Spring 2020: April Colors 1

From A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher:

“Does absence have a weight? I think it does, because I stood there feeling crushed by something I couldn’t see. It was a much stronger feeling than the one I had when looking at a landscape full of empty streets…. Like it had once been peopled — and very densely peopled — and now it just wasn’t. It was unpeopled, in the same way something can’t be undone unless it has first been done…. and it was a very different feeling to just being empty. It was more like loneliness, not mine from finding myself alone in this world, but this world’s loneliness without you….”

From The End of the World Running Club by Adrian Walker:

“We stood at the window and drank coffee while the morning light grew outside. We watched details of the landscape emerge slowly like drops of watercolor seeping across canvas — trees, fields, hills, and fences — all the features of a traditional, rolling landscape. In the gray shadows, it all looked normal and untouched, so much so that it might have been possible to trick ourselves into thinking that, maybe, the devastation ended here. Maybe, beyond these hills surrounding us, people lived normally, the sun still met the earth, flowers still grew, cities still prospered. Or even — just maybe — what had happened had never happened at all. But then the light grew a little more, and we saw dark blights appear…. I felt a nameless loss: a grief for something I had never known, a time and a country I could only hope to feel through osmosis, never firsthand.”

These two quotes are a bit dark, but the writing is good and they both capture the strange discomfort of observing an unrecognizable, untouchable world. A truck grumbles past as I write this — a sound of normal life that only takes hold for a few seconds, then fades away. I watch through the window: Bradford Pear tree branches wave in the wake left by the truck and clouds of yellow pollen dust blow from the hood of my car. I’ll hose the rest of it off lateron.

Back at the computer, I end out thinking that old concerns about spending too much time indoors poking at gadgets and staring at screens seem quaint now: we’ve swung to another extreme, where screens stand in for experiences we can’t have. With our eyes on the screen, our senses are reduced from six to one: sight dominates, the rest is memory.

Photography of course has always been in that position, as an art form that revolves around creating and presenting images detached from the events that produce them. The photographer is not in the picture in the same way the painter is not in the canvas — the presence of both is like the elephant that’s not in the room — yet both artists use their tools and skills to attempt to recreate and re-present something they experienced and impressions they felt. The camellia blossoms that I’ve included in the first gallery below struck me because their white petals glowed against rich dark greens, a glow that seemed even more intense in the shade than in the sun.

The flowers in the second gallery are from the Rosaceae family; the blooms stretched along leafy vines crawling through a magnolia tree, covering most of the tree’s trunk and hiding many of its lower branches. For the last gallery, I used variations of the six images and eliminated the backgrounds, shifting the perspective away from blooms among vines, to make them appear as if they were suspended in mid-air … since, in a way, they were.

I took the photos for these three galleries at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — a place that so far remains open and safely underpopulated as the world stays paused — which is busting out with color as spring barrels forward, providing dozens of new subjects for me and the camera. As I’ve often done here, I’ll be separating and processing new photos in color clumps; purple, yellow, orange, red, and blue flowers are filling up my folder of images for posting soon — supplemented with some from my own gardens, where clematis, grapevines, and hostas, especially, seem to grow so fast I can see it happen.

Select any of the images in these galleries if you would like to see larger versions. Thanks for reading and taking a look!


Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (4 of 4)

From More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life by Guy Tal:

“Attention is crucial to experience. The less of it we assign to any one activity, the less capable we are of appreciating it, of being aware of all its nuances and dimensions and, ultimately, the less significant and satisfying our experience of it is. A meal eaten in front of the television will not be as rewarding as a meal experienced as a primary focus of attention, savored slowly and deliberately. A virtuous violin performance among the clamor of a subway station will not be as moving as one experienced in the quiet darkness of a concert hall. The same is true for experiencing the wild: the more distractions we bring into it — sounds and scents and anxieties and social interactions — the less of it we experience and the more prone we are to dismiss it as lacking. This is not attention deficit; it’s attention overload. We invest our awareness in too many things and, not surprisingly, we get little return from each of them….”

“So often I find myself engaged in a composition, thinking and refining and contemplating, when my subject remains static, when nothing other than my thoughts is changing … and yet I am so elated and immersed in the experience that no other thought even enters my mind. Worries and anxieties disappear, small discomforts never register in my conscious mind, and nothing else deserves attention until after the click of the shutter, and sometimes beyond as I consider other possibilities. To me, the making of an image is a slow and meticulous process, not because it has to be, but because I find it most rewarding as such. By the time the image is realized I have no reason or desire to enter it into any kind of contest or offer it for anyone’s critical evaluation beyond just sharing it with the world in the hope that someone else may find it of some use. I already won the greatest prize the image could have garnered me by virtue of the transcendent, and deliberately prolonged, experience of making it.”

A few days ago, I sat down to write the fourth post to go with a fourth gallery of daffodils from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — when I realized I didn’t actually have any more daffodil photos. WTF! How did that happen!! So after an hour of hesitation, I put a fresh battery in the camera and headed back over to the cemetery, which in my imagination — given that everyone had been cooped up home-working and home-schooling all week, and most places were closed — was going to be packed with Saturday morning flaneurs, making it difficult to maintain proper distance. Well, that didn’t happen: I only saw a couple dozen people on the entire 66 acres — and staying clear of each other was easy there, given that each acre of the property is bisected by multiple sidewalks or paths, and by redirecting your steps you could end out at the same spot with just a short detour. It was a strange thing to realize that the centuries old, somewhat random layout of this property — with two wide entrances and a series of connected mazes that have emerged over time — was more suited to current conditions than newer urban spaces that tend to force people through small openings onto linear trails or roadways. Places like the zoo or the botanical gardens, for example, might afford ample opportunities for distance-keeping once people are on the property, but no one can get in without funneling first through entry gates, turnstiles, or other narrow entrances — an efficiency for access control and fee collection that suddenly seems (at least temporarily, yet with an unknown end date) obsolete.

