Seeing Here, Seeing Now

Deep-rooted sedge

Lovely though the flower of the deep-rooted sedge may be, the plant often becomes invasive. When that happens, it deserves to be dispatched, but its very attractiveness can lead to a certain dithering among those who encounter it on their property. At such times, a variation on the  advice offered by Peg Bracken, household management maven of the 1960s, proves helpful.  “When in doubt, throw it out,” she liked to say. In the case of the unwelcome sedge, “When in doubt, dig it out,” would work just as well.

Like all good aphorisms, Bracken’s has endured over time and seems infinitely adaptable, even beyond the realm of plant management.  I’ve grown fond of my own variation for writing: “When in doubt, leave it out.” It’s not only good editing advice, it’s far less harsh than, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

That memorable directive — variously attributed to William Faulkner, G.K. Chesterton, Eudora Welty, and Stephen King — seems to have originated with Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. In a 1914 lecture titled “On Style,” he said, ‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it whole-heartedly, but delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

Other bits of life advice have proven useful for my writing process. “Start where you can start, and do what you can do,” was offered up years ago by an irascible old fellow named Varnish John. He used it as an all-purpose rule for everything from boat work to hurricane recovery, but it works equally well in front of a computer.

And, after years of being familiar with Søren Kiekegaard’s famous book titled Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, I came to understand that “purity of prose is to write one thing,” and my writing improved as a result.

On the other hand, advice intended solely to aid writers struggling with their craft sometimes moves in the opposite direction, illuminating aspects of daily life.

When Avrahm Yarmolinsky translated and published “The Unknown Chekhov” in 1954, there were hints of what would become one of the most famous bits of literary advice ever offered. In a letter to his brother Alexander in May, 1886, Chekov wrote:

In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.

In his exploration of the famous quotation eventually attributed to Chekhov, the Quote Investigator hypothesizes that the suggestions contained in the letter eventually gave rise to the quotation most contemporary writers know:

Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.

One of the writers best able to capture that glint was Virginia Woolfe. In her novel The Waves, she suggests the value of the longer and perhaps more detached view, writing:

It is the panorama of life, seen not from the roof, but from the third storey window, that delights me.

And yet, in one of the book’s most delightful passages, we see not the panorama of life, but its details: an entirely compelling ground-level view where the glint of life’s light shines in a way Chekov surely would approve:

“Look at the spider’s web on the corner of the balcony,” said Bernard. “It has beads of water on it, drops of white light”
“The leaves are gathered round the window like pointed ears,” said Susan.
“A shadow falls on the path,” said Louis, “like an elbow bent.”
“Islands of light are swimming on the grass,” said Rhoda. “They have fallen through the trees.”
‘The birds eyes are bright in the tunnels between the leaves,” said Neville.
“The stalks are covered with harsh, short hairs,” said Jinny, “and drops of water have stuck to them.”

Whatever else we draw from The Waves, this much is clear. The world not only exists up there, it most assuredly thrives down here: in the palm that shelters both parrot and dove; in the sinking, sultry sun; in the extravagant cloud and the ethereal moon, pinned to Venus’ belt.

More, it lives in the now: hanging suspended between memory and imagination, past and future, dreams and obligations. Exploring Lancelot Lamar’s madness, Walker Percy writes:

To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle.

Threading the needle called life requires steadiness and vision, patience, and a willingness to endure occasional pain. That said, shadows still fall on the paths like an elbow bent. Islands of light swim on the grass, and the world continues to unroll itself for our pleasure, day after day.

With this world offering so much, and asking so little of us, surely we can find a place, and take some time, for seeing the here and the now.

 

Green anole ~Anolis carolinensis  (Click image to enlarge)
Red-banded Hairstreak ~ Calycopis cecrops (Click image to enlarge)
Unidentified hornet or wasp nest  (Click image to enlarge)
Salt Marsh Moth – Estigmene acrea (Click image to enlarge)
Eastern pondhawk dragonfly ~ Erythemis simplicicollis (Click image to enlarge)
Common Buckeye ~ Junonia coenia (Click image to enlarge)
Comments always are welcome.
All photos are mine. They were taken at the Clear Creek Nature Center, League City, Texas, October 17/18, 2015.

104 thoughts on “Seeing Here, Seeing Now

  1. I didn’t know where “light on broken glass” came from. Good sleuthing.

    You have an incredible lens on your camera, girl. To say nothing of an incredible eye. I particularly liked the hornets nest.

    1. That’s been one of my favorite sayings about writing from the time I found it, Janet. When I discovered that quotations aren’t always what they seem, I searched out several favorites at the Quote Investigator’s site. Whether Chekov did the editing himself, or whether someone else rearranged and clarified the point made in the letter, it’s still true, and it’s nice to know the history.

      This is my first post with images from my new Canon. It wasn’t until I had my eye surgery that I realized my photos weren’t really as good as I’d thought. I’d been doing some dithering of my own over buying a new camera, thinking I couldn’t afford it. After surgery, I decided I couldn’t afford not to buy one, especially since the amount of time I have left for picture-taking in this world is diminishing.

