Whether translated from the Native American as smile of the Great Spirit or beautiful water in a high place, Lake Winnipesaukee is true to its name. I visited there last week and brought back a few images. This one was taken on Thursday morning. The forecast that day called for showers so I was up early, preparing for a run, when I noticed light through the curtain; imagine my surprise when I took a look and was greeted by the illuminating glow of sunrise through a low ceiling of broken clouds to the east. I tried to capture the view from the vantage of my second-floor window but the angles were all wrong and wouldn’t do; I made for the stairs. I stood for a bit and allowed myself time (though not much, for both sun and clouds were on the move) to enjoy the view. I have always been very much aware of the power of nature. At the risk of sounding trite I would argue that all natural environments, including woods, fields, the ocean, mountain tops and, in this particular case, lake shores have the power to help us to find our center in this experience called life. Standing at the edge of this massive body of water and looking out across its mirrored surface I was impressed by both stillness and silence. And then, as if energy emanated from the volume, I could feel its slumbering power. Forgive me if this sounds silly, but I have no other way of expressing it. Surely my friend Seonaid, at breathofgreenair, would be better able to put into words what it was I experienced and what is I’m trying to say. Perhaps what I felt was similar to a feeling I described in an earlier post in which I wondered why we find nature so awe-inspiring? I guessed then and still believe that we are predisposed to feel the power of nature because our ancient ancestors were directly impacted by it. Today, of course, we are protected from the elements, Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. In ancient days however, folks couldn’t run and they couldn’t hide for they lived intimately with nature and were a part of it. I am sure this realization instilled genuine fear at the thought of an advancing storm, a flash of lightning, or an immense body of water. We have learned, for better or worse, to circumvent the inconvenience that some would call nature. Perhaps our primitive fears have been transmogrified to find expression in doubt, awe, and inspiration when confronted with such a force.

POSTSCRIPT: I wonder if anyone can find the surprises I discovered when processing the RAW file of this image for presentation here.


31 thoughts on “Winnipesaukee

  1. Do I spot a very faint rainbow in the image (to the right)?

    Of course I can relate to what you say about awe-inspiring nature. I can’t explain or analyze it any better – you did that quite well.

    I often think about what this does mean for me – for somebody being mainly concerned with (in work and hobbies) made-made creations. It was one of my revelations as a fledgling scientist / researcher that it seems the days of ‘discovering nature’ are over and you rather apply your skills to dealing with ‘structures’ (in a very broad sense) that have been created / engineered / invented by humans.

    • Oh, please don’t say that the days of discovery are over! It cannot be! Perhaps we should talk about personal discovery … surely those days are not at an end? D

      • I meant discovery as a scientist in physics or something closely related… STEM as it is called today. If you want to deal with ‘nature’ and the last true puzzles as a physicist you would need to do particle physics and the like … anything else is more like incremental optimization (making better solar cells etc.). I don’t say that this is a bad thing – but it took me some time to fully embrace this.

        I guess this is different in biology?

        • To be sure. Although you may be correct in saying that most ‘major’ discoveries have already been made … and that our future will be one of incremental optimization. I feel great excitement in projects such as the EU funded Blue Brain Project ( which hopes to map all of the neurons of the human brain. What an undertaking! Even though we know how a neuron works … and we know about the anatomy of the brain … can we still view the future results of this project as ‘discovery.’ The press characterized the discovery of the Higgs Boson as the last true discovery in physics … so you agree? D

          • Spot-on … I think the true nature of “stuff” (elementary particles) and what consciousness is are probably the two most challenging problems. The Higgs might have been the last discovery – but only for practical purposes. The smaller the structures are you want to investigate, the more energy and therefore the larger particle colliders you need. There are lots of unresolved issues with the unification of quantum physics and general relativity … but in order to test the related theories you’d need a collider the size of the galaxy or something. Though I am fascinated by this – I am pragmatic and there is only limited money to be spent on fundamental research (I say, as a taxpayer).

  2. Light, intense color, clarity, reflection. This photo has it all. Words cannot really describe its beauty!

  3. It’s a beautiful image with excellent composition. You’ve captured the feeling of movement. Alain de Botton suggests that nature (like religion) is a means of escaping from humans. We need a break from people and our self-centeredness and this is why nature is so powerful to us in this modern day civilization of human-centred living. I think his observation set next to yours makes an interesting view of people interacting with their environment. (Also, I saw the rainbows. I get these in some of my shots, too. I am going to need to come back and read the conversation between you and Maurice.)

    • Sounds like we’re all on the same wavelength here. There is something to restorative and centering about ‘realizing’ nature … does that make sense? Being within is cleansing and, for me at least, pushes my reset. And … yes … you’ve got the surprises; I didn’t see them at the time I pushed the shutter release … the only appeared on my computer screen several days later! Thanks for the observations M … appreciated, as usual. D

  4. “All kinds of awesome” is right! Reflection on the deck in the left foreground might be because that small section of deck doesn’t appear to be wood but perhaps recycled plastics of some kind? I love Maurice’s thoughts on the kind of thinking these places/experiences inspire. I spent Tuesday driving from Lincoln NE to Salt Lake City Utah … across the high plains and have seldom experienced such exposure to the sky. There were distant snow covered peaks all around but I felt I was driving across the top of the world. I’ve always wanted an art studio in such a place … on good days, you could peel back the roof of the studio and work with nothing between you and the Milky Way … working with absolute exposure. On less good days, of course, I would hide under the porch:-) Very nice image, very nice text.

