This past winter I was working with Steven Chase's book, Nature as Spiritual Practice, and found the following reflection on Queen Anne's lace. I wanted to run out and look for the secret he mentions, but it was the wrong season and of course none were in bloom. I was able to find it in one of my summer photos however, and I started looking for it again this summer, as soon as I saw Queen Anne's lace in bloom, letting myself be attentive and astonished. Here are a few glimpses of the many faces of Queen Anne's lace.
From Steven Chase, Nature as Spiritual Practice:
In open dry fields, prairies, and along roadways -- often growing in friendly gatherings from mid-July through early September -- is a wild flower that I invite you to bend down and look at carefully. It has very small cream-white, lacy petals that are collectively formed in the shape of an inverted umbrella (called an umbrel). The umbrel is rounded at the bottom and nearly flat at the top with a slightly blueish-green stem; the green leaves are very finely cut, almost fern-like, and they smell of carrot when crushed. Beneath the umbrel of petals is a parachute pattern of stems that together support hundreds of these tiny floweret-petals, each one no more than one-eighth of an inch across. This wildflower is commonly called Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota), named for the lace-like patterns formed by the formal, intricate arrangement of these hundreds of small flowerets. But besides the beauty of the lacy patterns, Queen Anne's lace is a flower with a secret. Within the shared umbrel, in the very center of the hundreds and hundreds of flowerets, is one -- and only one-- reddish to wine-purple floweret, also one-eighth of an inch across. Just one -- no larger or smaller than any of its uncountable, creamy white brothers and sisters. Facing Queen Anne's lace -- letting it be as attentive to and astonished by you as you are by it -- you share with its wine-colored eye something only the flower and the prairie know...." p. 48
Dewdrops weren't the only thing I saw on my walk earlier this week. Ducks, monarch caterpillars, and dragonflies were out and about, enjoying the sunny morning as much as I was.
A couple of the ducks -- Mom and one duckling.
Near the Waverly Street bridge I found this milkweed plant, complete with a very hungry caterpillar.
And then the close-up view....
And on another nearby milkweed. . peek-a-boo!
And as I took photos of the caterpillar above from several angles, I discovered the dragonfly below, well camouflaged.
I went for a walk on the millrace path one bright morning earlier this week and found dewy jewels everywhere I looked. The beginning lines from the refrain of one of the songs we sing at church kept running through my head, "Fresh as the morning, sure as the sunrise..."
One of my friends dislikes the way the refrain continues -- God always faithful, you do not change, He feels that it plays in to some people's perceptions that God is impervious, impassive, and incapable of being affected, avoiding change.
The refrain keeps singing in my head though. For me, "you do not change" connects with "always faithful" and with the sunrise -- returning every morning, yet different every time, As I look around the created world, it looks to me like God takes great delight in diversity and change. So I will go ahead and take delight in this moment and in this dew that will be gone before midday, knowing that tomorrow morning will have its own sparks of light.
The day lilies and black-eyed susans are blooming in my back yard -- the day lilies with their brazen trumpets and glowing centers, the black-eyed susans timidly opening. Somehow it's easy to anthropomorphize these images -- one looks like a choir gathered near the microphone, others are hiding their faces, some warm themselves at the fire, and one looks like it's breathing fire!
We took a walk along the race just before dusk the other evening. I checked the milkweed for any signs of monarch caterpillars and found this young chap, less that a half inch long. I've seen a couple monarch butterflies in recent days, which is more than I saw all last fall, and it's always fun to find a caterpillar.
A little further along we startled a heron, who slowly flapped his way down the canal ahead of us, finally coming to rest up on some dead branches -- unusual, since we generally see them in the water, near the bank.
He was still there shortly after when we came back past the snag, awkwardly climbing the vertical branch to get up to a higher level. He hopped and occasionally flapped for balance, and did his best to camouflage himself as a dead tree branch. (Can you see him in the 4th photo?)
The next morning I found another, larger monarch caterpillar on a milkweed growing in the middle of my raspberries, and three eggs on another leaf nearby. The last photo has one of the eggs and the two caterpillars together on our porch table, to show the size variation. The egg is off to the left and looks like a tiny yellow football balanced on end. We brought them all in to our screened-in porch so there will undoubtedly be more photos of monarchs in various stages.
The prairie plantings on campus are full of color. Earlier this summer, the campus staff mowed the plantings by the music center and the dorms, hoping to delay the blooming so that students -- most of whom aren't around in July -- would be able to enjoy the show when they return to campus. The plantings by the railroad are tall and exuberantly in full bloom; the mowed areas are shorter but still splashed with color, and catching the light in their own quiet way.
A major storm front blew through last night, leaving trees and branches down and some neighborhoods without power. Our lights flickered a few times, but the trees are all standing. And the morning glory bloomed with the coming of cloudy morning light.
On campus, the prairie plantings are beginning to show color and in my backyard the day lilies are opening. Later in the day, the sun came out, lighting up lingering drops. And by early afternoon, the morning glory's time was done, its center still a bright candle even as the petals began to crumple and curl closed.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"