Remembering John Lewis (1940-2020)

From Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change by John Lewis (1940-2020):

We have come a great distance as a society, but we still have a great distance to go. The progress we take for granted today brought on by the ‘successes of the modern-day Civil Rights Movement is just one more step down a very long road toward the realization of our spiritual destiny as a nation of ‘freedom and justice for all.’ There is still much more work to do….

“Remember how we thought the election of President Obama meant we had finally created a postracial America, a place where the problems that have haunted us for so long were finally silenced? Nobody says that anymore. We no longer dwell in that daydream. We were shaken to realism by the harshness of what we have witnessed in the last few years — the vilification of President Obama, a drive to wreck his legacy and undo the progress we have made as a nation in the last hundred years, a disdain for the sick and the poor, militarization of the police, and the weaponizing of government not to serve as an advocate, but as an agent of oppression and compliance….

“It’s taken a long time, but finally the people are awakening to the truth: the truth of their responsibility for the democratic process…. The people are gathering their forces, reengaging, and applying pressure….

“I have seen this restlessness among the people before. It was in another millennium, another decade, and at another time in our history, but it pushed through America like a storm…. This mighty wind made a fundamental shift in the moral character of our nation that has reached every sector of our society. And this history lends us one very powerful reminder today: Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society….

“What is the purpose of a nation if not to empower human beings to live better together than they could individually? When government fails to meet the basic needs of humanity for food, shelter, clothing, and even more important — the room to grow and evolve — the people will begin to rely on one another, to pool their resources and rise above the artificial limitations of tradition or law. Each of us has something significant to contribute to society be it physical, material, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. Each of us is born for a reason, to serve a divine purpose. If the structures of our lives do not contribute to that purpose or if they complicate our ability to live, to be free and to be happy, or even worse, if they lead to the confines of oppression, then we seek change, sometimes radical change, even revolution, to satisfy the yearning of our souls….

“Each generation must continue to struggle and begin where the last left off. The sprouting of activist groups and angry sentiments represents a growing sense of discontent in America and around the world. These human beings represent a growing feeling of dissatisfaction that the community of nations is spending the people’s resources on more bombs, missiles, and guns and not enough on human needs. People are crying out. They want to see the governments of the world’s nations humanize their policies and practices. They want to see business leaders and their corporations be more humane and more concerned about the problems that affect the whole of the world’s population, rather than just the overrepresented rich….

“The most important lesson I have learned in the fifty years I have spent working toward the building of a better world is that the true work of social transformation starts within. It begins inside your own heart and mind, because the battleground of human transformation is really, more than any other thing, the struggle within the human consciousness to believe and accept what is true. Thus to truly revolutionize our society, we must first revolutionize ourselves. We must be the change we seek if we are to effectively demand transformation from others. It is clear that the pot is being stirred and people are beginning to breathe in the essences of change that will lead the soul to act. Who will emerge at the forefront of this struggle in the twenty-first century? Perhaps it will be you….”



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A Handful of Rhodendrons

From The Reason For Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

“The earliest gardens in China are as old as the most ancient Egyptian gardens. The significance of flowers in Chinese culture is reflected in names from antiquity, such as hua, the word for flower. The ideal garden became a ‘timeless paradise’ as a retreat for scholars and hermits alike. Among the most cherished flowers grown in Chinese gardens since antiquity are chrysanthemums, gardenias, forsythias, magnolias, pinks, rhododendrons, roses, and wisterias….

“[Domesticated garden] blooms have a long association with Chinese culture, mirrored in its rich arts and literature traditions. China’s floriculture and agriculture contributed ginseng, the camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons, mulberries, the persimmon, rice, tea, and all the various kinds of Citrus fruits to the rest of the world….”

“[Azaleas and rhododendrons] … symbolize temperance, passion, and womanhood (in China), along with fragility and taking care of oneself.”


I have one small potted Boursault Rhododendron in my garden, and it produced a handful of blooms a couple weeks ago — just before two days of rain and wind tore up the flower petals. Like many azaleas (azaleas and rho’s are relatives), rhododendron flowers are fragile enough that two days of post-blooming rain and wind dissolved most of them. By the time it cleared up enough for The Photographer to take a few snaps, there wasn’t much left to photograph, so for these images I used a macro lens and zoomed into the center of each flower where they were still intact. This was an experiment, I guess, because after following my typical post-processing in Lightroom, I used several Nik Collection filters to blur almost everything except the center focal points. I usually aim to enhance sharpness and detail, not reduce it, so I had to put my thinking-backwards cap on. Those same filters gave the petals in the backgrounds a bit of bright glow also — which nicely resembles the luminosity the blooms revealed on a cloudy but bright morning.

Select any image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. Thanks for taking a look!



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Fourth of July in America, 2020

From America at War with Itself by Henry A. Giroux:

“The rise of dystopian politics … must be exposed and challenged on the local, national, and global planes. What is crucial is that the mechanisms, discourses, policies, and ideologies that inform authoritarianism must become part of any analysis that is willing to challenge the anti-democratic forces metastasizing within the United States today….

“This means, in part, focusing on the ongoing repressive systems that have been developing in American society for the last forty years. It also means drawing connections between historical forms of racial, ethnic, and economic violence that have been waged against indigenous communities, people of color, and the economically disadvantaged…. 

“It means finding a common ground on which various elements of an ethical society can be mobilized under the banner of multicultural democracy in order to challenge the interconnected forms of oppression, incarceration, mass violence, exploitation, and exclusion that now define the militant self-interest of corporatized American politics. It means taking seriously the educational nature of politics and recognizing that public spheres must be advanced in order to educate citizens who are informed, socially responsible, and willing to fight collectively for a future in which democracy is sustainable at all levels. This suggests an anti-fascist struggle that is not simply about remaking economic structures but also about refashioning identities, values, and social relations as part of a democratic project that reconfigures what it means to desire a better and more democratic future….”


