I have had the good fortune of getting a chance to see and photograph some of nature’s handiwork this winter even if the conditions have been mediocre at times.

It’s a relatively slow winter for wildlife viewing, in part because of the milder-than-normal temperatures and snow depth. When the weather is extreme, wildlife tends to concentrate around food sources and natural cover. And, while good for the critters of Minnesota, the conditions have not always been good for those of us who seek them.

A few weeks ago, however, I had the unique opportunity to photograph a pileated woodpecker as it fed on crabapples. Pileateds are normally very wary birds, so I was happy when a cooperative male posed for me a mere 15 feet from my blind.

Bottom line: These rare encounters are there if we take the time to find them. If we’re patient. So step outside and take a look around. Relax. Let the gray matter between your ears empty itself of the anxieties of everyday life.

When I encounter nature in all its splendor, it’s hard to find the words. Excitement and awe? Yes, those emotions — and more.

What I do know is, the challenges of everyday life seem all the greater when I remain indoors.