    • Hey there anonymous … such a thoughtful comment. Thanks very much for taking the time to respond. To feel as if one were driving across the top of the world would be truly wonderful indeed. I have never visited your part of the world, with open spaces and exposures of the sort your describe. I believe that landscapes here in the east tend to be more closed … cramped … and, in comparison to your world, somewhat limited. How interesting. When I look back across my photo archive, it occurs to me that I tend to focus on ‘things,’ whereas folks out west tend to have expanded visions which include expansive landscapes. Sounds like I need a road trip westward. Thanks again for checking in this morning. D

      • It is amazing how different the experience of nature is out west here. Back home the stuff that draws your attention by and large is biology: trees, plants, animals. Out here the geology of the landscape has a much, much larger impact on your mental awareness of what’s happening around you. You guys need to come visit me some time and you can take that roadtrip 🙂 Also, I’m pretty sure anonymous is Mom …

        • Interesting that you should make that observation. I have, on more than one occasion, mentioned to Joanna that there’s not really lots of scope-for-imagination here PA when it comes to dramatic landscapes. Everything seems quite closed-in such that I find myself feeling a bit claustrophobic sometimes. What you say certainly comes across in the images of western landscapes that I so often drool over. I do need wider horizons. I’ll take your suggestion under advisement. D

  5. Ai yi yi! In St. John’s we’ve been getting RDF (rain, drizzle and fog) for over a week now. How I wish I could see the sun peek through the clouds.
    On the subject of awe, it’s something that we certainly do share common ground on. I’d go as far as to say that my greatest hedonistic (perhaps, not sure if it is) pleasure is to put myself in a position to get just that feeling. Like you, I just stand or sit quietly for a while and take it all in.
    As for the roots of awe–is it an emotion???–I find myself in agreement with your line of reasoning. The one thing I am not sure about is an abiding belief that I have always done my best system 2 (conscious, logical) thinking under such situations. On the surface that would fly in the fact of the original premise as one would think that, based on the reasoning, awe would be a bit more affiliated with system 1 (reflexive, unconscious) thought. What I think (whoops, pun!) may be happening is an indirect effect. Awe puts me in a relaxed, low energy state physically thereby possibly offering up extra resources (available blood sugar etc) to devote to brain activity.
    Of course that type of conjecture, though sort-of sensible may be complete nonsense!
    Now, back to the picture. I noticed a double rainbow–somewhat rare. Rainbows rely on the dispersion caused by refraction (different wavelengths get bent by different amounts, thus providing a colour separation) as well as total internal reflection (it’s really refraction at an angle such that the light bounces back into the medium upon hitting the boundary). Double rainbows are rarer. The secondary rainbow is caused when that total internal reflection happens twice in any given raindrop. Because of the “double bounce” the dispersion pattern is opposite to that of the rainbow; that is if the rainbow goes red to violet in any given line then the secondary rainbow will go violet to red in that same line.
    But check out your rainbow. It doesn’t do that. What’s more it terminates very close to the foreground–again not unusual if the picture was taken at extreme magnification, which I don’t believe it was.
    So, what, then is the rainbow? Moisture on the lens? The “rays” from the sun and its reflection would suggest maybe. So, too would the reflection of the morning sun from the deck in the bottom left foreground. That would not happen on bare wood. On polished or wet wood, maybe. Or, perhaps just general dampness in the air producing who-knows-what level of refraction!
    By the way, this picture is all kinds of awesome!

    • Regarding the dichotomy in thought processes, being in a low energy state certainly does lend itself to more efficient higher-order processing. Whether this happens because of surplus ATPs being made available to drive complex thought, I do not know! I will agree, however, that being in relaxation-mode certainly does lend itself to creative (complex) thoughts. When relaxed one can free the mind of meaningless and less important nonsense.

      Now, to the matter of rainbows! I’ve known several faculty in physics over the years to whom I’ve posed the following, very simple, question, ‘Please explain to me how exactly a rainbow forms.’ [I’ve also been known to ask ‘How does a calculator ‘know’ that 1 + 1 = 2?] None has ever been able to do this for me, to my satisfaction. I get to the point where the white light separates into its component colors and then bounces within the drop itself. So, if summed across the entire horizon, one would get homogenized, white, light again … no? So, here I am, at the ripe-old-age of 54, still totally confused on this one! And what about the bow of the rainbow? Why a bow and now a line, or box, or circle … total confusion. There’s your assignment for your next blog post … entitle it ‘Rainbows for Dummies.’ Seriously … this will be a valuable contribution and may lead to world peace and a Nobel for you. D

      • Rainbows are indeed much more complicated that they appear at first blush. There is a short answer to your question: rainbows are best understood when you realize that they are formed from a huge number of tiny water droplets. Each one acts like a tiny spherical prism (yes–water droplets are not tear shaped; they are spherical). Each one produces its own dispersed spectrum BUT they are tiny enough that you can act as if each one only produces for you one colour. To get the effect of a rainbow you need the aggregate of many droplets. Now for the full explanation. Rather than create a blog post that explains it I will rely on the expertise of others as there are a couple of really good (and even more really bad) resources for this on the Internet. I spent some time looking for a good explanation of how rainbows work and found very few. Most only get to the part about the dispersion and total internal reflection and do not answer the questions you posed. I did find two that I liked though. The site “how stuff works” has a decent explanation but my favourite is a video for kids I found posted by PBS. Despite the act that it’s really intended for kids I’d have no problem using it as a resource for HS or maybe even first year university. If you’re in a hurry you can skip the first 30 seconds and the last minute.

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