Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's Natural

On a day that Japanese beetles madly mate

my friend Betsy has died,

their coming and going all part of the same beautiful awful process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How Strange!

Hamlet claims that he "could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space, were it not . . . [for] bad dreams." The imagination is vast, indeed, and inviting and disturbing, but not so "infinite" these days for me as the minute intricacy of finite space. Witness the hummingbird moth, the dragonfly, and the swallowtail -- evidence that the "real world is" as Robert Heinlein has said "strange and wonderful."

A humming blur whirred past my right ear and dipped and flitted among the very petunias I was deheading. As I worked, the hummingbird moth worked, without once attending to me, unconscious or uncaring of the looming figure bending and snapping. How strange, I thought, and turned for my camera. We continued in the pink and purple like this for several minutes before, taking its fill, the flier departed and I completed my task.Later, in Jill and Ronn's garden, a dragonfly took his post atop a hosta stalk, shot off, shot back, and dined on a bumblebee, content to have me lean in, watch his great hinged mouth working on his meal. How strange that meal: he intent on eating, I intent on him, neither disturbed by or disturbing the other.The swallowtail lay loosely stretched across the cone of red day lily, his outstretched right wing flapping now and again in a waft of breeze, his proboscis curled in the well of yellow. Exhausted, perhaps drunk with pollen and day, he ignored me, leaning in and in, admiring the finesse of color dusted and woven into his wings, the shine of his antennae, the stillness of his eyes.
How strange we three who spent part of the day in each other's company, so out of compass yet so companionable.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Oh! Katydids!

Katydids Sewanee
by Eleanor Ross Taylor

Some night this rasping of green wings will metamorphose to propellers
pluck this village off the mountain peeling topsoil
rhododendrons from ravines

lift the slowly waking deer and echo fawn peeling pulling plucking up

the willing chapel windows flashing tumbling moonlight peeling softly
with a lyric grace

the graveyard raising rain-gnawed markers "Miss Charlotte Elliott and
"John Orley Allen Tate" with these loud wings invisible but green
clapping a distant clapping

as in an auditorium closed to one out in the vestibule the whole domain
on wing

over the breath-stealing valley over twanging Nashville the reddened
Mississippi over long exoduses crawling vaporous warriors

Sewanee night deployed wing- by wingload around the stars drummed
into heaven first without form and void

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Jane, an old friend, wrote this about the silly white crab spider with heart-configured eyes, puffing herself up on a luxurious bed of read zinnia: "This little spider has so much personality she could be a Disney characters. You are so good at capturing faces and colors and I cannot resist personifying these tiny creatures. You say you need a better camera. I thinking maybe this camera does your subjects justice. They don't look like technical illustrations. They look like part of a narrative." She made me realize this is a Miss Spider whose tea party I'd love to attend on Valentine's Day.Another old friend, Lou, has told me that I should write and bind a children's book called Bugs with Attitude because so many of the photos I've been taking capture just that way of being the world. The creatures face me, defiant and proud, as if engaged in a staring contest. How dare you, they seem to say, invade my space! Maybe my little Canon is enough, but then I see a shot like this, and I get lens envy all over again. The color green has never been my favorite. I'll take red any day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Zooming In

Yesterday, in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot, as I started to open the driver's side door, something green caught my eye. A katydid nymph stood on the outside mirror. About the same size as this one I had just photographed in Jill's yard, he sported tiny new wings.What to do? I thought. If I head home on the highway, he'll be flung off and probably get smushed. If I leave him in the parking lot, he'll probably get smushed. I thought Why not take him back home in the car? and immediately realized that I'd never find him again. Finally, I cupped him in my hands (after chasing him halfway across the lot) and placed him in the grass along the edge of the store.

When I told Jill this story, she said walking around with a camera changes the way you see. She's right, of course. A year ago, I would not have noticed the bug, nor would I have known it was a katydid, much less a nymph. Sometimes I don't even see what I have shot until I download my photos. That second sighting -- like this balloon flower, so astonishing, so unexpected, so strange with its reflection of my camera's text -- shows me that what I think I see I do not. Almost always, something lies beyond my sight.
Now, at least, I know this: with the camera and my daily practice of photography, my vision expands beyond the frame.

