Woods & Waters, Images to nurture the soul

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& Images to nurture the soul

PHOTOGRAPHY GEORGE FISCHER FOREWORD ANDREA PRAZMOWSKI

Copyright © 2023 George Fischer

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission from the photographer, George Fischer.

Foreword: Andrea Prazmowski

Art Director and Designer: Catharine Barker

National Graphics, Toronto, ON Canada

Nimbus Publishing Limited | Tel.: 902 455-4286

3660 Strawberry Hill, Halifax, NS Canada B3K 5A9

Printed in China

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Title: Woods & waters : images to nurture the soul / photography, George Fischer ; foreword, Andrea Prazmowski.

Other titles: Woods and waters

Names: Fischer, George, 1954- photographer, author.

Identifiers: Canadiana 20220484708 | ISBN 9781774711118 (hardcover)

Subjects: LCSH: Fischer, George, 1954- | LCSH: Forests and forestry—Canada—Pictorial works. | LCSH: Trees—Canada—Pictorial works. | LCSH: Photography of trees—Canada. | LCSH: Lakes— Canada—Pictorial works. | LCSH: Canada—Pictorial works. | LCGFT: Illustrated works.

Classification: LCC TR726.T7 F57 2023 | DDC 779/.340971—dc23

&

Images to nurture the soul

FOREWORD

PHOTOGRAPHY
GEORGE FISCHER
ANDREA PRAZMOWSKI

As George guided me to his special place in the woodlands north of Toronto, his camera and his photographer’s eye were constantly moving. Leaning in, stepping back, playing with angles and the framing of each photo. Every footstep or turn in the trail seemed to offer him another image to discover and record on his phone.

FOREWORD

Eventually we stepped off the trail and arrived at a place where the trees encircled a small clearing. George lowered himself to the ground to sit at the foot of one tree, and stretched out his long legs, letting them rest on a bed of yellow autumn leaves. He leaned against the trunk and tilted his head back, to gaze up into the almost-bare branches, with the blue sky beyond. The camera rested in George’s hands. He grew quiet and exhaled.

It looked to me like a return to home. And it was.

“This is where I sit every time I come here,” he said.

At first glance, that tree and that spot in the woods don’t stand out in any remarkable way. You can wander along kilometres of similar trails here, past countless trees. What makes the place special for George is that he didn’t just walk by. He stopped and sat and returned again and again. And again. He sought out that spot when he was struggling with the reality of his wife’s declining health and grieving her eventual death, and his mother’s passing and his sister's too, all in the span of four months in 2021. And coping with it all while navigating

the health care system in the midst of the pandemic. Grief, anger, despair – all loosened and eased after time with these trees.

When George describes those times and his feelings about those visits, his voice softens and his words vibrate with gratitude.

With his photographer’s eye, George sees the artistry in any scene, any leaf or blade of grass. Through his senses, leaning into the support of the trees and the roots and earth under his feet, he perceives the gifts of nature. Through his open and receptive heart, he receives healing.

George’s is not a unique story. In my role as a Nature & Forest Therapy Guide, people often eagerly tell me about places and experiences within nature that have offered them solace, support and healing. Maybe they’ve never told anybody else about the deep connection they feel to a particular tree or a sheltered curve of shoreline. And it can come as a relief to speak it out loud and realize they’re not alone.

Many Nature & Forest Therapy Guides come to this work after a life-changing experience among the trees – recovering from cancer, returning from a deep depression, grieving the loss of a loved one. I can’t imagine how I would

“When I came here , I could face another day. It’s my sanctuary .”
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have weathered the breakdown of my marriage and the stress of the pandemic without daily visits with the woods and waters near my home.

Sometimes that support arrives in a single transformative moment or a flash of insight. Often that support grows over time. Through repeated visits the relationship becomes layered with stories and memories of personal connections, and ultimately grows into a sense of intimacy with a place.

That experience often evokes a deep sense of gratitude for a place, and a desire to give back. The giving might be quiet and personal. Or we might engage in a project to tend and protect an area. Or the giving back might emerge in the form of a beautiful book that sings the praises of nature and encourages others to seek out their own special places and honour the gifts they provide. This is what George so beautifully offers.

I’ve begun to think of these places as the places that save us.

We need to talk about these experiences more. To share our stories and recognize they are interconnected, just as all life in the forest is interconnected, and that all of our lives are interwoven into a single story of life. That is a way of giving back too; a way of moving us collectively to offer more care.

What is the alchemy that supports our healing in nature? Scores of research scientists have been exploring that

question, over several decades, and learning what unfolds when we allow ourselves unhurried time in nature.

One of the earlier studies found that a simple nature view, from a distance, supports our innate healing capacities. The study followed the post-surgery recovery of hospital patients who had the same operation. The patients with a view of a natural setting out their window were discharged from hospital earlier and required fewer pain medications than those who looked upon a brick wall.

