Archive October 2013


Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

You would think that flower photography would be a simple thing.  I used to think that too, until it really got a hold on me.  It’s like I’ve gotten myself into this complex multi-layered relationship.

It began simply enough … a desire to somehow capture the beauty inherent in a flower. At first, I resisted, thinking it wasn’t ‘real’ photography.  In fact, other photographers I knew had ‘flowers’ on their list of things they’d never photograph.  Too cliché. That kept me from it for years, and then layered on top of that was the resistance that comes when we are confronted by something powerful within us.  I turned away from it, maybe because it felt like it was making me a promise that I didn’t think it could keep.  That, and I didn’t understand the heart-pounding need to document all these flowers.  I still don’t, but I’ve given in.  It’s easier that way.


At first, my photos, in no way, matched the vision in my head.  So, I kept working at it.  I kept taking courses and taking photos, developing the photography skills required to pull the vision in my head into the world.  At first I worked in a dark room, spending delicious hours succumbing to the slow, timed developing process.  As digital took over I emerged blinking from the wet dark room to the digital dark room, stunned by the technology and carried along by all the changes that came with it.

Through all this, more and more often, magic happens.  I see, or rather I feel, the beauty of the flower being pulled through my lens, into my camera and eventually onto my computer screen, and then to some sort of substrate (that’s code for ‘paper’).  In the end, what I want to share is that beauty.  I want to look deeply into it and understand its message and then spread it into my little corner of the world.  Beauty matters.  Nature matters.  Whether it’s a tree, an indigo sky, or a magnificent dandelion.  The feeling is important.  Every day.


This strange compulsion takes me to some curious places.  Most of them kneeling or lying in dirt as people exchange looks as I contort myself to get closer.  Sometimes someone looks over my shoulder, wondering what could possibly warrant so much attention.  When you’re shooting macro, it can be as small as a blade of grass or a tiny Lady Slipper.  You never know. 

It’s like anything, if you take a closer look, there’s beauty within.  One thing I know for sure is that when I feel a pull at my heart to take a photograph, I need to listen because something is happening.  I don’t need to understand it with my head; my heart knows.

To this day, I’m still haunted by flowers that I passed by years ago, thinking I’d come back another day only to find the flower gone.  I realize it sounds a little crazy, but there it is.  I don’t understand it, but it is what it is.  I’ve ignored the call, but it just keeps knocking.  Resistance is futile.  I’ve realized I can find peace if I just take the darn photograph, from every possible angle.  Then I can move on. 

I am also beginning to understand that they are a portal into nature.  Something that wants to be seen and heard.  They’re something to fall in love with and we protect what we love.  The more I fall in love with flowers, the more interested I am in honoring and protecting nature as a whole living ecosystem.


So, to conclude, I don’t completely understand why I am so moved to take these photographs, but I am.  If I question it, all I need to do is walk through a garden and my heart begins to pound, and almost immediately, I’m fumbling with the zipper on my camera bag.

Some people’s callings are more concrete, like a lawyer or a doctor.  Mine’s a little fuzzier, but one thing I know for sure.  It’s in the shape of a flower.



Chrysanthemums: It’s That Time of Year

Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

Recently, I started taking floral design courses at Longwood Gardens.  Of the many unexpected pleasures found in these courses was the  discovery of Chrysanthemums (or Mums).  It’s not that I’d never seen them before, but more likely that I’d overlooked them because of their simplicity and ubiquity.   Because, where I live in Southern New Jersey, Mums are EVERYWHERE right now.  They’re a symbol that Autumn is here.

The thing I just discovered about Mums is that there are about a million different types.  Ok, maybe not a million, but check this out!  I came across this carousel when I was at Longwood last week!



For a better look, here’s a video of this Mum carousel.  (Note: The noise in the background is a water fountain, not static.)


Not only are there many different types of Mums, but they range from simple …





to fascinating …



to exotic …





The National Chryrsanthemum Society, USA ( is having its annual convention at Longwood from October 24-27, 2013.  Hmmm, maybe that’s why Longwood was Mum crazy last week.

Chrysanthemums were considered sacred in old China and only the nobility were allowed to grow them.  They eventually made their way to Japan where they were much revered —  the unfolding of the petals represented perfection.  Since 910, Japan has celebrated the Mum with National Chrysanthemum Day on the 9th day of the 9th month.

Chrysanthemum plants have been shown to reduce indoor air pollution by the NASA Clean Air Study.

If you love Chrysanthemums you have strong opinions, enlivened by a sunny temperament.  You never let the knocks of life get you down for long and your philosophy is always that the glass is half full, rather than half empty.  ~ The Secret Language of Flowers, by Samantha Gray

Chrysanthemums mean truth, perfection, joy.


