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.
My approach to contemplative photography --
Tell about it."
Mary Oliver in "Sometimes"