincoln Park.