"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Midwinter Mums (2 of 6)

From “Sentiments at Autumn: Eleven Poems” by Han Yu in Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry, edited by Wu-Chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo:

Chrysanthemum fresh in the frost
what use your beauty so late?
Butterfly cheerful in the fragrance,
your life neither comes too early,
at cycle’s end you both meet
your youth and grace intact till death

Western wind, snakes and dragons hibernate,
all the trees with days’ advance fade and dry
Such are the parts destined by fate….

From “Chrysanthemums” in The Story of Flowers and How They Changed the Way We Live by Noel Kingsbury:

“Chrysanthemum fashions have come and gone for thousands of years. The flower has been cultivated in China for more than 3,000 years, referred to in early records usually as yellow, the colour of certain wild species. They stood out because they bloomed in autumn, after the heat of the summer, and this is one reason for their popularity ever since….

“By the time of the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) in China there were almost certainly several varieties, since there was a grand market for chrysanthemum sales in the capital, while poets in succeeding dynasties wrote often in its praise. Doubles, a range of colours and multi-hued flowers appeared during the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279), with 400 varieties by 1458, when the first book on the flower was published.

“In Japan, the chrysanthemum took off as a national symbol in the early thirteenth century when Emperor Go-Toba started using one as his personal symbol; other emperors followed, and late in the century it became the royal family’s official symbol. During the Edo period many new varieties were produced and new growing techniques developed, often involving detailed pruning and tying to elaborate frames to shape the plants into pyramids, miniature trees or cascades, or encourage one huge, perfect flower. The latter technique was taken up widely after the plant was introduced to the West in the 1830s.”

From “Chrysanthemums” in Shoes of the Wind: A Book of Poems  by Hilda Conkling:

Dusky red chrysanthemums out of Japan,
With silver-backed petals like armor,
Tell me what you think sometimes?
You have fiery pink in you too…
You all mean loveliness:
You say a word
Of joy.
You come from gardens unknown
Where the sun rises…
You bow your heads to merry little breezes
That run by like fairies of happiness;
You love the wind and woody vines
That outline the forest…
You love brooks and clouds…
Your thoughts are better than my thoughts
When the moon is getting high!


This is the second of six posts (that’s a lot!) featuring several varieties of mums from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. The first post is Midwinter Mums (1 of 6).

Here we have red, red, red ones — blooms from several garden locations that exhibited mostly pure red rather than the red/pink/magenta I described in the previous post. It may be noteworthy that when magenta is absent, the flower petals take on a barely perceptible orange hue when lit by the sun.

Thanks for taking a look!

Midwinter Mums (1 of 6)

From “Chrysanthemum (Asteraceae)” in Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden by Noel Kingsbury:

“One of the world’s most successful commercial flowers, there seems justice in the plant’s name being derived from the Greek for ‘golden flower.’ Once larger, Chrysanthemum is now a much-reduced genus, with around 30 familiar herbaceous or subshrubby species recognised from eastern Europe across to the Far East. Polyploidy and hybridisation are common, so the origin and classification of this and related genera is still in flux….

“Chrysanthemum species are generally long-lived and often clump-forming. Some have persistent semi-woody growth, but others tend to die out in patches. Generally they are from woodland edge habitats, although several are common along seashores in Japan. Species are found in a number of climate zones, with many of those which have contributed to the cultivated gene pool from the Far Eastern humid subtropical zone….

“The Japanese emperor Gotoba (1183–1198) particularly liked the flower and started using a chrysanthemum graphic as his own personal symbol. Other emperors followed suit, and in the late 13th century it became the official royal family symbol. Today, in English-speaking countries, the Japanese ruling institution is sometimes referred to as the Chrysanthemum Throne. In the East, chrysanthemums have tended to be symbolic of long life, which is perhaps another reason for the popularity of chrysanthemum tea; in the West, however, they became a funeral flower during the course of the 19th century and so were frequently, superstitiously excluded from the home, even being seen as a curse in Italy.”

From “The Chrysanthemum” by William Carlos Williams in The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, (Vol. II), edited by Christopher MacGowan: 

how shall we tell
the bright petals
from the sun in the
sky concentrically

crowding the branch
save that it yields
in its modesty
to that splendor?


Toward the end of November through mid-December of 2023, I encountered some fabulous batches of many-colored mums at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — but then got wrapped up in my Christmas project and am just getting to those photos now. I suppose technically these are “autumn mums” — but you know I like my alliterations, so I went with “Midwinter Mums” as the post title for this series.

For the first photos in this series, I selected those that had an unusual combination of colors. These mums at first glance appear red — as red is the most dominant color — yet among the red blooms there are quite a few, even from the same multi-bloom stem, that exhibited a distinct color variation that included magenta or pink. On some individual blooms, half the petals were red and half were red and magenta, or magenta appeared toward the center then gradually radiated to red. At first I just thought is was a trick of the light (you know how tricky light can be) and started shifting the magenta toward red in Lightroom — but then set them all back to keep the color variations intact. The first two photos below show how large this group of mums was; and you can see in those photos how magenta appears randomly throughout the cluster.

Thanks for taking a look!

New Year’s Day 2024: Happy New Year!

From “Creativity, Success, and Personality” in The Interior Landscape: The Landscape on Both Sides of the Camera by Guy Tal:

“Creativity is most rewarding not as something to practice ad hoc when making a photograph but as a general attitude toward life. A creative attitude may lead to the experience of flow, to occasional grand discoveries and meaningful breakthroughs, which is not the case when you follow familiar (convergent) recipes and templates aiming to produce predictable, preconceived outcomes. Put another way, the rewards of prioritizing creativity over success are ongoing and sustained. They grow cumulatively over time and may on occasion yield immense and unexpected rewards, even the possibility of enriching your life with new meaning.”

