A Country Road Meander — In the Midst of Wilderness, In the Presence of Divine

Door County in Autumn

Tree Line ©2014 Bo Mackison

In the midst of the wilderness, in the presence of the divine.
Perhaps there is nothing astonishing about this meadow with its spattering of seeded sumac
Or a dense tree line that separates the land from the cloudy skies.

Meandering on a country road in the middle of this northern county,
two miles west of Lake Michigan, an endless expanse of water to my eyes
and two miles east of Green Bay, again, with no distant shore in sight,
only a few bay islands splashed by frothing waves, inhabited by seagulls.

Door County in Autumn

Door County in Autumn © 2014 Bo Mackison

Who thought, many decades ago, to say no to billboards, to shopping malls,
to franchises of any kind – no hotel or restaurants, fast food or not,
that represent giant corporations instead of families and local businesses.
Some one did.
You can’t recognize this part of America by familiarity. Only by its neighborliness
and small town pride and heritage.

In the midst of wilderness, in the presence of the divine.

Kangaroo Lake in Door County – The Magic of Studying Details, Then Turning Around

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – South View © 2014 Bo Mackison

The mid-October day was mercurial – one moment skies were blue, the next a wave of gray clouds pushed in from nearby Lake Michigan. Blustery winds buffeted me, causing me to lose my balance more than once. Then calm would descend for a brief respite for the wind and chill.

October in Door County, for sure, Wisconsin’s northeastern most point, a peninsula sticking out into tempestuous Lake Michigan.

Kangaroo Lake is one of the more protected places on the peninsula in fresh water lake in the center of Door County, and a wonderful place to go during the autumn festival days. Most of the crowd who comes to enjoy the views hug the shore of Door County, bay side and lake side. But there is much to be said for the wild beauty of the interior, too.

I loved studying the autumn changes of Kangaroo lake, standing on a narrow bridge of road that crosses the northern most bay. Fallen leaves were bobbing on the surface, the reeds were stripped of there green finery and their fuzzy seeds, and stood knee deep in the cold, stunningly blue water. Beyond, fir trees lined one side of the lake, and deciduous trees in this year’s last blaze of glory hugged the opposite side.

Then the sun disappeared in the scattered clouds.

Once I had taken in the scene with all my senses, as is my habit, I turn around to see what is behind me.

Kangaroo Lake

Kangaroo Lake – North View  © 2014 Bo Mackison

And the sun slid from the cloud cover, causing the lake ripples to shimmer in a sheet of dancing light.

A solitary island caught my attention. Birds were darting from the trees to the water and back again. Creatures were slipping in and out of the shadows and the shoreline brush.

Kangaroo Lake — its two faces. Both to be explored and adored.

Fierce Winds. Fierce Rains. Fierce Color. And an Awakening.

Fall Foliage at Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin

Aspen and Yellow © 2014 Bo Mackison

The winds were fierce, the rains were fierce. Deep in the forest, the rain turned misty. The bright leaves shimmered in yellows and oranges. I followed a muddy path through the forest, trees clumped tightly together, clinging high along the cliffs above Lake Michigan.

Fall Foliage at Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin

Middle Road, Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin © 2014 Bo Mackison

Traveling the Middle Road, nearly deserted because of the inclement weather, a bit like a ride through Middle Earth. Sights of bright trees, sounds of creaking branches, leaves twirling to the ground. An awakening of the senses.

Fall Foliage at Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin

Sanctuary in the Forest © 2014 Bo Mackison

Deep in the forest, the rains stop. Leaves drip, the path is soggy-slippery. And the quiet is held in a heavy tapestry of quaking yellow. Sacred.

Fall Foliage at Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin

Gripping the Earth © 2014 Bo Mackison

Tree roots gripping the earth. I grip the earth. Fierce in determination. Fierce in the sacred. I find myself awakening deep in the forest, soaked with rain, feeling so aware, so alive.

5th Annual Photo Alphabet – The Finale

W is for Wilderness and Wonder.

This is the Trail?

Palo Dura © 2010 Bo Mackison

When I want to do deep thinking, I head for quiet spaces, walk one of the trails through the wilderness. I do some of my most productive thinking here, walking alone. In this deep stillness.

My gratitude for the life I lead is huge. I stand without a movement. I speak to the Universe. I wonder. I fill with a great happiness at the wealth in my world.

As I walk in nature, my world expands. I find my place. I stand upon the Mother Earth, grounded. l connect to a greater plan for the greater good.

If you look for the truth outside yourself,
it gets farther and farther away.
Today, walking alone, I meet it everywhere I step.
It is the same as me, yet I am not it.
Only if you understand it in this way
Will you merge with the way things are.
~ Tung-Shan

X is for eXplore and eXperiment.

Gold Poppies

Poppies in Arizona © 2012 Bo Mackison

There are times when I have a photograph and I just want to play. Explore new techniques. Add and subtract, soften the focus, sharpen the focus. Experiment with colors, saturation, a different crop. It’s similar to coloring outside the lines in a coloring book, then making the sky yellow and the trees turquoise. Usually, when I change a photo extensively, I don’t keep the results. I just enjoy the process.

But once in a while, I like the result. And so I not only have a few hours of play, experimentation, exploration, I also have a fun photograph for my portfolio.

Y is for out Yonder.

Beach Boardwalk

Boardwalk at Sunrise © 2012 Bo Mackison

Sometimes it is enough to look out on a vast body of water and let the senses absorb the space. It is enough to walk along the boardwalk, aware of each step as the walkway shifts under my weight. It is enough to be at the edge of the shore when the sun rises in the East.

