A couple of my high school classmates and I - and a couple of our spouses - started a photo club recently. Each week or two, we select a different theme to photograph. In addition to supporting one another, each member embodies a sense of awe and deep respect toward nature and yearns to get to know and better understand our subject. It's about awareness as much as it is about photo composition. I am totally loving it.
Many years ago, I attended a residency for a graduate program in transpersonal psychology. The first evening, we sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. One student, when it was her turn to speak, said that she had been looking around the circle at the other students and thinking to herself, "If only I could know their story, I could love them." Her words have stuck in my mind through the years, and they ring true yet again with regard to nature and wildlife photography. Awareness and understanding go hand-in-hand with developing technical skills. They add a deeper dimension to photos that imbues them with a special quality: Love. I believe you can tell when a photographer is truly present and connected with the subject - when s/he has fallen in love with it and has captured the angle at which love shines through.
For the past two weeks, we have been focusing on wildflowers. There has been a wildflower explosion in our back yard this past week. I love this time of year! One morning, I was bringing some exercise equipment out to the garage and stopped right in my tracks when I noticed our first daylily had bloomed next to the driveway. I had been watching it develop for weeks and was delighted to see the vivid burst of orange in the yard. I cheered and went back inside to grab my camera. An hour later, the exercise equipment finally made it to the garage.
I was surprised to learn that each flower only lasts for one day. However, I suppose that would make sense, given its name! There are so many buds in different stages of blooming, giving the appearance that each one lasts for at least a few days. I was also surprised to learn (or remember?) that the common orange daylily is not native to North America; it was brought over from Asia. An entirely edible plant, the buds have been roasted and eaten for centuries. My husband and I have been meaning to try them, but they're just so beautiful that I can't bear to eat them. The blooms and young shoots are edible, as well. Perhaps thinking of them as an invasive species would make it easier to justify eating them...
Delicate chicory also blooms abundantly now. I love the color - at the same time soft and electric. It is the favorite flower of a friend of mine, and it made me smile to learn that she has called it "cornflower" ever since she began naming flowers after the colors of Crayola crayons. However, I did a little research about wild chicory and learned that it is also referred to as "cornflower." And that the young leaves and roots are edible. I also learned that the cut roots - if dug, planted in a dark cellar, and tended to intensively - grow into Belgian endive.
In my last post, I included a haiku about a water lily bud that was about to bloom for the first time - and here it is.
When I photographed this flower, the inner ring of stamens hadn't opened fully and formed an orange circle at the center. I'd never before noticed or photographed a white water lily in this stage. An interesting fact I learned recently about white water lilies is that after they are fertilized, the flowers close, and the stem coils and pulls the flower underwater, disappearing forever.
And then there's black-eyed Susans, to which I am partial for obvious reasons.
Upon closer inspection, one thing I noticed about black-eyed Susans is that they look like they are wearing a crown of tiny yellow flowers.
When the bees pollinate black-eyed Susans, it looks like they are playing in a tiny flower garden.
It's been wonderful walking the labyrinth this week surrounded by black-eyed Susans and other wildflowers. I feel the energy of wildflower wisdom during my walking meditation.
One day while walking the path from the center of the labyrinth back to the threshold, I perceived flower energy declaring, "Unclench your life, and bloom!" It felt like an affirmation. After exiting the labyrinth, I walked around looking at the wildflowers and found one from which this message could have emanated. I returned two days later and located that flower again, now fully bloomed - and found the sight very satisfying and inspiring. In the process of blooming, I recognized that one little flower as a symbol and teacher of my soul's desire.
Our yard is bustling with birds. You walk outside our door at any time of day, and dozens of birds flock to the far trees. (It can be startling if you don't expect it.) Feeding the birds is one of my husband's daily chores, and it seems they come looking for him - and calling to him - when he's late. One of the many benefits of having a back yard full of birds is that we have sunflowers sprouting up all over the place. We feed the birds and are rewarded with sunflowers - some of which are mammoth! Today our very first sunflower opened up right below one of the birdfeeders. And again, I dropped what I was doing, cheered, and grabbed my camera. This is the first year we've had sunflowers in our yard!
A couple hours later, I photographed it again, and the last few petals at the top had opened up more. I touched them, and they were so strong. It was clear to me that they will open according to their own rhythm and not a moment sooner!
I look at the patches of wildflowers in our yard, and it seems as if they live for weeks. However it's surprising to take a closer look and realize that - like the daylilies - many of them are only in bloom for a day or barely longer. There are so many of them clustered together in the process of being, becoming, and languishing, that it looks as if they live much longer than they do. Yet it's quite amazing to pick out one and follow it through the whole process of budding, blooming, and going to seed. You gain an appreciation of what the plant goes through in order to bloom, the subtle changes, and how long it takes. It puts life into perspective. We all go through the same process, and perhaps the trees see us as we see the flowers. Hopefully we, too, make the world a better place somehow during our day in the sun. The important thing is to bloom as fully as we can and to produce lots of good seeds through the integrity of our thoughts and actions.
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