The pollen is hanging heavy these days, attracting the gatherers. There's plenty of bees buzzing around, alongside some more unfamiliar sights -- metallic green-gold flies, a black bee with tan breeches, a rain-soaked bee, rain-drop buds, and an admiral in camo and stripped antennas.
Sometimes April showers bring April flowers. And May flowers, of course -- the columbine whose leaves have just emerged won't bloom for a few weeks yet. But the early spring flowers are thriving, whether covered with raindrops or not. Daffodils, violets, scilla -- it's spring, at last. Some flowers even smile at the thought!
Wednesday I noticed that a clump of early dark purple crocus had sprung up in one of my flowerbeds. Yesterday morning they responded to the warmth and sunlight by spreading their petals wide, making crisp patterns that glowed even after clouds began covering the sun.
Then the storm front came through and instead of Easter egg cups, we had furled umbrellas. They all closed up -- unless weighted down by a tiny rain puddle.
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.
Simple springtime pleasures -- whether it is reflections of the sun on a golden coreopsis on a sunny morning after a rainy night, or blue sky and green plants reflected in droplets on a blade of grass, or later in the day, the soft pinks of a peony in full bloom, or dandelion seeds just setting sail, or bright coreopsis in early morning sunshine, or phlox in early evening light, spring is a time of beauty in many small things.
(correction -- I thought this was phlox but my wildflower-wise friends tell me it is Dame's Rocket -- phlox has 5 petals, so if you play "She loves me, she loves me not," counting it out on the petals, phlox loves you and Dame's Rocket does not. Dame's Rocket is a European import and considered an invasive species here.)
Today rain fell mistily all day, and the skies stayed gray. Earlier in the week, though, there was a mix of sun and rain, resulting in more light-filled raindrops to be found. Our leaves are just starting to turn colorful, but on the dry days, other colorful things held the light.
Last Saturday I introduced my Windwatchers group to contemplative photography, telling the story of how just over two years ago several strands came together and I found myself with this new prayer practice.
Not long before, my parents had given me a small, good digital camera, one that was easy to carry with me and that gave me excellent close-ups despite my limited technical photography knowledge. I had just finished developing this website, in the process learning how to post photos, and was aware that it had a blog feature. That Sunday we had learned that our young co-pastor had stage 4 cancer, and many people had been posting photos of candles on Facebook for her.
It was a gray, drizzly week, in keeping with the sorrow many of us were feeling. I came home from an outing and noticed the raindrops on the leaves of the rose near my back door. They were beading up and full of light. It struck me as a wonderful symbol of hope in the midst of grief, much as the photos of candles were intended. I fetched my camera and recorded a number of images.
As I looked through them on the computer, the nudge came to commit to a new prayer practice, looking for sparks of light, literal or metaphorical, each day, and then to share those in a blog on my website. I began doing so, finding that taking the camera out with me, walking with an attentive receptivity and a soft focus, opened my awareness to many sparks of light and beauty that I would otherwise have gone right past. Over time the practice has evolved to posting to the blog once or twice a week, often after an opportunity for a mindful walk or time in nature. As the weather turns cold, sometimes the "walk" is a stroll through old photos, noticing something that I hadn't before.
Saturday was a drizzly morning, much like that September day two years ago. I sent my group out with cameras and umbrellas to see what they would see. I also had time to do a little wandering and noticing and found many raindrops catching the light. Regathering, we had a good session, sharing what we noticed about what caught our eye and how it spoke to our souls.
I've been musing on the fleeting beauty of the morning glories and day lilies in my garden -- each bloom in flower for less than a day, but more blooms there the next day, sometimes in rain and sometimes in sunlight. This passage from Discernment, a book gathered from writings by Henri Nouwen, edited by Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird, struck me as fitting well.
"The rain is a sign of God's blessing," said Abbot John Eudes in a talk on a special Sunday during the Eucharist at the Abbey of the Geness, when I was there on retreat years ago. What he said about God in creation gave me a fuller sense of how God is always present.
"The Hebrew word for 'good' and 'blessing' at times means rain," Father John explained. "God is not far from us that we should have to descend to the depths of the sea or ascend to the clouds to find him. God's presence is in the things that are closest to us, things that we touch and feel, that we move and live with day by day. While it is true that God is a hidden presence, we have only to let nature speak to us about the God who is everywhere."
"When I walk into a garden," he continued, "I can embrace the present moment by pondering a single flower. The more beautiful and effervescent the flower, the more elusive and fragile is its life. Beauty by its nature is fragile. Touch it too roughly and it's gone, grasp it too firmly and its petals fall away. It must be held onto lightly and gazed on attentively or it slips away. You cannot analyze it or pull it apart to see what it's made of or how it got there, if you want to experience the flower in the field. So too, are our lives. Concrete yet so elusive.For who can fully analyze our lives or understand their many ways? But we can taste and feel them in the moment and refuse to pull them apart like the petals of a flower." Father John Eudes was expressing what Julian of Norwich and others knew: that "everything has being through the love of God." Be it a small flower or a hazelnut or any other created thing, something of God can be found in it. p. 57
The pond at the Calendar Gardens is once again full of tadpoles and lilypads. I love the mix of sizes and shades of color on the lilypads -- and the challenge of frog spotting. If you look closely (especially if you're looking via a mobile device), you might be able to spot the frog in the photo above. The photo below is a close-up -- though he's still a bit tricky to spot.
And the water iris are in all stages of blooms....
My miniature iris are in full bloom. When we moved back to Goshen, twenty-five years ago, we house-sat for Gladys Beyler for a few months, while we looked for a house to buy. Gladys had magnificent herb and flower beds, and she passed along the starts to many perennials when we finally had a house. I've got several different iris from her. This week these yellow iris caught my attention. I don't remember noticing that pale purple center before.
These capture the varied weather we've been having -- rain showers, gray skies, more rain, dancing in the wind, and full sunshine. The sun had them shimmering with gold dust.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"