‘Faces in the Forest’ and fingerprints from above | Greg Asimakoupoulos

I started collecting photos of faces in the forest on my iPhone. The more I added to my collection, the more I realized I needed to do something with them.

When my wife and I were vacationing at Lake Chelan a few years ago, we took an early morning walk among a grove of trees.

I looked up and saw what appeared to be two eyes looking at me. What appeared to be a camouflaged countenance was actually knots in the trunk of a maple tree. They resembled the face of a deer. Amazed by what I saw, I captured the Bambi-like pose on my iPhone. The unexpected image inspired a column for my weekly newspaper assignment. Since that time, I have seen a plethora of faces on rocks, in bushes and on tree trunks.

I started collecting photos of faces in the forest on my iPhone. The more I added to my collection, the more I realized I needed to do something with them. And then the idea hit me. A year or so ago, I published an interactive walking journal with photos of poems I had written on paper bags and tacked to a tree in a nearby park. Why not do another walking journal with photos of the natural faces I’ve photographed? And so I have done just that.

“Faces in the Forest” is a compilation of the photos taken with my iPhone along with Biblical quotes about nature, hymn lyrics celebrating creation and original poetry about the stewardship of our environment. There are also ample blank pages for the purpose of reflecting on the beauty of the outdoors and writing personal observations.

Looking back, I believe that my fascination with finding faces in the forest is due in part to the fact that my father was a minister. Being raised in a pastor’s home, I grew up being exposed to Scripture. I knew that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth…” Daily family devotions reminded me of that.

Memorizing passages from the Bible was an expectation as well as a personal challenge. Those verses that personally “spoke” to me were easier to commit to memory. As someone who enjoyed poetry from a young age, I especially related to portions of God’s Word that utilized similes and metaphors. As I read Scripture, I realized the importance of visualizing truth in creative ways.

In the Old Testament there is the poetic use of language describing nature anthropomorphically. As a young person I resonated with the prophet Isaiah’s description of redemption’s drama. The playwright portrays God’s people walking onto the stage of creation against the backdrop of props the Master Set Designer had created. All living things are viewed as cast members along with us as the lead actors who are created in the image of their Creator:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Long before Rogers and Hammerstein suggested that the hills are alive with the sound of music, Isaiah was celebrating that reality. And trees applauding their praise of the Creator? What a profound (yet simple) picture of how our lives are interrelated to all living things.

My illustrated walking journal is intended to call attention to “our friends” with whom we share life. I invite the reader to be alert to see “faces” on tree trunks or on rocks or in bushes that remind us of the fact that all nature is alive with the essence of God’s presence. The world around us is animated with the pulsating beauty of life. Plants, trees, brooks and rivers along with birds, rabbits and squirrels that meet us in the forest are companions with us on a planet for which we have been called to care.

As you go for walks and hikes with Mother Nature, be aware of your Heavenly Father’s fingerprints. Look for the unexpected nuances that point to our connection with all living things. In all honesty, you don’t need my walking journal to capture what you find. All you need is a willingness to focus on what’s in front of you.

Copies of “Faces in the Forest” are available at Island Books.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.