Z is for Zen.

Branch in Stricker's Pond

Branch in Pond © 2012 Bo Mackison

Fitting that I end the alphabet, and the year, with a contemplative photograph. I have a folder of photographs I refer to as my Zen photos, photographs I re-visit when I want to focus, settle the voices in my head, and calm my mind. This pond is only a few blocks from my home in Wisconsin. It is the pond I walk around from mid-spring through early winter. I’ve captured the pond in all seasons, in all kinds of weather, and at various times of the day.

I have photographs of the pond when it is home to Canada geese, egrets, herons, and wood ducks. I have photos when half of the pond is a white and green carpet of American lotus in blossom. But this is my favorite photograph from all of my walks – a broken branch in shallow water, shifting in the soft light from a disappearing sun. It is a late summer evening.

I take a few deep breaths, focus my attention on the lines, the colors, the beauty in the simplicity. I am thankful.


And so ends the annual photo alphabet, and just in time too. After spending several weeks compiling the last posts, I am ever so grateful. Grateful for you, my readers. Grateful for the coming of a new year. And grateful that there are only 26 letters in the English alphabet!

Best Wishes for a Wonder-filled, Happy, and Healthy 2013!

Happy New Year! 

~ Bo


5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part V

R is for Ritual and Routine.

Early Morning Coffee in the Desert

Early Morning Coffee in the Desert © 2011 Bo Mackison

I have an unusual ritual in the Sonoran Desert. Some might think of it more as a routine – brewing the early morning coffee – but when I brew my first cup of coffee after a night of desert camping, it truly is elevated to the level of ritual.

The assembly of the tiny backpacker stove. The measuring of water from my water supply. The finding of the matches — which usually provides a modicum of panic. The boiling of the water. The measuring of the coffee grounds, safely stored in the bottom of my coffee cup/coffee press. The boiling water poured into the coffee press, the cup tightly closed, plunging the press, waiting the ten minutes for the coffee to brew. And finally sipping that first early morning coffee.

If any one is wondering why I might need coffee while camping in the desert, keep in mind early morning in the winter desert is usually 30˚ to 40˚F, often even colder. That first cup of coffee is like a bit of heaven. Routine, yes. And ritual.

S is for Shadows and Self-portrait.

Shadow Photographer

Shadow Photographer © 2012 Bo Mackison

I have a fascination with taking photos of shadows. They might be photos of leaf shadows on a wall, a repetitive fence shadow on a sidewalk, an intricate wrought iron table and chairs casting an abstract shadow on a patio. I constantly look for shadows to photograph.

And sometimes I photograph self-portrait shadows.

I like these self portraits in shadow. Sometimes I am long and stretched out, as in the above photo taken late in the day. Sometimes there is just a head shot, my hat on my head, protection from the desert sun, hiking stick leaning against me, as I balance and set up the shot.

I always have my camera up to my face. I may be alone or with a companion. I like to study these portrait shadows.

They tell me a bit about the photographer I was at that moment in time. By the clues in the photos I can decipher where I was, who I was with, the time of the year or the time of the day. I may even be able to tell my mood by the way I carry my body. I may remember a conversation I had with a person in passing or a particular event that happened that day.

Another way I capture bits of my life as reminders. Like words on a page of a diary or journal, a photo holds that space for me.

T is for Thresholds and Transitions.

Window, Bench and Door in White

Window, Bench and Door in White © 2010 Bo Mackison

Transitions. I think that very word, and a lump forms in my throat, an ache develops in my chest. No matter what type of transition I face, it takes me awhile to focus and gather my equilibrium before I carry on. The transition can be one I dread or one I look forward to — no matter. The very act of crossing a new threshold, or a threshold I am re-crossing, causes me to stop in my tracks.

I’ve discovered that I can approach transitions in different ways. And that is okay!

I may choose to move towards a threshold, decide I am not quite prepared.. OK. I can sit down — that bench is handy — and pause while I consider my next step.

Maybe I approach the threshold and find I need more time to study the new, do a bit more research or soul-searching. Maybe a look through a window, visualizing the next step is helpful. OK.

Or maybe I am ready. I have considered my options, I know that the next step needs to be taken, or I am simply ready. OK. I open the door and walk through, across the threshold.

This photo is a pretty good summary of me working my way through life, whatever it takes at that moment. Approaching transitions in different ways.

U is for the Universe.

Three Self Portraits

Exploring the Universe © 2011 Bo Mackison

The Universe — worlds upon world upon worlds. Bright and shiny — new places to explore.

In each shiny ball representing part of the universe, there is a tiny self-portrait of me, both looking in and looking out.

V is for Vision.

Double Vision

Double Vision © 2011 Bo Mackison

I like this photo – the one I call Double Vision – because the branch in the foreground still has berries and a leaf hanging on it, the branch slightly behind it is bare. It’s a double branch. But there is more. Look into the background, extend my vision deeper into the landscape and I notice the snow-covered river – the river a conduit for travel.

Will it be an easy trip, perhaps on a flowing river in the early summer on a small skiff with a companion? Or will the trip take place during a drought, the water is low, my boat keep getting snagged. I must keep getting into the water to dislodge it, push it along, even portage it? Perhaps the journey is a cold, lonely trek in the winter, traveling alone on skates or ice cleats, or along the side of the frozen river, pushing through the deep snow?

I look at this photograph and I see the past captured — dried fruits and leaves. And it foretells possible vignettes of the future in metaphor — travel on the river. But all the while, it capturing a moment in the present.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. The 5th Annual Photo Alphabet ends with  Wonder thru Zen!