“The common honeybees, gone wild in this sweet wilderness, gather tons of honey into the hollows of the trees and rocks, clambering eagerly through bramble and hucklebloom, shaking the clustered bells of the generous manzanita, now humming aloft among polleny willows and firs, now down on the ashy ground among small gilias and buttercups, and anon plunging into banks of snowy cherry and buckthorn….
“They consider the lilies and roll into them, pushing their blunt polleny faces against them like babies on their mother’s bosom; and fondly, too, with eternal love does Mother Nature clasp her small bee-babies and suckle them, multitudes at once, on her warm Shasta breast. Besides the common honeybee there are many others here, fine, burly, mossy fellows, such as were nourished on the mountains many a flowery century before the advent of the domestic species — bumblebees, mason-bees, carpenter-bees, and leaf-cutters. Butterflies, too, and moths of every size and pattern; some wide-winged like bats, flapping slowly and sailing in easy curves; others like small flying violets shaking about loosely in short zigzag flights close to the flowers, feasting in plenty night and day.”
In the last four of my summer lily posts — starting with this one — I’ll be showcasing galleries where I took a lot of creative license with the original images and tried to transform them in new ways. When I took these photos, the lilies were blooming abundantly — with many of the blossoms in large clumps making it difficult to isolate just one, two, or even three of the blooms without also including many that were not yet opened, along with more of the background than I wanted. Here’s an example of what I mean: a fine looking Swamp Lily variation with way too much busy-ness beyond the foreground of the photo.
Whereas I often use Lightroom brushes to carefully trace around image elements to eliminate the background, for these images I tried to use the brush tools like paintbrushes by first turning the entire image black then using a sweeping motion with the mouse to selectively remove the black mask. This is probably something that physically or mechanically would work better with a tablet and stylus; but I did manage it quite well after getting used to some awkward arcing or sweeping mouse movements, then zooming in to add or remove additional black masking wherever I got carried away.
Here are a couple of before-and-after views showing one batch of lilies where I removed much of the background as well as many of the blooms that hadn’t opened yet or faced away from my camera. The first view features the new “image compare” block WordPress recently introduced (see WordPress.com instructions or Jetpack/self-hosted site instructions); the second view shows the before and after versions as a slideshow (click the first image to enlarge).
Here are the final images — first, this peppermint-candy-looking lily, followed by different angles of the Swamp Lily.
Once it smiled a silent dell Where the people did not dwell; They had gone unto the wars, Trusting to the mild-eyed stars, Nightly, from their azure towers, To keep watch above the flowers, In the midst of which all day The red sun-light lazily lay. Now each visitor shall confess The sad valley’s restlessness. Nothing there is motionless— Nothing save the airs that brood Over the magic solitude. Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees That palpitate like the chill seas Around the misty Hebrides! Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven That rustle through the unquiet Heaven Uneasily, from morn till even, Over the violets there that lie In myriad types of the human eye— Over the lilies there that wave And weep above a nameless grave! They wave:—from out their fragrant tops External dews come down in drops. They weep:—from off their delicate stems Perennial tears descend in gems.
“An immortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, is thus, plainly, a sense of the Beautiful. This it is which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, and sounds, and odours, and sentiments amid which he exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere oral or written repetition of these forms, and sounds, and colours, and odours, and sentiments, a duplicate source of delight.”
“The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the ‘Red Death’….
“It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence…
“The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not….“
My, my … I spent half the day looking through my library for some quotes about lilies, was about to give up but then started poking among Edgar Allen Poe’s words when I found the poem above, and a second lily reference in his essay about poetry and our appreciation of beauty. Since I was in Poe-mode, I decided to include a third bonus-quote, from The Masque of the Red Death — one of Poe’s most horrifically endearing (!!) stories about the prince of an unidentified kingdom who tried to shield himself and his sycophants from a plague while partying big-time in his ostentatious abbey, as his subjects got sick throughout the land. Spoiler alert: he failed. I had highlighted these passages a couple weeks ago when I saw a meme on Twitter pointing out that Trump’s Rose Garden gathering for his Supreme Court nominee leading to a coronavirus outbreak that included Trump himself … was just like the plot of Poe’s story. Well, damn, it really was! And there were even buffoons!!
