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Nature Refreshes Nun's Soul

On any given summer day, you might find Fran (short for Francetta) Glowinski chasing damsel- and dragonflies, experimenting with bubbles, and kayaking at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton.

The retired nun is drawn to the water and loves photographing nature’s beauty, shadows and reflections, and bubbles, among other things. The Franciscan Sister has lived in Wheaton since moving here from Chicago in 2010. 

Before retiring in 2016, Glowinski’s ministries involved teaching science to grades ranging from kindergarten through college; retreat work and spiritual companioning; and serving as chaplain at Loyola University in Chicago and then Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.

“My little family mostly lives locally and we loved getting together before COVID struck,” she said. “How I miss getting to spend time with our young ones, my great-nieces and -nephews. Newish to my home is Smokey Bertie Francis, a rescue pied pearl cockatiel.”

Here’s her story.

Catching the Nature Bug

Nature has long been family to me, even before I learned from St. Francis of Assisi to call the sun and fire brothers and the moon and water sisters.

Being in nature for beauty, joy, wonder, connection, companionship and solace has been my way for as long as I can remember.

I am most at home and in tune with nature near water, including oceans, lakes, ponds and waterfalls. In desperation, I have even settled for big puddles.


The reflection of the sky in water captured by Fran Glowinski.


Discovering DuPage Forest Preserves

I first discovered DuPage forest preserves in the summer of 2011 while looking for a place to kayak. I happily discovered that I could rent them by the hour at Herrick Lake. After leaving the shore, I would let the wind take me where it would and just sit, til the life around me seemed to forget I was there.

I got wonderful pics of frogs mating, turtles sunning, fish being fish, tree swallows hunting. And my favorites: dragon- and damselflies patrolling, mating, laying eggs and such.

Now and then, one would land on my kayak and seem to pose for Sweet Pea, my Nikon. Once I got my own kayak, I enjoyed a paddle or two on Silver Lake at Blackwell Forest Preserve, but Herrick Lake is my favorite for kayaking and walking.


Fran G,lowinski pauses on a bridge during  a recent walk at Herrick Lake Forest Preserve in Wheaton.


Favorite Thing to Do in the Preserves

Photography has been the primary way for me to appreciate and experience the gifts of life and nature. It started in fourth grade when I got a brownie camera for my confirmation.

These days my iPhone is what I use most, but to get some pics only my Nikon D3300 with attached long lens will do. Her name is Sweet Pea. She is so good at getting moving things like dragonflies and birds on the wing. And subjects at a distance, of course.


Fran Glowinski came upon this frog in algae on one of her many adventures in nature. Photo by Fran Glowinski


My special loves as a photographer are close-ups, shadows and reflections. Soap bubbles are both challenging and lovely subjects to play with. They reflect so generously in their brief lives whatever is around them.

I never tire of seeing the progression of colors they display before they burst. Did you know that bubbles freeze outside at 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower? If conditions are right you may see lacy frost grow on a bubble right before your eyes!


Fran Glowinski captures a photo of a bubble on top of the water. 


What Brings Her Back Time and Time Again

It was during the 14 years that I worked at the hospital especially with cancer, cardiovascular and emergency department patients, families and staff that I found being in nature was more necessary than ever.

After a difficult day, heavy with dread or grief, I would walk along Lake Michigan, or after I moved to Wheaton, on our lovely Motherhouse grounds. Or I would circle Little Sister Pond, just a five-minute walk from my home. Her little waterfall has cleansed and refreshed my soul more times than I can count.


A photo of Little Sister Pond in Wheaton taken by Fran Glowinski.


Favorite Forest Preserve and Time to Visit

My favorite places to hang out with Sweet Pea are Herrick Lake, Lincoln Marsh and Northside Park in Wheaton.

Summer is my favorite time to visit because of the damsel- and dragonflies. And the cousins of the damsels: the spreadwings. As to time of day, when the sun is out and shadows are long, reflections are glorious to my eyes.


Fran Glowinski gets a photo of two dragonflies that landed on her hand.


Nature’s Lessons

The most important lesson I’ve discovered is how healing and refreshing it is for me to be quietly in nature. To open to the often silent and always profound presence of trees and water, birds and wildflowers reminds me again and again to simply BE. Be PRESENT. Have no agenda, just the intention to be aware, to look, to listen: To and with the trees, the water, with myself, with those who are rejoicing or aching.


Fran Glowinski focuses in on Herrick Lake during a recent visit.


How Nature Inspires

Nature both reveals and hides the Creator. It holds, soothes, and teaches us but also challenges and defies us. I am grateful for opportunities to see, hear and feel beauty, kindness and truth and to share these, especially through photographs.


Lincoln Marsh in Wheaton is one of Fran Glowinski's favorite spots to visit. Photo by Fran Glowinski


Advice to Others

As a person who is all too often inspiration-dependent and not always given to organized, big-picture thinking, AND needing to write or say something cogent or inspiring in one or another of my commitments (ahem, like this blog), I find it helpful to turn to nature to get unstuck, unblocked, to create room inside myself to let inspiration well up; for organic vs. imposed organization to flow.

Though leaving home in the middle of a project may seem like avoidance (well, it is), but I call it PA: productive avoidance. (And sure, vacuuming or folding laundry sometimes helps in the same way). Another good reason is exercise!



Favorite Nature Quote

When I can’t get outside for one reason or another, I love to read poetry by Mary Oliver. Two of my very favorites are Mindful and Something. Both express better than I ever could my
experience of nature and what in Catholic theology we call grace. Here follows Mindful.

I see or hear
that more or less

kills me with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for—
to look, to listen

to lose myself
inside this soft world—
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant—
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these—
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass.







If you have a fun or unique way of catching nature in our preserves and would like to be featured in a “Catching Nature” blog, please contact Deb Humiston at

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Photo of blog author Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County welcomes more than 6.2 million visitors a year; and manages nearly 26,000 acres in 60 forest preserves containing prairies, woodlands and wetlands.

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