i spend a lot of time talking about the spareness of northern winters and the endless grays of early spring, but i like to remind myself on some regular basis that the lushness of northern summers, with our soaking showers and late sunsets and hot sunshine make for a lushness that is almost as lush as the sterility of winter is sterile. this collection of broadleaf greenery was picked entirely at random over a shockingly small radius of woods and trailside within 100 feet of my front door. i think i can count 20 different species in there and maybe more if my eyes were better, and it wasn’t so late, due to the fact that the damn sun won’t go down in july around here.
july leaves from within a 50 foot radius
as a former aerospace engineer, i have a geeky affinity for redundant systems. when we used to design navigation systems for airplanes and spacecraft, we normally built in three parallel sensor systems designed to run simultaneously but separately. if one of the three systems failed, we would know it wasn’t functioning right, because we could compare it to the other two functional systems and see that its data was anomalous and we couldn’t trust it. that whole system was called fail safe, because we could affford for one of the three components to fail. once one of the three had failed, we were no longer faced with a “fail safe” system but a “fail ops” or “fail operational” system, meaning that neither of the two remaining navigation systems could be entirely trusted, because if they disagreed with each other, you didn’t know which one was right and which was wrong. At that point, the pilot had to go manual. Eventually we started using four systems instead of three, so that you were still “fail safe” even if you lost one of your four systems. that’s a very long way of introducing the black protruberances along the stem of this lily. lilies normally reproduce by underground rhizomes, but if for some reason that method fails, they can also grow from these little black marbles called bulbils. it makes me wonder why i have two ovaries but only one uterus. that strikes me as a potentially catastrophically shortsighted design flaw.
tiger lily stem with bulbils
well . . . if not man made, then woman made, i guess. this nodding onion displayed a beautiful droopingly curved sort of swan neck when i clipped it. it was perfect just the way it was. and then i put it in water, and it drank so thirstily that it began to straighten out, and lose its perfect curvilinear droop. so i tried to bend it back the way it had been all by itself before i had come along, and instead of bending back, it broke. i think there is a metaphor somewhere in there about nature, and engineering, and human intervention in healthy natural systems, but i’m not going to try to draw that conclusion for you. what i will say is that i found it perfectly beautiful in the ground, and find it imperfectly perfectly beautiful as it is now. i don’t know where that places me as an environmentalist but for the purposes of this photo, i’m choosing to be an apolitical aesthete. go ahead. judge me as you will.
nodding onion (Allium cernuum)
same subject, different perspective
this is the same palm frond that i posted yesterday, photographed from a different angle. yesterday it looked static and complete and even a little bit two dimensional. for this photo, i simply moved the camera overhead instead of off to the side, and suddenly the frond was three dimensional and kinetic and very much in the process of becoming something new. i stand by my assertion that yesterday’s photo is the prettier of the two. but this one is, in deference to my husband, pretty interesting.
once again, a house divided
i like pretty. my husband likes interesting. i took a number of interesting photos of this fern frond caught at the ultimate point between budding and blossoming. this is the prettiest of the photos. it is not the most interesting but it is the very prettiest. i like pretty. my husband likes interesting. he liked the other photos. i like this one. he is wrong. i am right.
palm frond unfurling