Even a photo or painting of nature can reduce our stress and bring a sense of calm.

And when we can get up close for the full sensory experience of an in-person visit with nature, the results are consistent. Studies about walking and resting in natural settings report reduced blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones, enhanced heart functioning, and a boosted immune system. Being in natural ecosystems – even surrounded by houseplants or interacting with a pet –supports our nervous systems to shift out of stress mode (“fight, flight or freeze”) into what is often called the place of “rest and digest,” which is also the place of healing.

Doctors and health care providers worldwide are now writing prescriptions for people to re-connect with nature. The website for Canada’s Park Prescription program reports that “research suggests that connecting to nature is one of the best things you can do to improve your health.”

Over and over, people convey that they discover comfort, belonging, support, and even blunt messages that prod them to take action on something they’ve been avoiding. They tell me they experience a re-awakening of wonder and a sense of joy and curiosity they knew as children; an upswell of gratitude; a connection to all of life.

This isn’t new wisdom. Indigenous peoples continue to teach that we must re-orient our human perspective to recognize ourselves within Nature and understand all beings as ‘all our relations’; to live with gratitude and practice reciprocity. To relate to Nature as our first family, and Earth as generous Mother.

But re-connecting with nature is so much more than a substitute for pills in a bottle.

As you turn the pages of George’s book, I encourage you to linger with the images. Notice how attention and presence can make the ordinary extraordinary.

Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a oneway street into a sacred bond.
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
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You might slow down and notice the images that seem to call to you, and then bring your undivided attention there. Or you could visit with a single photo each day. Or perhaps, like George in his special place, you’ll return to the same photos over and over.

The images George has shared can suggest a new way of looking, when you walk and wander and visit parks and trails places nearby. Yes, there are effects he can achieve with his camera that we can’t necessarily duplicate. And yet we can practice. Gaze longer, focus on details. Or release the tension around your eyes and let your vision grow soft. Notice patterns and echoes; allow associations to surface.

Perhaps you might view the photos like you’re turning the pages of an old family photo album. Gazing at each one, curious about the stories there. Seeking out family resemblances. Seeing the quiet details that are revealed with careful looking.

As you linger with the photos and the music, you might notice timeless patterns that

emerge in the blooming and decay of life in the waters and woods. These patterns are within us as well, as we too were formed through the same powers of creation and follow the same natural laws in our return to the earth.

Throughout these pages, you’ll see invitations similar to those offered on a guided Nature & Forest Therapy walk. These can help you to explore the images, and your own places and relationships within nature too.

Before you sit down with Woods & Waters, you might want to do what we do at the beginning of a walk, to help bring your attention to your senses, to the moment, to the experience. Can you find a quiet place? Reduce the distractions?

Now find a comfortable posture and close your eyes. Rest your feet on the ground and feel how the ground, the earth, supports you. Notice your breath. Simply follow each inhale and exhale. Then, over the span of several minutes, shift your attention to your sensation of touch. What are you feeling,

on your skin, against your body, under your fingertips? Then notice what you can hear, then shift to notice any aromas or scents that arrive. Then slowly open your eyes and turn to the book and begin.

When I guide walks I offer a welcome and introduction before we set out down the trail, and that is when I speak the most. After that, I get quieter and say less and less, to allow us each to listen more closely into the ways that the wisdom of nature, within and without, may be speaking.

So, enough words. Time to listen, to see with new eyes, to discover the gifts of this book that George has so beautifully co-created with the woods & waters and other “morethan-human” beings he has met; a book filled with tenderness and gratitude.

May you too receive the gifts of nature within each moment, here for you, awaiting your attentive presence.

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We listen in for nature’s wisdom and notice how our personal stories intertwine with the stories of the land . I hope this listening and these reflections help us in becoming good ancestors to future generations.
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My journey through woods and waters, forests and falls, began long ago. Early on, the sights and sounds of waterfalls and forests have soothed my soul and rescued me from many of life's stresses. More recently, it grounded me during difficult times and made me aware of a new level of a vibrant, connected environment.

wouldn't encourage anyone to browse through my book with their eyes closed, but this one might be best viewed that way.

STILLNESS & SOUND

The other thing I am excited about is an auditory consideration of relevant music to accompany your journey within these pages. My son Sean, an accomplished professional musician and producer, has compiled a brilliant Spotify playlist to complement the images. Please scan the QR code or find the link in Books on my website.