I don’t have any firecrackers or sparklers, because I know better; I’d probably burn down the house, or at least set a few pine trees ablaze. I do, however, have red, white, and blue hydrangeas! And if you blink your eyes fast enough, they look like fireworks… or not! 🙂

Happy Independence Day, America! Let’s get our act together, okay?





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Spring 2020: April Colors 7 (Clematis in Bloom, 3 of 3)

From The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

“Before recorded history, all cultures collected, used, and admired flowers not only for utilitarian purposes, but for their elusive fragrances and ephemeral forms that, ironically, symbolized recurring vigor and even immortality. They have enthralled and seduced us, exploiting entire civilizations to enhance their sex lives and spread their seeds. We give and receive flowers as tributes, and to commemorate life’s many triumphs and everyday events. Flowers accompany us from cradle to grave. As spices, they flavor our foods and beverages. We harvest their delicate scents, combining them into extravagantly expensive mixtures, for perfuming our bodies to evoke passion and intrigue….

“Flowers inspired the first artists, writers, photographers, and scientists, just as they do today on street corners, in florist shops and farmers’ markets, in books, paintings, sculptures, and commercial advertising. They moved online with ease.”

From Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

“Spring comes, the birds sing in the trees once again, leaves return to the trees which lost them, flowers bloom in the high meadows and on the slopes, streams overflow with waters of melting snow. Through it all, the mountain continues to sit, unmoved by the weather, by what happens on the surface, by the world of appearances…. As we sit holding this image in our mind, we can embody the same unwavering stillness and rootedness in the face of everything that changes in our own lives over seconds, hours, and years.

“May we continue to give ourselves over to what is deepest and best in ourselves, over and over and over again, encouraging those seeds of our truest nature to grow and flower and — for the sake of all beings near and far, known and unknown — nourish our lives and work and world from moment to moment, and from day to day.”

Here we are, on the last day of the month … we made it through April, mostly hunkered down but with occasional outdoor excursions, observing the birds that still sang, the trees that waved to life in their varied shades of green, and of course the plants and flowers that unrolled Spring 2020 like a blanket of color, texture, and shape. What will May bring? More uncertainty, more unknowns, probably more confusion … and, for me, new collections of irises, wisteria, and spiderwort — from photos I’ve taken over the past few weeks — along with more photos of any other flashes of color that catch my eye.

For this last clematis collection, I altered variations of images from the previous two posts to remove the background — something that creates nice contrast with the purple, violet, and magenta colors prominent in these blooms. For the first gallery, I used Lightroom brushes to patiently paint the backgrounds black, following (in slow motion!) the outer lines created by each petal. For the second and third galleries (showing a Bernadine Clematis), I used radial filters instead of brushes, to create the impression of light fading from the center of the bloom to each petal’s edge.

The previous posts in this series are:

Spring 2020: April Colors 6 (Clematis in Bloom, 2 of 3): and

Spring 2020: April Colors 5 (Clematis in Bloom, 1 of 3); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 4 (White, Orange, and Red-Red); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 3 (Purple and Yellow (and Yellow and Purple)); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 1.

Thanks for reading and taking a look! See you in May!





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Spring 2020: April Colors 6 (Clematis in Bloom, 2 of 3)

From The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann:

Most open by dawn’s first light or unfurl their charms as the day progresses. Others unwrap their diaphanous petals, like expensive presents, after dark, waiting for the arrival of beloved guests under a radiant moon. We know them as flowers. They are nature’s advertisements, using their beauty to beguile and reward passing insects or birds or bats or people willing to attend to their reproduction. The beauty of their shapes, colors, and scents transforms us through intimate experiences in our gardens, homes, offices, parks and public spaces, and wildlands. Importantly, flowers feed and clothe us. Their fruits and seeds keep the world’s 7.2 billion people from starvation. Flowers represent our past along with our hope for a bright future.

So what is the point of a flower exactly? Have you ever wondered about that? I know I have, so I started reading Stephen Buchmann’s book The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives (I am just on page ix) and the quote above is from the book’s preface. Normally I only include quotes here from books I’ve already read, but since I’ve got gobs and gobs of flower photos still to process and post (and more to take!), I think I’ll work through the book as I progress through the photos — and post about both. About halfway through the book is a section called “Flowers in Literature, Art, and Myth” that I imagine will be especially interesting to me as I often poke around trying to find references to flowers in fiction, poetry, art books, and photography books. I’ve never really puzzled that much about why I even like taking pictures of flowers (and plants and trees more generally); but like many things that stick to us as we grow up, I think that interest stems (at least partly) from exploring forests near my family home. I still remember the first time I came across a batch of tiny pink lady slipper orchids growing among shed needles of large pine trees while I was out wandering one day, and being fascinated by their delicacy and shape, and the luminous color woven throughout the shade of the trees.

The delightful flower below is a Bernadine Clematis, which made its first appearance here last year (see Clematis Variations: Gallery 1 of 2). One of the two plants I bought didn’t survive an unseasonable May 2019 heat wave; and the second while diminished in size quite a bit, sprang back enough to produce a small cluster of blooms. The first gallery below shows the blooms on the morning they opened, and the rest of the photos follow the blooms for a few days as they reached full size.

The previous posts in this series are:

Spring 2020: April Colors 5 (Clematis in Bloom, 1 of 3); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 4 (White, Orange, and Red-Red); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 3 (Purple and Yellow (and Yellow and Purple)); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 2 (Catawba Grapevine); and

Spring 2020: April Colors 1.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!





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