Friday, June 25, 2010

And Another Salute

Another admiral, this one the Red-Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), taunted and teased me for nearly an hour, wandering the stone floor of the Abbo's Alley Gazebo and then fluttering outside, in and out, in and out, the darkness too dark and the light too light for that one remarkably satisfying great shot.
Oh, he's a wily one, now blue, now brown, with orange and green spots, white ribbons, and velvety black-and-white spots and stripes.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Looking through the Kitchen Door

sometimes holds little gifts, like this single hummingbird sipping his fill early this morning. Dodging cold milk and hot tea, leaving the refrigerator door ajar, I grabbed my camera and managed this dim film before he darted away.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


That cricket is tiny! Dapper in his striped suit, the little fellow awaits his wings.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Red Admiral

A butterfly lit atop the wood block, stretched its wings several times, then settled in for an afternoon siesta, soaking in the 5:00 sun.
Admire the admiral: his jaunty epaulets of red, white, and blue; his wings as intricately mottled as any Florentine marbled paper; his snappily striped antennae; his proud proboscis and wildly dotted eyes.Camouflage or costume -- his dress uniform deserves my salute.

Monday, June 21, 2010

On This First Day of Summer

I celebrate fiery orange. Come -- bring your flames!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Just Picked

Crow Mountain Orchard promises months of pleasure: an easy 45-mile scenic drive down to the valley, up a mountain, and along the ridge past the Walls of Jericho into Jackson County, Alabama; twenty-five different varieties of apples, three varieties of peach, seven varieties of pears and plums; a growing season from now into November.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Wikipedia says, "The common name 'cone flower' comes from the characteristic center 'cone' at the center of the flower. The generic name Echinacea is rooted in the Greek word ἐχῖνος (echinos), meaning hedge hog, it references the spiky appearance and feel of the flower heads."

Today, I want to go whole hog. If only, like Alice, I could drink a magic elixir to shrink the size of the tiny fly. Then I would lie all afternoon enveloped in the spiny valleys hued maroon, mauve, godenrod, saffron, lemon, citrine, alizarin crimson, cerise, cadmium orange, chartreuse, chrome yellow, . . . .

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Cool Spot

I envy wild things in cool spots, nestled in, awaiting the hot day's surrender to evening: Lucy, the cat, who huddles under my bed; the lightning bugs tucked in at the base of grass stalks or leaf mold or the one male lying in shade atop mint, curling into himself; a lucky skink slunk under a rock.
There is one eternal truism about heat: enervation. It makes lazybones of us all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Face to Face

Afraid I would be late for the nature journaling get-together, I jumped in the car, inserted the key, and looked up: into a tiny face. We stared at one another for a long time before I backed up, slowly, and headed down the hill, my passenger not in the least distressed.
Only in Abbo's Alley did he (or she) depart the windshield for new digs. I wish the little critter well.

Soldiers of Love

So like lightning bugs, these beetles puzzled me. There they were, doing the deed in the day time rather than flying up from the grass at night, calling to one another. I suspected they could not be lightning bugs, and a little research taught me they aren't: they're first cousins called margined leatherwings (Chauliognathus marginatus).One of 3500 species of soldier beetles, the margined leatherwing wears a morning coat of butterscotch dotted with chocolate, a description far less successful than this from Chicago Wilderness: " . . . the margined soldier beetle sports a beautiful uniform of orange and black, along with an impressive pair of long, curving antennae. With a maximum length of about a half inch (without its antennae), it is larger and more colorful than many of its cousins. Its orange wing-covers, outlined in black, are indeed reminiscent of the soldiers' uniforms of past centuries. The beetles are also sometimes nicknamed 'leatherwings,' because these covers, unlike the soft shells of most beetles, are soft and leathery."

Soldiers, perhaps, but soldiers of love on this day in June. If Ron Trigg's excellent article about this little beetle is accurate, these two will be dead by the end of the month, exhausted, no doubt, by the success of their athletic reproduction.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

All That Shines

My freshly power-washed house demanded I spruce up a little patch of mint near the porch.
When I pulled up a hunk of weed, a spark of gold glinted: a tiny snail, emerging from a larger, empty snail shell. It slid toward the opening of a half buried brick, ringing the edge of the bed.

I ran inside, grabbed my camera, charged back out, and glimpsed a golden sheen in the darkness.

Of course! He had pulled himself out of sight of lens and bird.

A moment later, I noticed a second tiny snail wander out of the shell, and I captured his progress into his second temporary home.Didn't everyone's house today look especially shiny and homey?