Hello Friends! Tonight’s feature image is titled “Today’s Blessings” and is available for purchase by following the instructions at the bottom of the article.
On February 2nd Punxsutawney Phil promised an early Spring and was met with the cheers of a nation. I personally jumped for joy and halted my plans for groundhog stew. However, I may have been duped. We may have been duped. I have the sneaking suspension this devious rodent has no idea when Spring is coming. I can imagine this escapee from a Bill Murray film pacing inside his hole. “What am I going to tell them this time?” He asks himself. Finally he closes his eyes and spins the wheel at his desk. The needle lands on early Spring and the prediction is made. What brings me to think that we’re not having an early Spring? The Feature Image. This photo was taken on March 24 2019. It’s the little Bradford Pear in the parking lot of my day job. I have been watching it because I wanted to capture the first open bloom. One of the reasons that I do this is so I can track the metadata. The dates are important to me so that I can predict when the natural events in my area will give me a photo op. Photography is more than just documenting the way something looks. It’s about capturing the passage of time. So imagine how surprised I was to find out that this year’s bloom was about a week or so late!
Picture taken on March 16th 2018
As you can see in the photo above last year’s bloom was not only fully open on March 16th but also fully mature.
So what gives? Was it just the warmer weather last year? Well, yes and no. The warmer soil does have a little bit to do with it but short answer is that plants can see sunlight. (Sort of). It shouldn’t come as a shock that plants have photoreceptors. Chemical proteins that detect the presence of sunlight. They don’t really have a picture of the world like we do but they can tell what wavelengths of light that’s hitting their surface. Certain wavelengths trigger a response in the buds and they begin to grow and mature. The amount of light in combination with a wavelength just happens to coincide with the warmer weather. It all works together to get the timing right. But the original question remains. Was Spring early or late? In the grand scheme of things it was right on time. A few days in one direction or the other makes little difference. The real mystery is why the date that the wavelengths varies from one year to the next? Is the sun broken? No, the sun’s just fine. But it does experience it’s own weather and seasonal changes. That effects on what day the earth’s tilt, rotation and orbit brings us into alignment with those life sustaining rays. I’m sure that I’ve bypassed a lot of hard core science and complex calculations that would boggle the mind. When I think about all the factors that go into making the season change I began to appreciate the job that the poor Groundhog has. I don’t really blame him for resorting to random chance. And, I have those beautiful flowers to enjoy today. It would be a mistake to lose today’s joy by comparingit to yesterday’s happiness or tomorrow’s expectations.
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Softly the brightly colored wings float in on the warm breeze. The sweet smell of water mints mingles with the Virginia Bonset and Goldenrod. The sun is low in the marbled sky and I let my big blue truck drift to a halt. The Monarch Butterfly has been playing on edge of the parking lot all day. Gently it flutters from flower to flower sipping the nectar. I roll the window down and raise my camera into the ready position. The Monarch teases me as it feeds by fluttering it’s wings quickly. Further up into the bush a mockingbird gives it’s long song. The shutter snaps at just the right moment as the Monarch pauses. A peaceful feeling washes over me as I preserve the mountain beauty in my lens. Soon the sweet scent of all the bloom will fade and the warm breeze will be chilled by the changing seasons. But, I will have this moment to warm my heart and this beauty to sooth my eyes against the coming grey. With my task complete I start the motor and turn my big blue truck towards home.
The late summer sun beams down into an abandoned pasture. The Ironweed is tall and tipped with bright purple flowers that seem to resemble a fireworks display frozen in mid burst. The plants sway back and forth as if the breeze is shaking them but there’s no wind today. As I step closer I can hear the constant hum of thousands of tiny winged workers. The bees are too busy collecting the pollen to bother with chasing the photographer. However, I don’t to encroach to far into their workspace. I walked up to the closest flower and the huge carpenter bee doesn’t really react to lens hovering just above her head. She checks each bloom one at a time mentally keeping notes about which ones will be ready tomorrow. Unlike the honeybees she is a solitary bee. She loves her neighbors but avoids the hustle and bustle of a hive. She has only her own brood to care for and she likes it that way. As she gave the flowers one last double check she moved into the right position for me to snap the shutter. I take a few more shots so that I can choose the best ones to keep. Then it’s time to let this working girl get back to business and I take my big blue truck to the next destination.
Don’t you just hate to be blamed for something that you didn’t do? I’m not even talking about having an an accident and feeling that it was unpreventable. I’m talking about being in the wrong place at the wrong time and having nothing to do with what happened but still taking the blame. Such is the life of goldenrod. It beautiful yellow spikes are easy to spot and in late summer when eyes are itchy and nobody can seem to shake the light coughing that lasts for weeks goldenrod takes the heat for it. The real culprit is the ragweed but we don’t really have to talk about that riff-raff. Goldenrod on the other hand continues to be a giver. The plant is not only beautiful but has an array of medicinal qualities. (Always check out multiple sources when researching medical plants). The dried stems are used to start friction fire and make string by survivalists. I’m sure that if I sat and thought about it I could enumerate more gifts that goldenrod provides freely in spite of the reputation that it didn’t earn.
Some of my most cherished memories are the long walks with my grandfather. He was World War Two veteran who walked with a cane due to shrapnel that was embedded in his leg but that never seemed to slow him down. He would come over to our little house trailer which was next door to his house and invite me to help him check on the cattle. He was also a survivor of the Great Depression and on our walks he would teach me about the things that they used to do to stretch the budget. One their best resources was the wild edible plants that are found in abundance in Appalachia. Pictured here is Chicory. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are eaten as a salad green and the roots are roasted and then ground into a coffee substitute. ( no caffeine). The blue petals if Chicory are a natural litmus test. When exposed to an acid they change from blue to red.
In the background of the image is Queen Anne’s Lace. ( the white flowers). Now, you have to be careful about collecting it because there’s also poisonous look-alikes such as hemlock. Queen Anne’s Lace usually has one tiny little blood red flower in the center of all that white. How’s it used? Well, I’m pretty sure that most of the world already knows because it’s simply a wild carrot. The root doesn’t really look like what you buy in the store or raise in your garden. It is small, white and kinda bland. But, it is a carrot none the less.
Most people look at the plants that grow without any help from humans and all that they see are weeds but I see the province of God and hear the voice of my grandfather.
I really enjoy it when a photo brings up such a vivid memory. The field of little yellow flowers was alive with the humming of millions of bees. The warm humid air was filled with the magical fragrance of wild mints. I followed the bees from flower to flower while enjoying the occasional butterfly floating around in the warm breeze. I lost track of time in this place. I spent a few hours just absorbing the peace and presence of God.
I have a confession to make. I’ve spent all day today wearing my “Monday Face”. It’s been one of those days where you want to be productive but it seems like the universe is flowing in the wrong direction. I once heard a survival instructor say that hiking in the Amazon was like being on a treadmill that’s raised to its highest level while people throw rocks, sticks and mud at your boots. I’m certain that he thought that up on a Monday. Its on days like this that I long to escape into the mountains for a little peace and quiet. It was on such a day that I found the Trillium pictured above. These are early spring flowers that start off as a deep maroon and fade to a pure white. It is as if the the flower mellows out over time. Just looking at the photo gives me sense of peace. I can almost smell the moss on the forest floor and feel the breeze. A quiet moment in nature is the perfect cure for “Monday Face” even if it was enjoyed digitally.