On these frigid, snowy days, house plants add a welcome spot of color. They also bring surprises. I looked down beside a tray of succulents one day in December and thought a big bug had met its demise. I looked again and realized it was a leaf from one of the succulents, already putting out tentative roots and a pair of tiny leaves.
So I tucked it into the dirt alongside the other succulents. It took hold and has been merrily growing. After two months, it is about an inch and a half high and has three sets of leaves. Hurrah for new growth, despite blizzards and an occasional polar vortex just a few feet away!
More images from Camp Friedenswald. Later Saturday morning, I walked the Fen Frolic trail and found flowers and ferns, mushrooms and mosses.
Fens, for those of you wondering, are rare prairie wetlands. They occur in glaciated regions of the upper Midwest and are fed by groundwater from underground springs, rather than through precipitation.They are less acidic than bogs and richer in biological diversity.
More from Tuesday's stroll through the Shoup-Parsons Woods, with spring flowers flourishing. The may apples are spreading green umbrellas, jack-in-the-pulpits proclaim spring, a fallen "caterpillar" blossom curves gracefully on a piece of bark. I bent to take a photo of trillium ready to open, and was amazed by an eight inch lacy leaf skeleton wrapping the fallen log beside them. And a little further along the path, I discovered a whole congregation of jack-in-the-pulpits. They were a pale green in comparison with the first two I saw -- a different variety or different growing conditions or just further along in their growth?
By the way, the bronze-colored trees nearing blossom that I posted last week turn out to be buckeyes and native to Indiana. Thanks, Aaron Sawatsky-Kingsley for the identification!
It's the seedy season -- buckeyes and acorns and parachutes of seed-carrying fluff. All sorts of shapes and shades of brown and tan -- and one last morning glory blooming on our vine, when I thought it was all dried and gone to seed. No seeds in the last photo though, just Yertle the Turtle and friends.
I discovered a secret conclave of preachers out in the woods yesterday -- a crowd of jack-in-the-pulpits. The names seems to fit best with an ornate pulpit style, complete with canopy, and a tripartite leaf to go with it. Dark red trillium continues the trinitarian theme, but wild ginger goes with a heart shape.
And the feathers below, each about an inch or two long, came floating down out of a clear blue sky this afternoon, along with twenty or so others, gently wafting on the breeze. I couldn't spot a source.
Reading in Steven Chase's Nature as Spiritual Practice, in a chapter touching on the mystery, wonder and praise to be discovered in nature's face, I came across a paragraph that made me wish it were summer, so that I could find a stand of Queen Anne's lace and take a closer look. Then I remembered that I had other ways of doing that, even in midwinter. I looked back through my photo archives, and found several images from last summer.
In open dry fields, prairies, and along roadways -- often growing in friendly gatherings from mid-July through early September -- is a wildflower 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 umbel). The umbel is rounded at the bottom and nearly flat at the top with a slightly bluish-green stem; the green leaves are very finely cut, almost fern-like, and they smell of carrot when crushed. Beneath the umbel 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 umbel, in the very center of the hundreds and hundreds of flowerets, is one -- and only one -- reddish to wine-purple floweret, also one-eighth inch across. Just one -- no 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 48-49)
Chase writes that creation teaches us to pray -- to find a balance between being what we are created to be and doing what we are created to do, and within that balance, to abide in God's delight. "Know whenever you face nature with attention and wonder that you are praising God, just as creation does the same." (p.50)
Chase suggests a practice of taking a moment to closely observe something in nature, whether the grandeur of the ocean or the wine-purple floweret in the midst of the white Queen Anne's lace, and to join in that praise.
I found a dandelion boldly blooming in my front yard this week, about two months before I normally expect to see them. As I said in my last post, I began pondering why my reaction to the early snowdrops was delight while my reaction to the dandelion was "oh, a weed."
Look at the warm colors in the golden flower and the ruddy leaves. These are a cheerful contrast with gray Indiana skies, something to be enjoyed. Yet I find myself framing this plant in that category of weed and unwanted.
I receive a daily email reflection from Inward/Outward, and yesterday's quote from Anthony de Mello seemed quite apropos.
Everywhere in the world people are in search of love, for everyone is convinced that love alone can save the world; love alone can make life meaningful and worth living. But how very few understand what love really is and how it arises in the human heart. It is so frequently equated with good feelings for others, with benevolence or nonviolence or service. But these things in themselves are not love.
Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them; otherwise, it is not the person that you love but the idea that you have formed of this person.
With the dandelion, as long as I see it through the lens of weed, I can't receive it with delight. If I can set that aside, and look at it as it really is here and now -- the burst of color in a winter landscape, an amazingly hardy bloom that held up despite the night's dusting of snow, a flower that is highly unlikely to go to seed since at this moment it is under an inch of snow -- perhaps, then I can truly see it, and delight in it.
And what else am I looking at through a lens (a memory, a desire, an imagination, a projection), without awareness, unable to love?
This week's lectionary psalm, Psalm 36, includes these verses:
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
One of my delights this week has been seeing my houseplants illumined by these days of sunshine. Seen from the right angle, even their cells seem full of light. Look closely at the Christmas cactus blossom or the geranium leaf below. I'm not surprised by the icy sparkles of the geode -- the green light of the geranium leaf catches me with wonder.
The seasons keep on turning. We're entering late fall, with most but not all of the leaves down. Branches may be bare, but the grass is still green, a few flowers are still dancing in the prairie plantings, and the red leaves on the viburnum and Japanese maple are still hanging on.
Plenty of plants have turned brown, though, setting seed or going dormant. On a gray November day it can get depressing, even though those seeds are a promise that spring will come again and many plants need that dormancy period, their sabbath rest.
And when I walk past the prairie plantings in the early morning, or at dusk, a frolic of finches darts about, delighting in the feast of seeds spread out before them. They are a soft, warm brown, having set aside their golden summer coats for their traditional winter garb. Earth too is gradually shedding her vibrant summer dress, snuggling into the browns and grays of late fall, getting ready for winter.
And on days like today, the sun and clouds take turns, highlighting the intriguing patterns of dried seedheads.
It was a rainy weekend for the annual Assembly retreat at Camp Friedenswald, but a group of us were able to explore the woods with Carol Good-Elliott Saturday morning, before the showers started.
We ambled along, stopping to examine the diversity of shapes on sassafras trees (oval, Michigan shaped, and two thumbed), the rich purple of squashed pokeweed berries, the golden eyes of a tiny spring peeper. Carol had us using all our senses, tasting anise-y sweet cicely, listening for woodpeckers and warblers, rubbing our fingers over the raised ridges of papery beech leaves,.and sniffing spicebush and sassafras leaves (which, according to the grade school children who visit Merrylea where Carol works, smell like Lucky Charms. We went with "lemony, " or to at least one person, "Lemon Pledge"). And even with a gray damp day, and lots of brown leaves around, there were plenty of colorful leaves to admire.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"