As quickly as that, Bumblebee had tucked their bits of gold dust into her pollen baskets and flown on to the next flower to eat and thereby gather more. Sisters Virginia and Anna Tradescantia were satisfied that their mission in this life had been accomplished during their single day of existence. As the day warmed, and their petals closed forever, and Bumblebee had visited their cousins, all knew that they had played a small but critical role in the turning of the planet and life on Earth.
“The Bumblee’s Visit,” flash fiction for today inspired by one of the many photos I took this morning. The bee moved too quickly and I couldn’t catch it on the flowers, but this photo of it flying away told me this story. Really, I have to start sharing these photos I take everyday and the stories they tell me!
The flower is a native, Tradescantia Virginiana, also called spiderwort, and widow’s tears. The plant looks like knee-height, weedy grass, the blue-purple flowers grow in clusters, but only one or two bloom from that cluster each day, and they are only open until the day grows warm or the sun reaches where they grow. Then they close, and the next day more flowers open.
Please look up pollen baskets and read all about them. Trust me, they are fascinating!
I’ve passed this spot on a back road each spring for years. Looking down into a valley coursed by a winding stream I see what looks like a bluish haze just above the ground among the trees and in an open clearing, on both sides of the stream and reaching up the sides of the little valley, extending at least the length of a football field. I know the haze is a population of wildflowers. Wildflowers always call me to come and meet them, see their little faces and study their leaves, learn about their habits and habitats. No visit is complete without a full course of photos from every angle to document them, and to share the beauty that called me to that place.
Even though I take this road intentionally to look at all the things I’ve found interesting and photographed from afar, each year I’ve found a reason not to stop and explore this little valley on foot, to see the details in that blue haze and interpret them to share in my own way.
Usually I’m on my way somewhere else and because I’m always late the reason is a lack of time. This can’t be explored in just a few minutes and a photo or two. This needs a walk down a hill and across a stream, and all around where the flowers grow, even walking partway up the other side of the valley. And once I start, I don’t know when to stop. I can’t be trusted to be aware of time.
One day last year I did have the time and my DSLR camera, but it was just before the diagnosis of my need for a hip replacement and stepping out of my car at the top of that slope I knew there was no way I could walk down without falling, or crawling. Crawling on gravel and bits of coal is not without its nicks and scrapes. I’ve done it. So I looked, and moved on.
This year I took the time. I’d run to the trail as the mist rose on a spring morning just to photograph what was there, and was on my way back home. I intentionally turned up that road taking a different way home than the usual, scanning the little valley for whatever it had to offer. I saw smaller colonies of these flowers, but remembered much more in other areas, then, finally, there it was. And conveniently a place to safely pull over and park on this two-lane back road and a sort of road down and into the area from off-road vehicles. I had no excuse.
LIttle wildflower-filled valleys like these are like timeless wonderlands. Scrappy slender trees mix with mature trees, fallen trunks tangle with wild grapevines and Virginia creeper vine, and the performance is set for wave after wave of blooming spectacles here and there in its own unique floodplain culture.
I waded the stream and came to my closeup of the flowers that at first looked like violas, but I identified as blue-eyed mary, four petals, two top in white and two bottom in blue, occasionally violet or deep pink.
The sky was still overcast from the fog, but as I walked along the road and among the flowers, deciding on good vantage points and snapping photos here and there, the sun broke through the clouds and bands of bright and shadow moved over the little valley, illuminating the young leaves.
But how to capture the full effect of the display? If I had had a bit of a ladder or a rock or stump to stand on I may have been able to capture it better, but the photo at the top captures the extent of it best. And the photo below captures the density.
I am grateful for my new hip, remembering last year, considering the prospect of never being able to explore a wildflower field again, and having the time to take this year.
I am grateful for my new old car, without which I hadn’t been able to go anywhere earlier this year.
I am grateful for the equipment to capture this place in a way that I uniquely visualize.
I am grateful that there are such things in this world as this precious little valley and all its beauty.
I am grateful that I can share this, and that others see the beauty in it too.
I am grateful to all those who helped me arrive at this place over the past two years and more.
I have many, many other things to be grateful for, but as I walked my steps around this place, these were my thoughts.
My daily photo today unexpectedly inspired some verse. It just began writing itself in my head so I thought I’d bring it here and work on it.
When I share my daily photos I typically write something about it, often just a mundane note of what or where it is, an identification of a wildflower or butterfly, or sometimes just a thought; sometimes an extended thought that becomes an essay or a poem. I go where it leads me.
Here is the original version:
In late summer, in the fullness of plenty,
I filled my arms with your brilliant yellow and warm green,
followed by bees besotted with your gentle scent,
burying my face into your softness, thinking of beds made of your flowers;
today in the cold, punishing wind, the swirling snow,
all decorations weathered away,
I could see your naked strength holding your essence outright,
with faith in spring.
I had intended to talk about the spareness and simplicity of the scene, a pure little moment, but my mind went to the flowers and identified them as goldenrod and one of our native wild sunflowers, likely jerusalem artichokes. That made me remember what those plants look like in late summer when they begin to bloom most heavily, how I love to see them, their volume of stems and leaves and flowers, their light fragrance and the hum of hungry bees, and the contrast with what is left behind, the essentials, swaying in winter wind, catching snowflakes, holding onto those seeds of the future until spring.