Taking nature photos during a pandemic feels incongruous at times, and it seemed to take longer to get into the flow than I’m accustomed to. Still, I spent about three hours wandering the property, hunting down new daffodils since those featured in previous posts — early bloomers I found on the first few acres near the cemetery’s entrance — were mostly spent and getting crowded out by irises preparing to bloom. Deeper onto the property, farther from the entrances where the sun strikes later in the morning, I did find several nice assemblies and ended out with a few dozen photos to create these last daffodil galleries for this final day of March.

The previous daffodil posts are:

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (2 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (3 of 4).

All of my spring posts and photos are tagged Spring 2020.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!


Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (3 of 4)

Here is the third gallery of daffodil photos from my recent trips to Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

Yes, these are ALL daffodils. The first two photos do show a typical daffodil structure, but with the others, their daffodilliness isn’t so obvious until you take a close look at the star-shaped arrangement of the petals toward the back of each flower. While I couldn’t identify the variants for certain by name, I did learn while searching around that double-daffodils and daffodils with clumped flowers are common varieties. I like the third and fourth ones, little bouquets on their own with a mix of white and orange petals; and the last five reminded me of … Reddi-Whip!

The previous daffodil posts are:

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4); and

Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (2 of 4).

All of my spring posts and photos are tagged Spring 2020.

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


Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (2 of 4)

From “The Forests” by John Muir in John Muir Ultimate Collection: Travel Memoirs, Wilderness Essays, Environmental Studies and Letters:

“In the morning everything is joyous and bright, the delicious purple of the dawn changes softly to daffodil yellow and white; while the sunbeams pouring through the passes between the peaks give a margin of gold to each of them…. The birds begin to stir, seeking sunny branches on the edge of the meadow for sun-baths after the cold night, and looking for their breakfasts, every one of them as fresh as a lily and as charmingly arrayed. Innumerable insects begin to dance, the deer withdraw from the open glades and ridge-tops to their leafy hiding-places in the chaparral, the flowers open and straighten their petals as the dew vanishes, every pulse beats high, every life-cell rejoices, the very rocks seem to tingle with life, and God is felt brooding over everything great and small.”

The city of Atlanta issued a stay-at-home emergency order yesterday, shuttering all but essential businesses and services, though parks (for now) remain open. It’s not more concerning than what was already happening, mostly, but is a little confusing: there have now been varying restrictions at the federal, state, and city or community level, with inconsistencies and overlapping dates that suggest lack of coordination. I could drive to another county and go to a restaurant (but won’t), or drive a few other miles and find park entrances blocked instead of open. With rain in the forecast for a few days, people will probably stay home anyway; but I wonder if the warmer, clearer days later in the week will cause a surge in park visitors. So I stay put, eager for the rains to move out so I can crawl around the garden with a macro lens and look for buds and bugs.

As I write this, I hear a sound like the ticking of a clock but can’t pinpoint the source. The ceiling fan over my desk makes a light breezy sound; I can hear the air moving. A little girl laughs outside, but I don’t see anyone; she could be a couple blocks away since sound carries so much farther in the silence. Silence defines these moments.

Yet birds were singing earlier than usual this morning as the sun should have come out but stayed hidden behind some storm clouds. Their spring melodies seem louder and chirpier than usual, but they all went mute as a rumble of thunder rolled through and it got darker and some rain started to fall. I need to turn on a second lamp to soften the screen’s white glow, but I can’t reach it without getting up and the dog just fell asleep on my foot … so I’m stuck here while my foot falls asleep too. Rain always chills him out: he set aside the toy tiger he was dismembering, barked at the thunder a couple of times, then decided to take a nap. Dogs do get it right.

I’ve written before about the astonishing tree canopy that distinguishes Atlanta from a lot of urban areas, and in previous posts featured a couple of the earliest trees to make spring leaves here: a Japanese Maple in my back yard and a Bradford Pear at the street out front. As I looked outside this morning, though, I noticed that new green is appearing all around me, the barren branches of winter filling in with fast-growing leaves. The shift from winter gray to spring green has an especially luminous glow, despite sunless skies. Even as we slow down or shut down, the new season marches on.

Here is the second gallery of daffodils I found at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens. I’m especially fond of the colors at the center of these flowers; the cups remind me a little of fresh peaches mixed in orange sherbet … which will end out on my next grocery delivery order. 🙂

Select the first image if you would like to see larger versions in a slideshow. The previous daffodilly post is Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4); and all my posts and photos in this series are tagged Spring 2020.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!


Spring 2020: March is for Daffodils (1 of 4)

From “The Onset of Spring” by Elizabeth Lawrence in The Writer in the Garden, edited by Jane Garmey:

“[The] first daffodil to bloom is the short-stemmed pale yellow trumpet that grows in most old gardens. It comes with the crocuses and early shrubs…. As a rule, this little early trumpet is at its best in February, and is quickly followed by other early sorts…. Daffodils are in [full] bloom by the middle of March. They bloom before the leaves are on the trees, and the shrubs that bloom with them are leafless too.”

From “A Change of Plans” by Charles Kuralt in The Writer in the Garden, edited by Jane Garmey:

“[Modern] breeding has changed the shapes and colors of daffodils and given the gardens and meadows of the world a variety beyond anything the old poet [Wordsworth] could have imagined two hundred years ago. The old, well-remembered flowers have contributed some of their finest qualities to hundreds of variations.”

Hello! Having expelled a huge volume of words a couple of days ago (see Isolated White Irises (and Cognitive Overload), I’ll keep this post extra-short — just long enough to introduce the first of four galleries of colorful daffodils making their appearance at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

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