From “The Passing of the Year” by E. E. Cummings in Complete Poems, 1904-1962, edited by George J. Firmage:

The world outside is dark; my fire burns low;
All’s quiet, save the ticking of the clock
And rustling of the ruddy coals, that flock
Together, hot and red, to gleam and glow.
The sad old year is near his overthrow,
And all the world is waiting for the shock
That frees the new year from his dungeon lock. —
So the tense earth lies waiting in her snow.

Old year, I grieve that we should part so soon, —
The coals burn dully in the wavering light;
All sounds of joy to me seem out of tune, —
The tying embers creep from red to white,
They die. Clocks strike. Up leaps the great, glad moon!
Out peal the bells! Old year, — dear year, — good night!

From “Iseult la Belle” by Henry Reed in Henry Reed: Collected Poems, edited by Jon Stallworthy:

Though I drop back into oblivion, though I retreat
Into the soft, hoarse chant of the past, the unsoaring, dull
And songless harmony behind the screen of stone,
I do not age.
But I come, in whatever season, like a new year,
In such a vision as the open gates reveal
As you saunter into a courtyard, or enter a city,
And inside the city you carry another city,
Inside delight, delight.
And it seems you have borne me always, the love within you,
Under the ice of winter, hidden in darkness.
Winter on winter, frozen and unrevealing….

To flower in a sudden moment, the bloom held high towards heaven,
Steady in the glowing air the white and gleaming calyx.
Lightness of heart.


Well another year has bit the dust! If you’re reading this, you’re alive — and perhaps, like Iseult la Belle, you do not age!

For this post I had planned on writing a retrospective of 2023’s Christmas Project to describe some of my techniques and a few things I learned along the way — but, instead, I ended out un-decorating and de-glittering over the weekend to start the new year fresh and with a (reasonably) clean house. So I’ll still likely do the retro — but later this week or later than that. Stay tuned!

The first quotation up-top is from a book I just bought: The Interior Landscape: The Landscape on Both Sides of the Camera by Guy Tal. Like all of his books, this one explores the relationships between photography and creativity in incomparable ways, and would be an excellent addition to any photographer’s or artist’s library. I’m just starting the it, so — more on that later!

I chose the two poems above because they seemed to well-represent the transition between years: the first one a bit darkly, perhaps; the second one with flashes of delight. I often choose white flowers for a New Year’s post — and those I’ve included below were some I had taken in mid-December, after a couple of days of subfreezing temperatures. The first five are my favorites because of the desiccated leaves in the background or at the frame edges, leaves that gave off a rich orange/brown glow on a cloudy day and are actually leaves of lilies I had photographed previously. Old and new together: old lily leaves and new, white asters.

Thanks for taking a look!

And Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas!

From “Merry Christmas, Everyone!” in Christmas Poems, Stories, and Carols:

In the rush of the merry morning,
     When the red burns through the gray,
And the wintry world lies waiting
     For the glory of the day,
Then we hear a fitful rushing
     Just without, upon the stair,
See two white phantoms coming,
     Catch the gleam of sunny hair.

Rosy feet upon the threshold,
     Eager faces peeping through,
With the first red ray of sunshine
     Chanting cherubs come in view;
Mistletoe and gleaming holly,
     Symbols of a blessed day,
In their chubby hands they carry,
     Streaming all along the way.

Well we know them, never weary
     Of their innocent surprise;
Waiting, watching, listening always
     With full hearts and tender eyes,
While our little household angels,
     White and golden in the sun.
Greet us with the sweet old welcome —

     “Merry Christmas, everyone!”

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Below I’ve accumulated all the photo galleries from this year’s “Days to Christmas” series. Click the links above each gallery if you would like to see the original posts and the quotations or poems I selected to go with them. 

Thanks for taking a look … and: 

Merry Christmas!!!!

Ten Days to Christmas: Peace

Nine Days to Christmas: Silver and Gold

Eight Days to Christmas: Red and Green

Seven Days to Christmas: When Nature Does the Decorating

Six Days to Christmas: Angels (and Gnomes and Elves) Among Us

Five Days to Christmas: Tiny Baubles, Glittery Bits

Four Days to Christmas: Winter Solstice (in Silver and Blue)

Three Days to Christmas: The Return of the Light

Two Days to Christmas: Toys on Parade

One Day to Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve!

One Day to Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve!

From “Reindeer Rap” by Sue Cowling in Christmas Poems, compiled by Paul Cookson and illustrated by Sarah Nayler:

Well, it’s Christmas Eve,
December 24th,
And we’re on our way down
From the far, far north.
We got Santa in the sleigh
With a load of Christmas cheer,
We’ll deliver the presents
Santa’s worked on all year,
So if you think you hear a noise
When you’re tucked up in bed,
A sorta scritch-scritch-scratching
Up above your head,
If you hear somebody tapping
Way up there on your roof
It’ll just be the pawing
Of a reindeer hoof!

We’ll be rapping on the rooftop,
We’ll be rapping on the floor,
We’ll be rapping on the window,
We’ll be rapping on the door!

It’s no problem towing Santa
Through the dark and snowy skies
But when he’s drinking sherry wine
And eating all those mince pies
We get bored and lonely
And we wanna let him know
There’s still a job to do —

Hey, man, we really gotta go!
No offence to all you people,
Just a word in your ear —
Maybe you could leave some carrots
For his cool REIN-DEER!
We’ll be rapping on the rooftop,
We’ll be rapping on the floor,
We’ll be rapping on the window,
We’ll be rapping on the DOOR!