I knew the words weren’t quite what I wanted, but getting the thought down was important. I had to move on with my day and wanted to let it sit for a while, then come back to it. So here I am. And here is an edit, though there may be more.
In the heat of late summer,
in the fullness of plenty,
I filled my arms with your brilliant yellow and tender green
amid the hum of bees besotted with your gentle scent,
buried my face in your softness, thinking of beds made of your flowers;
today in the cold, punishing wind, the swirling snow,
all ornament weathered away,
I could see your naked strength as you held your essence in your outstretched hands,
with faith in spring.
It became a sort of love poem too, with an intimacy in the imagery. But isn’t that what nature is all about?
I think that’s good for now..
I began this year with a pledge to myself and my art: To be certain I won’t let ideas pass me by I’m setting myself up for a personal painting challenge in February, similar to the painting challenges I’ve participated in in past years. I aspire (but don’t expect) to create a painting or sketch every day in the month, to be posted on my blog each day.
A field of grass,
Never still, never silent,
Responding as one being to wind and weather,
Rippling in breezes, dancing in rain,
Changing each moment in its fervent march
To ripened maturity;
In the spring, new bright green velvet
Undulating in capricious spring breezes,
Laying flat to reveal the shining silk beneath,
And cast with shadows of clouds moving quickly
Over hillside and valley;
In June, tall and deep green
With eager pale seed heads
Standing tall and youthful,
Dancing carelessly in storm winds and evening breezes;
In the amber of late summer
Under the relentless faded August sun,
It stands in simple primitive beauty
At the moment of its ripe maturity,
Whispering in anticipation
Of the end of its journey.
Growing up on the remains of a recent dairy farm I spent quite a bit of time in the steep hillside pasture, barren of cows, grass growing taller than me in some places. The grasses themselves, like water, had a collective presence that I always felt I was walking among.
When I had my first solo art exhibit, in addition to the artwork, I worked my writing into the exhibit by pairing images with poems or essays or statements to make little flyers that I could print out on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and mount on the wall. I used the poem Field of Grass with the ripened late summer field from Settler’s Cabin Park that I’d stood in the middle of the old park road to sketch on a piece of Canson pastel paper, watching the sun and shadow move across, watching the stalks wave together and whisper like a clique of teenagers .
You can best see the constellations by lying on your back and dreaming and in due time the sky is filled with cavorting gods and goddesses, mythological beasts, love, death, politics, art all in the air above you; yet concentration on one will cause them all to lose their magic.
So I, facing the surprise berry patch, focusing to find one berry, and then another while the clean June sun spilled over my head warming the smell of berries and leaves and dirt and small wild plants brushed the soles of my bare feet, became at the same time a small person faced with a raspberry clump taller than me, surprised to find something so joyfully abundant and free for the taking where last week there had only been leaves along this path, and, while watching the clouds forgetting the berries in both ages my hands found berry after berry and my heart found dreams.
The raspberries are finally ripening, and it’s time to go and harvest a few baskets and to visit the warm quiet places at the edges of woods filled only with the sounds of insects humming and buzzing and clicking, and birds singing to each other in the cool darkness among the trees. Though raspberry time is typically June and summer has passed its zenith, the raspberries are finally ripening in my yard and along the back roads I travel. I remember them first in the abandoned hillside pasture across the street from where I grew up, on a hot summer day, barefoot on a narrow dirt trail through the tall grasses.
In this sepia scene of late-winter twigs and matted leaves I found the small tattered orb she had built that lasted the winter, this tiny creature no larger than a grain of sand now curled in the center, her spirit long
gone from her desiccated body, yet her tiny children, awakened by a warming spring sun, will emerge from all the crevices in the plant she chose as their birthplace and find that her final creation helps provide their first meal, delicate strands catch the earliest gnats, though these too be the children of other mothers
full of hope for the generation of children
they will never meet; and so the returning songbirds will catch the tiny spiders as they leave their web of safety and find sustenance to begin their families all life toiling through the year to grow and thrive to prepare for the dark of winter and to come, again, in spring.
As the spring unfolds with longer days and milder temperatures, we remember what has passed.
It was the tiny spider in the delicate, worn web that inspired this slideshow from 2009 and poem from 2011.
Each year I leave the plants in my garden standing for the birds, insects and other residents of my garden to use for winter accommodations. In spring of 2009 I began preparing the garden section by section and happened to see this spider and her delicate web outlined in the spring sunshine. She had died long before but continued to cling there all winter long, and her web held up against any number of storms.
Her eggs would have been laid on the stem adjacent to her web which would catch the first insects in spring, and when they hatched the little spiders could have their first meal of the insects caught in the web and use her web as a launching pad. I found it so moving that on that bright early March afternoon I went through my garden looking for other such images.
All the other native plants had left behind their skeletons, and the effect of these was haunting, like finding a ghost town or an unknown world.
I had to let them say their last goodbye. I photographed each desolate construction with attention to extreme details you might never notice to show the intrinsic, transient beauty of these empty shells. The sepia tones are the natural coloring of the plants in the stark spring sunlight, that interim color palette between the blues of winter and the greens of spring. Here is a link to the original slideshow of photos taken that day; when you view it, you’ll see that many of the plants I’ve photographed are criss-crossed with tattered little webs.
I read this poem at my 2011 poetry reading at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, but did not set up a web page for that reading, and it is not included in my poetry book.