Listening to the Land

Before the Storm

Storm Watch © 2013 Bo Mackison

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.
Most of the time we are simply not patient enough,
quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.
~ Linda Hogan, in Listening to the Land

I spend a lot of time out in nature, standing on the land. Grounding myself in the present. On watch. Listening to the sky as the clouds rumble into each other, listening as the dust blows across the earth, contemplating where the dirt road with the missing gate would take me if I chose to walk its lines.

I believe that this is one of the gifts I was given at this time in my life. I have time, time enough to stand and silently absorb the story of the earth. I have the time it takes to be patient. I have the time it takes to be fully quiet. I live a life of pacing. I am blessed that I can life my life slowly.

If I have the time to listen to the land, then surely I have time to also listen to the inhabitants of this land.

I read an article not so long ago regarding the customs of greeting people. We give automatic responses to each other to one of life’s important questions. “How are you?” we ask, routinely, not waiting for any sort of meaningful response. Even eye to eye contact would be a small gift in this exchange, an acknowledgement. “Yes, I see you. I honor you as a fellow human being.” But busy lives often prevent even the most fleeting moments of connection.

As a practice, it is harder than I think it should be. I’ve been intentionally practicing this for quite a few weeks now. With store checkers and baggers, with gas station attendants, with people I pass on the street. A simple hello and a meeting of the eyes. Sometimes I find it incredibly difficult, and I wonder if it is a practice that we have learned to curtail as a society?

So I continue to practice. And pay attention to the story I am hearing.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Love the stunning light in this image. And – I too have been practicing meeting everyone’s gaze straight on..and with really hearing what the response is to the ordinary ‘how are you?’. Listening is a true art!!!

  2. I love those clouds. Wish I could hear them.

  3. These clouds are indeed remarkable, Bo. You’ve captured a nice contrast between the dark clouds and the golden tan ground, punctuated by stark fence posts. Love the composition of this image. I enjoyed reading this post and thinking about it all. Listening to the land; listening to people. My husband thinks it odd that I crave a solitary beach but can chat endlessly with strangers I meet there who are seeking their own treasures. My labyrinth walks on the beach are my way of connecting with that strip of land, its inhabitants and the flora, as well as watching the ocean for other surprises. The desert has its own surprises, I know. Rambling now…off to the next post. XO

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I love hearing about your experiences on the beach. Rather a nice balance — you on the coast, me in the desert. Just wish they were geographically closer.

  4. A wonderful message and image. Thanks Bo.

  5. Gandalf says:

    Magnificent image, captivating, stunning. Your thoughts about connecting with others is spot on. I couldn’t agree more.

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