Words and photos by Debbie Hernandez. 

My series “Grounded” captures the signs of life, big or small, that I have encountered while surrounding myself with Ontario’s wildlife.

As a university student with hopes of being admitted to a veterinary college, I have taken and involved myself in as many animal focused courses and experiences that I could get my hands on.

I have always had an admiration for animals, but it was not until I was given the chance to study and work with animals outdoors in their natural state, where I found a kind of peace of mind. I have been volunteering in a structured and domestic environment of animal clinics, and shelters for the past 6 years. This summer, I had the opportunity to take my learning experience outside through a field course and volunteer position at a horse stable, and for the first time I actually understood why I admire all living things. I did not feel superior while I was out there; I did not feel as though they were specimens for me to practice my knowledge. I just felt equal. Maybe it had to do with the fact that we’re so accustomed to animals being manipulated to our convenience.

This time, I witnessed a complexity to them, a complexity that was specifically evolved to allow them to forage for food, get the attention of a mate, protect their family, to survive. I gained a new respect for them. I no longer see my backyard as a place only for my dog and I to play fetch. Now, I see a community of hardworking living things, like us in a way just blooming, feeding, enjoying a swim, resting, or learning to fly. Now, I can just sit on the patio, shut up, and observe the million things happening around me in silence.

We are filled with constant rush and the pressure of reaching certain school grades, making money and having a good social reputation, and we become so full. All of a sudden, we’re consumed and only see our worries.

I share my pictures in hopes of introducing a form of appreciation for life through the beauty that lies outside our doors.

Whether it is staring over a field of tall grass for 10 minutes, or following a feeding honey bee as it jumps from flower to flower, or sitting in a parking lot while the sun goes down; I hope you get a moment where your problems are suspended and your mind becomes present. Every living thing is fighting a battle, and trying their best to move forward. The thoughts, that only a few moments ago, possessed every feeling in your body are put into perspective. The more you focus on every living thing surrounding you, the more miniscule you become. There is something so releasing and humbling about stepping back and accepting that everything around you is in the same game of life trying to survive, even the ants crawling up your shoes. You can trust the process, and know that nature makes no mistakes; to every action you make, there will always be a result/effect.

This is why I encourage you to get out of your head and home for a couple of minutes. Allow for change to occur. In that moment you will remember that regardless of what’s happening in your life and how stuck you feel at any given time, everything around you will not come to a halt.

And in that moment, nature has put you in your place.

Click anywhere on the photos to expand.


Debbie Hernandez is a 4th year BSc Honours Biology student at Wilfrid Laurier University. Animals have always been her passion, so being able to study them has inspired her to take on different learning experiences. You can check out more of her photos on her Flickr.

You can also follow Debbie’s wildlife photography Instagram where she will be documenting her outdoor finds, as well as her upcoming adventure as a volunteer bird banding assistant at the Thunder Cape Bird Observatory.