Deb Merchant

Sourced by Nature

Hooked is how I felt when nature really grabbed my heart, my bones, my very essence, and she wouldn't let me go.

Born in the wide open spaces of the Great Basin Desert, my life feels real when water, towering trees, the call of birds, and the great expanse of a clear night sky glowing with starlight touches my skin and eyes and nose and ears, and heart, spirit and soul. 

Since childhood, I had an innate curiosity about how the natural world worked. I wondered how water flowed continually, uninterrupted, and how trees and plants managed to live through incredibly frigid winters only to bloom with brilliance and fragrance each summer. As a young adult, I was privileged to live in a hand-hewn log cabin adjacent to a glacially-fed river where I discovered meaningful relationship with almost 20 species of birds and other wildlife, and dozens of species of plant life and rich, sweet soil. The Earth become my teacher, my confidant, and my reason for living.

Nature is still my one and only addiction. 
High mountain lakes, meandering rivers, wandering and soft river and rocky mountain trails climbing skyward, and even a local community nature preserve provide me with life support in ways that nothing else can. 


Volunteering for a local environmental non-profit, and attending Marylhurst University as an interdisciplinary student while living riverside in my log cabin, I became acutely aware of my cognitive dissonance. Attempting to reconcile my human existence and personal impact on the Earth continues to this day. Photography itself is a form of planetary destruction given the inputs required of the practice. And yet, without visual images and stories shared with the world, humanity remains ignorant of its essential life source. Listening to a radio interview years ago, I heard an activist state “I never used to think about the environment, but I do now.” Her statement jolted me into a reality that continues to inspire my work today as a photographer, storyteller and environmental and social justice non-profit advocate. Each person needs to acknowledge her personal relationship to the Earth if humanity is to avoid the worst of environmental destruction, and thus our own survival.

NaturallyAware is is an endeavor designed to inspire people to slow hurried lives, quiet restless minds and conversations, and open hearts to learning from nature about their own human nature. Relating and reconnecting with soil and blossoms, bees, butterflies and birds, and water and footprints in the sand and the cycle of seasons is life-giving and life-affirming. We - all of us - need the gift of nature more now than ever before.

May the young people today become naturally aware so that they can live a life as rich as my own. 

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