October Day

Owen Park

October Day in Owen Park © 2011 Bo Mackison

Nature is a mirror held to our view so we can see the ongoing process of growth, renewal and transformation in our lives.  ~ Mary Ann Brussat

What a show nature put on yesterday. I headed out for a 30 minute walk in Owen Conservation Park on Madison’s far west side, and ended up lingering on the paths for nearly three hours. (Totally tossed my to do list under the desk when I got home!)

Although I usually get questioning looks from hikers, baby back-packed parents, and some of the photographers I meet on the paths, I’ve finally learned that their curiosity and uncertainty about my photo methods have nothing to do with me. It is probably not something they would choose to do, and that’s fine.

When I choose to lie in a thicket of low-growing sumac to see what the view looks like, I do it to satisfy my curiosity, to expand my vision. Often I choose to stay on the ground for a while, not always taking photos, often just taking in the space.

I like to ask myself a question or two. What can I see in a space one square foot? One cubic foot?

Then I look and answer. This can take a surprisingly long time.

People stop and ask what I am looking at. In this friendly Midwestern city, lots of park visitors start lengthy conversations with me, as if we were good friends chatting in a comfy coffee shop. I’ve learned to answer the questions, but not stop shooting. Or looking, if I am at the looking stage. And since I am typically sprawled on the earth, in an awkward position, I don’t get up to talk. It is much too difficult on my reluctant body–those frequent ups and downs–to add unnecessary round trips.

Anyway, my answers are patently uninteresting, though honest.

“What are you looking at?”
“Red leaves, mostly.”
“Is there an animal in there?”
“No. Mostly leaves.”

Photographers who understand why I’m on my back on a bed of damp oak leaves, and why I have barely moved for the last twenty minutes, they don’t ask. They just nod and smile. Maybe they are looking for their own pile of damp leaves. Or maybe not. There are many kinds of photographers and no one way to photograph any subject is ever the only right way. Hopefully most of us shoot what is important to us as individuals, what provides inspiration, what makes us smile, laugh out loud, murmur “Oh, wow!” a dozen times an hour. Some of us even find a bit of soul nourishment while we click our shutters and study our spaces.

The above photograph was not taken lying on the earth. It’s a simple composition showing off Wisconsin’s autumn season, a view to the north, taken near Owen Park’s ponds. With those clouds as a backdrop, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share this landscape. But I’ll be posting a few of the “Shooting From A Bed of Mucky Leaves” soon.

Enjoy the weekend. Have a look around, a real look. Maybe even choose a tiny piece of the earth, 12 inches square, and give that a close look.

What do you see?


Bo Mackison is a photographer, owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Yesterday she spent half the workday outside in the brisk autumn air, so today she has to do yesterday’s and today’s computer work. And the sun is shining! Bummer!

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. This looks as crisp as an apple just plucked from the tree. Wonderful photo and fascinating story.

  2. Joanna Paterson says:

    There’s a beautiful oak wood just along the road from me – it is very muddy just now after so much rain, but I think I’m going to have to try this anyway!

  3. Victoria (Sweden) says:

    Very nice photo!

  4. The colors in this one are absolutely exquisite. Love that ‘spot’ of autumn red!

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