This book has grown in my imagination for the past number of years. As things go, the time never seemed quite right to put it together until now. I am well aware of the difficulty of stressrelated thoughts and the need for an opportunity to quiet one's inner self to contemplate the present and future in a calm mindset. That is what solitude and communing with nature offer me. I am hopeful that, in some way, this may also be beneficial to my readers. Normally I

As you browse, imagine sitting on the rocks, dipping your feet in the rushing water or keeping still to listen to the wind in the trees. Let the music wash through your mind to push out day-today thoughts and help with a few moments of clarity in peace. A few written offerings are also sprinkled in. The nice thing is to be able to do this anywhere for whatever time you have available.

https://rb.gy/xxh2no

GeorgeFischerPhotography.com, go to Books, Woods & Waters

PREFACE
SPOTIFY SCAN
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~ George
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with the shadows

dance play

in the sun

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Even in stillness , there is motion . Pause and notice what’s moving where you are now .

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One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
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~ William Shakespeare
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seek the quiet sounds

If you would know strength and patience , welcome the company of trees .
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~ Hal Borland
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Come closer . Look at life from a different angle . What might you discover ?

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live well wander often

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George Fischer is one of Canada’s most celebrated landscape photographers. He has produced more than 70 artistic photographic books and his unique style is recognized around the world. He has provided photography and editorial content for promotional literature published by tourist boards and international tour operators. George’s work has appeared on the covers of magazines and newspapers worldwide as well as websites and ad campaigns for hundreds of companies. George is also recognized for his worldwide collection of more than 50 art posters and unique fine art prints created for various companies, hospitals and private collectors.

GEORGE FISCHER

PHOTOGRAPHER

In 2022 George worked with the photography class he sponsors with World ORT in Israel to inspire student creativity through a contest, including the winners in his recent publication Israel: Not Black & White. In November 2017, George received the Ontario Tourism Award of Excellence in Photography. Among his major accomplishments is the book, Canada: 150 Panoramas, which was on the best-seller list at Chapters/Indigo and quickly sold out of its first printing. In 2007, Unforgettable Canada was on The Globe and Mail ’s bestseller list and has sold over 75,000 copies. It has now had a fourth printing. In 2002, the book A Taste of the Magdalen Islands was a finalist for the Canada Cuisine Award.

An avid outdoor adventurer, George has hiked Machu Picchu in Peru and in Bolivia cycled what is dubbed “the world’s most dangerous road.” He has summited Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Gokyo Ri in the Himalayas and Torres del Paine in Chile. In Iceland, George hiked to raise funds for the Arthritis Society of Canada. His home is in Toronto, Canada.

See more at GeorgeFischerPhotography.com

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Photo credit: Sue Huh

One of Andrea’s earliest memories is of making friends with the pussywillow tree in her backyard, and she’s always felt most at home in the shelter of trees and the embrace of the earth.

After earning a Journalism degree Andrea worked with environmental groups and in international development. She then served as a facilitator of community and spiritual development programs while focusing on raising her two boys. In 2017 Andrea returned to her first love – the trees – and became a Certified Nature & Forest Therapy Guide through the Association of Nature & Forest Therapy (ANFT).

ANDREA PRAZMOWSKI

She has served as a mentor and trainer with ANFT and was a founding board member of the Canadian group that is now Nature and Forest Therapy of Canada (NFTC). She offers her guiding services under the name Forest Therapy Ottawa (www.foresttherapyottawa.ca).

Andrea delights in guiding people in ways to return to Nature, for our collective wellbeing, to remember our embeddedness within Nature, and to deepen our relationships of reciprocity. She has a certificate in Permaculture Design and as a Reiki Master Practitioner, serves as a facilitator of a regenerative practice called The Work That Reconnects, and co-leads “Wild Spirit” gatherings in the Ottawa area. She is also a proud graduate of the 2022 cohort of “Storytelling Beyond Words” at the International School of Storytelling in the UK.

Andrea lives in Ottawa, within the traditional and unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishnaabe nation. She is profoundly grateful for the teachings of the First Nations people and carries the intention that, in all of her roles, her work and words honour their teachings about how to live in right relationship with the morethan-human world and with Earth, our first Mother.

Photo credit: Jake Morrison, With Flare Photography
AUTHOR
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A tonic for the emotions and sustenance for the soul, nature is a perfect place to soothe the senses and heal the heart. Winds in the pines, frogs in the ponds, birds on the branches. Rain or shine, storm or calm, the great outdoors brings refreshment, mindfulness and hope.

Under the Big Sky, George Fischer’s artistry introduces ramblers to a new world each season: sunny summer grasses, blazing autumn leaves, sparkling winter snow and delicate spring blooms. His forays into forests and along waters yield inspired images that focus on moments in time. And hold promise of fresh ideas, better balance –even new beginnings.

As you walk with George through Woods & Waters, Images to nurture the soul, you’ll feel inspired by what is around you. You might strike new connections with your inner self, start mending after a loss – or simply gain new ground on your life’s journey. Whatever you need, you’ll find your balance.

$ 39.95

ISBN 978-1-77471-111-8

9781774711118

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