“Fresh, vibrant June passes to a languid, slow July. Then comes a turning point, when summer suddenly feels utterly tiresome. Some years, late summer weather is kind and merciful, indulging the gardener in a quick turn to cool nights and days filled with a mellow, amber sunlight that actually feels good on the face, totally unlike the prickling and piercing rays of high summer. Other years, the wait is interminable, summer’s heat oozing on well into months traditionally autumnal….
“Just as fall is a time for letting go, for riding with the slow, melancholy yet beautiful decline toward the inevitability of winter, it is also a time for loosening up rigid color rules. What may jar in the May and June garden is a welcome sight in October. Colors have richened and deepened with the cooler temperatures and golden light. The sunlight of autumn softens the boundaries that in spring and summer define orange, red, magenta and purple…. Nature combines cobalt skies, red and yellow leaves and purple asters; the gardener does well to take inspiration from these stunning scenes.”
The first day of autumn was a few weeks ago, yet here in the Southeast we have our own transition from summer to fall that I’ve designated as a new season. It’s called Summerfall.
Summerfall’s most notable characteristic is that it’s cold enough in the morning to crank on the furnace, but warm enough in the afternoon that you need a bit of the air conditioner. Temperatures will swing as much as 30 or 40 degrees between dawn and dusk, before they settle into a narrower range that presages winter.
Summerfall only lasts a couple of weeks — usually winding up in late October — and it’s only toward the end of the month that the leaves around town start to shed their greens and reveal all their fall colors before they need raking and sweeping and bagging up. With the sun tilting toward its winter angle, all those green leaves look super-saturated right now — which in part accounts for how early fall can seem so emotionally soothing after the long, hot months of July, August, and (here in the south anyway) early to mid-September. The galleries below are a recap of the lily photos I’ve posted so far; and I’ll be using this tween-season to finish up my summer photos in a few final posts while I also begin photo-hunting for the first appearances of fall color among the plants in my garden and the surrounding neighborhood.
For those interested in what I’ve written (see here and here) about the upcoming general election in the United States, below are two websites I’ve recently been visiting to keep tabs on early voting, and one I’ve found that describes the ballot processing rules for each state. That third site is useful (note the column “When Ballot Processing Begins”) for an important reason: it undermines the false idea that we will not know the results of the election for many days, weeks, or months (as the president and his campaign have tried to claim) since many states start processing ballots well before November 3.
From My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (quoting her Senate Confirmation Hearing Opening Statement, July 1993):
“Let me try to state in a nutshell how I view the work of judging. My approach, I believe, is neither liberal nor conservative. Rather, it is rooted in the place of the judiciary, of judges, in our democratic society. The Constitution’s preamble speaks first of ‘We, the People,’ and then of their elected representatives. The judiciary is third in line and it is placed apart from the political fray so that its members can judge fairly, impartially, in accordance with the law, and without fear about the animosity of any pressure group.”
From My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg (quoting her speech “The Role of Dissenting Opinions,” July 2013):
“My remarks concern the role of dissenting opinions in U.S. appellate courts generally, and the U.S. Supreme Court in particular. It is a subject I have been obliged to think about more than occasionally in recent Terms….
My experience confirms that there is nothing better than an impressive dissent to lead the author of the majority opinion to refine and clarify her initial circulation….
Another genre of dissent looks not to a distant future day, but seeks immediate action from the political branches of government — Congress and the president. Dissents of this order aim to engage or energize the public and propel prompt legislative overruling of the Court’s decision…. “
“[A] governing political coalition has an incentive to prevent changes in the existing balance of voting power….
“When voting is racially polarized, efforts by the ruling party to pursue that incentive ‘will inevitably discriminate against a racial group.'”
I’ve been away from blogging (and photography) for a few weeks, after I decided to educate myself on some political issues that have gotten a lot of attention since earlier this summer. I was triggered, I think, by hearing the president of the United States float the idea of delaying the November 3 election because, ostensibly, of the pandemic. You may not have even noticed that that idea didn’t get much traction — since it didn’t get much traction. It held our attention through a few hours of news coverage, then dissolved of its own failed logic: the president can’t delay elections that are run by states; he behaves as if the pandemic is barely real so he can’t use that as a reason; and, more psychotically, the whole point was to just throw out a trial balloon to test reactions and stir up some chaos and confusion. The president then flipped to denigrating electoral procedures — focusing, if you could call it that, on unproven assertions about absentee ballot fraud — a theme he reiterates almost daily and will likely continue to do so well into November.