The Beauty of Pollination

Posted by on Oct 17, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

The “Beauty of Pollination” is another incredible preview video from Louis Shwartzberg at Moving Art.   He originally showed this at a Ted Talk in 2011 and since then it has had almost 27 million views!  It’s from the film Wings of Life, which takes us on an adventure to reveal the world that is right in front of us. The film is narrated by a flower (Meryl Streep) and teaches the importance of flowers in nature and how they impact all living things.

The feature length movie was produced by Disneynature, and is available on Amazon.

Research has shown that viewing soothing images of nature reduces stress: measured by lowering the pulse rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. This natural beauty will inspire – help us to become more “in spirit,” renewed and reconnected. ~ Moving Art Blog

If you live in a big city or your the demands of life keep you away from nature, this might be a good interim way to bring nature and its healing into your home.  Just a thought!



Elizabeth Gilbert: The Signature of All Things

Posted by on Oct 7, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

Last week I had the enormous pleasure of going to the  Free Library of Philadelphia to see Elizabeth Gilbert (she likes to be called Liz) speak about her new novel The Signature of All Things, which hit bookshelves last Tuesday.


A Spinster Botanist Who Studies Moss.

This epic novel is about a spinster botanist, Alma Whittaker, who studies moss (in Liz’s words — a pitch you don’t want to make at a publisher’s meeting) during the golden era of botany which, at the time, was the only science in which women could participate and be respected.  

To quote Liz’s Facebook Page, in answer to reporter’s questions about the  book:

1) I wrote about botany because I am a passionate gardener who loves plants. 
2) I wrote about the 19th century because that was, to my mind, the most action-packed and exciting moment in all of botanical history.
3) And I wrote about a female botanist, because women like Alma Whittaker actually existed, and because nobody knows about them, and because they were totally fascinating and kick-ass, and because I wanted to celebrate them.

Oprah Magazine said of the author:

… She has tiptoed, pen in hand, between the age of enlightenment, with its unearthing of nature’s mysteries, to the thrilling dawn of the Industrial Revolution … She’s pushed her fingers into woolly wealths of moss. She has mulled, from the confines of her desk, the correlations of nature, the principle that connects a grain of sand to a galaxy, to create a character who does the same—who makes the study of existence her life’s purpose. And in doing so, Gilbert has written the novel of a lifetime.  —

The Creative Process.

After Eat Pray Love (and being played by Julia Roberts in the film version), and its sequel, the lesser-received Committed, she decided she could “pull a Harper Lee” or she could honour the bounty that Eat Pray Love gave her and write an epic novel.  Amidst the turmoil of fame, she had discovered a newfound love for her garden, but couldn’t envision a great epic adventure taking place there.  So she dug deeper and found a richness and depth in the botanical world.  Her research took her to far flung places and the resulting novel “soars across the globe – from London and Peru to Philadelphia, Tahiti, Amsterdam, and beyond”.  In the end, she settled on The Woodlands in Philadelphia as an inspiration for the luxurious home in which Alma Whittaker, the main character, grows up.  She wrote the novel, not far away, in her home in Frenchtown, NJ in her Skybrary.

On Writing.

She described writing as the, “thread that has knitted my life into sense”.  About the process, she went on to say that “the words want to be born, they will assist me if I don’t work against them.  If you fight something it fights you back.”  She spoke with reverence and love for the entire process of writing, disputing the idea that the work has to destroy the artist.

Her writing ritual is to start at 5:00 a.m. and go to about 10:00 a.m.  For her, it’s a seasonal thing – when she’s writing, she’s writing; when she’s doing a book tour, she’s doing the book tour.  The writing will come again, when the season comes.

When a Family Law lawyer commented that Eat Pray Love was helpful to those going through divorce and would she be exploring that theme any more, Liz said that she felt like she’d done that and that she was happier to explore drama in fiction, rather than in real life.  Also, she didn’t want to be known only as a “custodian of grief” and that she was happy to return to the world of fiction and to explore other themes.

On Fame.

As the woman at the centre of what she called the Eat Pray Love tsunami, she told us a story of meeting some older Italian women in an airport who asked her if she had something to do with that Eat Pray Love thing.  When she affirmed that she did, one of the woman went on to describe her as “that girl who novelized the movie, Eat Pray, Love”.  She laughed and told us she was going to stick with that description.  It put things into perspective.

The Road to Getting Published.

I have been following, with interest, her Facebook page where she has been chronicling the road to getting published.  This included a FB vote on the cover to bring to a conclusion a dispute she was having with her publisher (readers helped Liz win the cover she wanted!); her contagious excitement about the lovely book plates, and a peek at the covers from around the world.

And now that the book is published, she’s on tour.  Liz is an inspired  speaker who threads her comments with poetic turns of phrase, humour, humility, self-deprecation, and a reverence for the art that is writing.  Her talk was wonderful — I highly recommend catching her while she’s on tour.

The Signature of All Things is her seventh book and her third novel.  I can’t wait to read it!

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