Early Spring: A White Album

From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, 
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going
— “

— Speak for yourself, Mr. Dickens!

From Blindness by Jose Saramago:

Images don’t see…. 
You’re wrong, images see with the eyes of those who see them….

Monday was a best-of-times day, temperatures in the mid-60s, no rain for a change, with enough clouds to give The Photographer some soft shade over tiny new plants popping up in the ‘hood. I’d considered making a trip to Atlanta Botanical Garden, wanting for a while now a day nice enough to stroll around with a couple good lenses. But Monday was a worst-of times day also … more people got sick, red dots on maps developed into larger red clusters, stocks tanked, nearby schools announced closures, and I found myself wondering who dropped me into the “elderly” category that ought to be practicing “social distancing” — a practice that now applies to everyone. So I skipped the Botanical, lovely as it is — with its crowds and lines and enclosed greenhouses — glad, instead, for the nearby presence of parks and gardens where I could walk around on sparsely-peopled paths, screaming “STAY BACK SIX FEET!” if I encountered another human … which actually never happened.

The opening lines to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is of course a well-known, somewhat cliche, encapsulation of cultural anxiety and dysfunction, written at another time and written about a time before that. But it also serves as a reminder that the normalcy (if you could call it that) of a few days or weeks in the past can dissipate like wisps of candle smoke — poof! — leaving an unsettled scent behind… while we all sort of sit and ponder which “times” we are in, and when the script will flip. I wonder, when he wrote it, if he knew how many generations would remember it….

Blindness by Jose Saramago is like Dickens at Burning Man. It’s a strange, intense, violent little book about the sudden emergence of an epidemic of blindness that afflicts nearly everyone in an unnamed city. It was written in 1995, years before the more recent appearance of novels and movies featuring characters whose physical senses are hobbled — like A Quiet Place, Bird Box, and Perfect Sense — and was itself adapted into a movie by the same name. The movie does a decent job of capturing the dark mood of the book, while suffering — like a lot of movie adaptations do — from too much focus on sensational elements from the novel rather than character development. The book, on the other hand, is exhausting to read, mostly because Saramago uses a stream-of-consciousness style with (as Wikipedia says) “many long, breathless sentences in which commas take the place of periods, quotation marks, semicolons and colons” … which is a literarily subtle way of saying it goes on, and on, and on, and on. And with the book’s tendency to switch spoken dialogue from one character to another without telling you, it’s a jarring and disconcerting read — that being, I suppose, the whole point. Obviously this isn’t a book recommendation (and you probably shouldn’t be consuming apocalyptic books (or movies) right now anyway) — it’s just about my state of mind — though I was pleasantly surprised to find that short quote above about the power of images in a tiny bit of dialogue.

Speaking of images!!

Monday’s outing got me a nice collection of new photos that I think I’ll sort out by color, so here are the white ones in two galleries below. The first gallery shows tiny blooms of a spring snowflake (nice name!), just starting to make their appearance. The second gallery — according to the identification I got from Plantnet Identify — may show a strain of baby’s breath; I’m not convinced that that’s correct (because the stems look too thick for baby’s breath), so if anyone knows for sure, let me know.

Thanks for reading and taking a look! More spring colors soon … be safe!


Inside Looking Out: Bradford Pear Blooming in the Rain

Guess what? It’s raining here again … as it did yesterday and the day before and the day before that, and is supposed to tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and part of next week. Sure does put a dent in one’s nature photography … doesn’t it?

However!! A Bradford Pear tree in front of my living room window…

… started blooming recently…

… and I felt like it needed its picture taken before the flowers get washed away. So I opened up the shutters and got a few shots from inside looking out, along with a few from my front porch. With all this rain, I guess I’ll need to come up with more indoor photo projects: stay tuned for some galleries featuring my sock drawer (or not!).

This Bradford Pear is technically a nuisance tree that I really need to have cut down: it splits and drops branches all spring and summer long, so has outgrown its welcome … yet these enchanting white flowers get it a stay of execution every February or March. So, once again this year, here are a few photos of its early blooming.

Thanks for taking a look!


Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (2 of 2)

Hello! Below is the second of two galleries of Japanese Maple leaves in my garden, as the tree comes to life to signal the coming spring. The previous gallery — see Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2) — was taken while the leaves were still wet from recent rains but for these photos I waited another day until the tree had dried out. That allowed me to get finer visual detail out of the berries, which should be apparent if you view any of the images full size.

Thanks for taking a look!


Japanese Maple Anticipating Spring (1 of 2)

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“[Leaf] shape varies not just between species but within species and even in individual trees. You could spend a lifetime attending to the variety of forms in a single species of Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), because leaf forms in cultivated varieties … vary from fern-like to star-shaped, from shallowly cut to deeply cut, and have colors ranging from chartreuse to dark green, red, maroon, and even pinkish. Tree lovers could check Japanese maple cultivars off their life lists the way birders do warblers, but the owner of a single open-pollinated Japanese maple could be equally entertained just observing the size, shape, and color of the leaves on the thousands of seedlings that come up under such a tree.”

A sure sign that spring is not too-too far away: a Japanese Maple right behind my house produces tiny clusters of new leaves decorated with red/burgundy berries. I took the photos in this gallery the morning after our long rains finally stopped (for a few days, anyway). Raindrops still clung to many of the berry pods, weighing them down and giving them a nice full look even though they’re typically smaller than a pea. The berries only last a few days and fall off as leaves open — after which I sweep piles of them out of the courtyard! — so I was glad to get a break in the rain and take their pictures.

Here are the first eleven images; I played around with background bokeh and colors — especially where blurry berries added a little red, yellow, and green — as well as some backlighting just to see how the shapes looked against filtered sunlight.

A second Japanese Maple gallery and more Oakland Cemetery architecture photos coming soon … thanks for taking a look!


Between Rainstorms: Little Green Leaves

Me and the dog have been pacing around the dining room table chanting “rain, rain, go away” almost every day since the first of the year, but that magic doesn’t work as well as it did when I was a kid. What’s up with that anyway? In the first not-quite-two-months of 2020, we’ve accumulated more than twice the average rainfall, as shown in this fine image from iWeathernet.com, a site that lets you chart and graph historical weather data for parts of the south and southeast.

Source: iWeathernet.com (https://www.iweathernet.com/atlanta-weather-records)

Something similar happened last year — from December through January rather than January through February — but this year’s inundations have even surpassed that. I did manage a few hours in the garden one day last week, poking and peeking (with the camera) at some early spring growth.

These are baby Hydrangea leaves, emerging freshly for 2020.

I have one Honeysuckle in a large pot that last year got zapped by a late spring freeze and barely grew after that. This year, it’s going to try again.

Here are two photos of Climbing Hydrangea leaves followed by four Holly Ferns, The ferns really do appreciate all the rain; each plant has already pushed out a half dozen new fronds, so it looks like they’ll have a very good year.

Finally, here are a three tiny clumps of Clematis leaves — just starting to stand out — with the last photo stylized a bit to remove all the background.

Oakland Cemetery architecture photos return soon … thanks for taking a look!