You see, it’s like this: intentionally creating confusion about election procedures and insisting in advance that an election is fraudulent are classic examples of voter intimidation — potentially illegal if you or I tried to do it publicly — and that’s what got me interested in setting aside a few weeks to learn more. I’ll come back to that in some future posts — I’ve been surprised at how little I knew about voter suppression in the United States — as I try to organize and write about what I’ve been learning. For now, though, just keep this in mind: prior to the railings of this madman, you probably didn’t find yourself worrying about whether there was integrity in elections you participated in — largely because you were (intuitively, perhaps) aware that state and local governments and election boards were quite accomplished at managing election procedures that they continuously seek to improve and have followed for decades.
Back in the early twenty-first century when I was working on my history degree, I took a couple of courses on constitutional interpretation that occupied me for the better part of a year. I don’t lay claim to any inordinate expertise because I took those classes — but I will say that the experience of studying the United States Constitution and deeply reading dozens of Supreme Court opinions was singularly valuable, the kind of learning experience where you realize you’ve been forever changed by what you learned. If you’ve never read a Supreme Court opinion, you’re missing out: embedded in the Court’s writings you’ll find the history of this country — in a literary and narrative form unlike any other — and with it, the history of the struggles of millions of people as they worked toward greater justice, for all. The American Bar Association has a short summary describing how to read a Supreme Court opinion — though I would personally shorten that even more to say that the syllabus (which states the facts of a case), the main opinion, the disposition (or judgement rendered), and the concurring and dissenting opinions are the most relevant to someone reading an opinion without legal training.
Coincidentally (the coincidence is inconsequential), I was reading in Carol Anderson’s book One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder when I heard she had died — which is why I chose her quotes about that case and the importance of dissenting opinions to lead this post. The Supreme Court’s majority decision in the Shelby County case invalidated provisions of the Voting Rights Act that required certain states with a history of disenfranchising voters along racial lines to get permission — or pre-clearance — from the Department of Justice before changing their voting procedures. In her dissent (which you can read here), Justice Ginsburg discusses the problems of ongoing voter suppression in some detail — providing a summary of contemporary and typical examples — and is certainly still relevant since the Trump administration and campaign have launched over 200 lawsuits that potentially interfere with voting access, procedures, and ballot counting for the November 3, 2020 election.
In a season when we seem politically unmoored, with many normal frames of reference out of reach or completely gone, we would do well to remember Justice Ginsburg’s belief that dissent could be used to spur legislative action and even challenge the very court she served on. And, as we try to move forward, to remember that dissent in itself has a way of creating clarity about uncertain times. As Sarah Wainwright says of her in In Defense of Justice:
“Ginsburg reads the Constitution for the principles it espouses, she looks at society for what it is, and she sees the yawning gap between the two. With every dissent, she fights — if not to fill it, then to light the path for those who follow….
“To the fight, she brings nothing but a pen….”
Rest in peace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Your memory, and your work, will live on.
“So the husband went fishing … and he fished and caught the golden fish a third time.
“‘Listen,’ said the fish. ‘Take me home with you and cut me into six pieces. Give two to your wife to eat, two to your horse, and plant two in the ground. You’ll reap a blessing by doing this. Your wife will give birth to two golden children, The horse will produce two golden foals. And two golden lilies will grow from the earth.’
“The fisherman obeyed, and the fish’s prophecy came true.”
I don’t have a fishing pole, so I’ll never know if I can get two kids, two horse babies, and two lilies from one six-parted fish. If you try it — let me know how things work out!
Below are a few more lily images from my trips to Oakland Cemetery. For these golden yellow ones, I got as close as I could without stepping on a ghost, then zoomed in to capture the blossom’s interior detail, then erased the backgrounds to emphasize the yellow and green colors.
Select any image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow.