It's the first of May, and here is a shower of flowers. Or in the case of most of them, flowers showing the effects of showers, after last night's rain. The one above, however, is from a sunny April day, when the redbud trees were at their peak. The rest were found in our backyard this afternoon, and in the case of the last two, we hope May flowers bring June blueberries.
The tree branches are mostly bare now. The leaves have fallen -- on the ground, or held in a tree branch, or a faint echo in a sidewalk. Their shapes are twisted and torn, yet a few still manage to glow in the sunlight.
The stores all think it is the season to be jolly and practice retail therapy. Outdoors the picture is more unexpected. These photos are all from Goshen in the past two weeks -- with frost on the leaves and crabapple blooms seen on the same day, a bright red Japanese maple leaf a few days later, snow on the crabapple tree this past Sunday, a yellow iris just a couple days before that. And in the last photo, these wild turkeys seem to have a good grasp on exactly what week this is, as they run for cover!
This past week has been a hinge time, with the landscape shifting from the copper, gold and bronze of autumn to a dusting of white and dropping temperatures. Here's photos from a golden day before the fall, with the fireworks of milkweed seeds bursting from the pod, the patterns of branches and dried seedpods, the calligraphy of ivy, and a remaining touch of summer purple, side-by-side with a golden grass seedhead.
I took my Windwatchers group down to the calendar garden this past Saturday, to do some beholding.
The art of beholding is like this. "Behold" means to hold something in your gaze. To behold is not to stare or glance; it is not a quick scan or an expectant look. Beholding has a slow and spacious quality to it. . . . You release your expectations of what you think you will see and instead receive what is actually there. . . . Hold your camera in your hand and open yourself to grace and revelation hidden in each moment, just beneath the surface of what seems to be another ordinary moment.
from Eyes of the Heart, by Christine Valters Paintner
One can move into life with openness. It is as if one says to the world, and to life, and to one's self, and to God, "Surprise me!" This simple shift of attitude can make the difference between boredom and beauty. from Simply Sane, by Gerald May
And there were surprises and beauty -- the many shapes and patterns of flowers and seeds, fall-blooming iris and Lenten rose, the delight and energy of four young boys finding the perfect race track in the circular shape of the garden.
Spring is the bright white and gold of crocus pushing their way up through green pachysandra in a sheltered window well. Spring is also the muck and mess of dirty piles of snow slowly melting on a gray cloudy day. It's a path through woods that are still wintry gray and it's sun on last year's sunlit leaf hanging by this year's bud. It's the mud in the middle of the path and it's the new life tentatively emerging.
Notice the tracks in the snow on the bird bath. Just before the photo above, the cardinal hopped across the bird bath, stopping now and then with its head to one side, looking for all the world like he was thinking, "Wait, something is just not right here."
Snow and cold weather continues. Birds at the feeder are a bright spot in the day. The flocks of house sparrows are commonplace, but still I am glad to see them finding shelter in the green branches of snow-capped yew bushes below my window on a snowy day, while the sight of cheery cardinal red or the black cap of a perky chickadee gives my spirits a lift.The spiral of terra cotta birds on our back porch don't need the birdfeeder, but they seem to be enjoying the warmth of early morning sunlight nonetheless.
Tuesday was a typical northern Indiana, transition-into-winter day, one that could make you gloomy just looking out the window. Warm though, with a forecast for below-freezing temperatures the rest of the week, so I found time to go out with my camera.
It took about half the walk, heading out from the house, to shed the writing project I had been working on. The scenery didn't help -- bare tree branches, gray skies, prairie plantings full of blackened, weedy stems. I didn't even bother pulling my camera out of my pocket.
When I got to the southwest corner of campus, a couple little rusty-capped sparrows flew up from the grasses to take refuge in nearby bushes. They caught my wandering attention. I listened to them sing and started looking more closely at the weeds and grasses nearby. I found silver and gold, and evidence that the birds had been enjoying the banquet spread out before them.
One early morning last week I walked into my spiritual direction room, ready to spend some time working on a retreat with the theme Tending the Fire. The sun was barely up and the room was shadowy, but the view out the window made me pause in delight. Overnight the leaves on the neighbor's tulip poplar tree had turned golden.
It wasn't hard to find fiery fall light this past week, filling the leaves with glory. For some, even their veins seemed full of fire.
Gray sky overhead, ebony water in the millrace, and muted bronzes, golds, reds, browns and grays all around, with the still water catching and holding reflections of the branches on the shore this November afternoon. And in a few spots, water and reeds holding the leaves themselves.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"