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

Pink on Blue (and Black)

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

Prunus (Greek for “plum”) is a woody genus of around 430 species, found throughout the temperate zones of the northern hemisphere. Including some key sources of fruit and nuts — almonds, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots — the trees often combine beautiful flowers with productivity. Fossils of well-preserved Prunus flowers found in Washington State date back to the early Eocene (around 50 million years ago); the genus is thought to have evolved some 10 to 15 million years earlier, during the Paleocene….

“A very large number of other
Prunus species are in cultivation, including ornamental varieties of species normally grown for fruit production…. Many of these are of eastern Asian origin and were introduced to the West during the late-19th- and early-20th-century period of intensive Asian plant hunting….”

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

“Floral preferences vary widely between countries, cultures, and different historical periods…. If we travel to Japan, we find floral arrangements incorporating moss pinks among European favorites such as tulips, roses, and lavender. Japanese parks showcase the traditional sakura cherry (Prunus serrulata)…. The Japanese enjoy their centuries-old pastime of flower viewing and picnicking (called hanami) under blooming cherry trees. Spring cherry blossoms are the most popular, but the people of Japan know that every season brings blossoms worthy of admiration.”


Some of the earliest spring — or pre-spring! — color in my neighborhood (aside from daffodil yellow; see February Daffodils and Plum Blossoms) appears on various fruit trees that show off their flashy shades of pink from mid- to late-February and continue through March and early April. While it can be a challenge to identify these trees by name, most of the early bloomers are in the Prunus genus, which includes cherry, plum, and almond trees, among others. I think the tree featured in the photos below is a Japanese cherry tree, and it’s pretty much true that wherever I look, I see these clumps of pink mixed among with the gray branches of other trees that won’t leaf-out for a few more weeks.

On a clear day, the pink looks nice against sky blue… but it also looks good if I remove the backgrounds and paint them black (as I did in the last gallery). Either way, it’s fun to stand at the base of these trees and aim a zoom lens up to get a closer look, while some of the tiniest bee pollinators zip from bloom to bloom, as little bits of pink fall to the ground and the tree seems to change its size, shape, and color even as you stand there.

Thanks for taking a look!

February Daffodils and Plum Blossoms

From Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“There are daffodils in February, or even in January on rare occasions when the little early trumpet or ‘February Gold’ show a flower or two; the various kinds bloom on until the middle of April or later.”

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

“In China, favorite garden flowers are treasured for their symbolic meanings in art, literature, and society…. Flowering plums represent happiness and friendships.”


Below are some photos of a small batch of late winter, early spring, mid-February daffodils (most found in the sun but shielded from cold breezes by nearby tree trunks), and some flowers on a blossoming plum tree.

Thanks for taking a look!

Afternoon Visit with a Red-Tailed Hawk

From Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram:

“[The] shadows of late afternoon are very different from those of early morning; the mood, the mode of awareness, the qualities imparted are richly different…. The silence is deeper, fuller…. The trunks and the cliffs are darkening, the needles losing their distinctness…. The myriad flows between insects and grass, between soil and stone, hawk and water and cliff, seem to be dissipating — the reciprocities and negotiations between neighbors all gradually subsiding….

“We participate in this encompassing awareness with the whole of our body, as other animals participate in it with theirs, the snow leopard with its tensed muscles and the hawk with its splayed wing feathers. Every creature here inhabits and moves through the same field of mountains and melting ice, imbibing the same air, the same boulder-strewn awareness. Yet each animal filters this awareness with its particular senses, its access to the whole limited by the arrangement of its limbs and the specific style of its pleasures, by the way it obtains nourishment and the way it avoids becoming food for others. Each creature — two-leggeds included — has only a restricted access to the mystery of the real….

From World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by Aimee Nezhukumatathil:

“If hawks are circling around us, does that mean they think one of us might be good to hunt?”

Just before the sun went down a couple of days ago, I had let my dog in the house from his afternoon squirrel-chasing session when I saw my second hawk this winter. The first one — see Dog in Ivy, Hawk in Tree — was at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens, high up in an oak tree — but this time was different. While it won’t be apparent from the photos below, the branch on which this red-tailed hawk perched is only about five feet from the ground. I took the photos from various distances with a zoom lens; by the time I got the closest, the hawk stayed put while I continued shooting from about ten feet away.

I puzzled for a while about why it stayed so still and so close to the ground, then heard a lot of rustling from the tops of the tall pine trees that border the northwest side of my back yard. Fluttering atop the pines I saw an enormous owl, flying from branch to branch, eyeing the hawk. I never could get a clear shot of the owl, yet my wandering around the yard to try didn’t concern the hawk — who apparently concluded (correctly!) that I was less of a threat than the owl; plus, I don’t have wings. The owl — owls hunt hawks, but opportunistically, perhaps somewhat lazily — gave up after about thirty minutes, yet still the hawk didn’t move, only turning its head occasionally to see what I was doing. Cautious about its predator, this hawk.

Encounters with wildlife are fascinating: I kept wondering what it was thinking, how close it would let me get, and what it might do when it decided I was invading its personal hawk-space. Check the look in its eyes in the last two images: when I realized I might be pushing my luck, I backed off a little lest I ended out with talons in my scalp. Still it stayed for a long time — until the sun had set — after the owl had gone, while I put down the camera and just strolled nearby and watched.

I could have kept watching until darkness fell fully, but thought it was time to end our encounter and keep the hawk and my dog from crossing paths… so I pretended to be a fox… and it (laughed hysterically and) flew away.


Thanks for taking a look!

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