  2. Oh, I appreciate the wisdom of the Varnish John. The islands of light that had fallen through the trees and are swimming on the grass is so beautiful. Wonderful pictures!

    1. Varnish John was a treasure all his own, Bee. He was about 70 when I met him, which seemed ancient at the time, but that was twenty years ago. Now that I’m nearly that age myself, it’s clear that it isn’t ancient at all.

      It occurs to me that you really would enjoy “The Waves.” It’s different from other Woolf works: more poetic, and quite interesting in its structure. And, there are qualities in your writing that remind me of Woolf’s writing in the novel.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, too. As you and the kids know, you can see some amazing things if you slow down and look.

      1. Thank you, Linda, your comparing Virginia Woolf to some of my writing is quite generous… I am definitely checking out the Waves. I had been listening to and reading Annie Dillard and enjoyed some parts. Sometimes too rich for my taste even.
        It is so wonderful that you are reaching not an ancient age but a wise age. Truthfully, I am really looking forward to dip into my next decade and to be a bit older. Youth is sweet and charming but it is the age that is truly beautiful.
        Congratulations on that new camera. I know how exciting and even addictive exploring the world through a camera eye can be. Have fun!!!

        1. I came across this field guide last night and thought it might be of use to you. Click the image, and the whole series of ID pages opens up. It’s fascinating. I roamed around a bit through the animals and other plants, too — what a great resource!

          It’s true that I return to certain chapters in “Pilgrim” more than others. I need to give the whole thing another read, just to see if the years have made some of them more accessible and interesting.

          Another of her books that I’ve read and re-read is “The Writing Life.” It’s a slim volume, but the things she has to say are affirming for me. since It’s the only place I’ve found my approach to writing so perfectly described. It’s encouraging.

          1. Wow, thank you, Linda!!! This is so neat. We will definitely explore that. Also, you reminded me it is time to visit Field Museum on some colder rainier day. :)
            I did love some chapters of Pilgrim. In fact, we listened to some of them on tape with kids.

    1. Thanks, Rosemary. Believe me, I love the detail, too. As I noted above, I finally purchased a new Canon, and my delight is unbounded.

      There’s a lot to learn: that goes without saying. But I have my own little learning lab, now. The photos that work, I’ll celebrate. The ones that don’t, I’ll learn from, then toss. I know that works for writing, too, and I suspect it works for your sketches.

  3. Gee you just get better and better. The writing and the photographing is going fast forward. I really enjoyed reading the quotes of various writers but specifically Varnish John’s ideas.“Start where you can start, and do what you can do,” Seems like marvelous advice. Maybe I’ll follow that advice and finish some of those pet stories on my blog or maybe not.

    1. One of the reasons the photos are better is that I have a new camera, Yvonne. I kept putting it off, telling myself that it’s not equipment that makes a photographer. True enough, but good equipment can make a heck of a difference. Besides, after getting my “new eyes,” I realized I had been seriously misjudging my photos. They weren’t nearly as good as I imagined. So, I made the leap, and I couldn’t be happier.

      Clearly, I need to tell a bit more about Varnish John. I never did know him by any other name, but he was wonderfully generous with his advice when I was a new varnisher. And, after Hurricane Ike, that same advice served a lot of us well.

        1. I think that’s a good idea, Yvonne — writing about Varnish John. I’ll see about doing just that.

          I finally decided to stick with Canon. I got the Rebel T6s, with an 18-135mm lens. Some day, I’ll want another lens, but I won’t make that move until I’ve learned how to use what I have. With luck, being ready for a new lens and being able to afford a new lens will occur at about the same time.

          One thing I like about the setup I have now is that it’s so comfortable to hold, carry, and use. I’d read so much about how heavy DSLR cameras are with their lenses attached that I was a little nervous, but it’s fine. Of course, as a friend pointed out, I use tools every day, and my heavy-duty orbital sander weighs twice as much as the camera and lens, so I may have an advantage in that regard.

          1. The canon is go0d for most of the lens are interchangeable on that camera, I think. I have a canon and I wish that I could afford a better lens for birds and butterflies but oh well, it is what it is and I have to happy with my present equipment. I hope you write about Varnish John one day. I bet the post will be super good.

  4. You have selected wonderful examples of “exquisite word pictures.” I’ve been trying to follow your advice and come up with even one statement about one of your pictures which would do it justice. I can’t. So I’ll just say they are beautiful. (Come on, Oneta, finish the thought – beautiful as ….what?) Maybe – beautiful as a moonlit night reflected by the glint of broken glass on the grass with swimming water drops with the shadow of a bent elbow – or was that the shadow of a wolf rolling by. Oh, Linda. I’m getting too silly. It’s bedtime. Loved your post. Hopefully I’m not your brightest student!

    1. Oh, Oneta — what a wonderful comment, and what a good laugh you gave me. It may be of some comfort to you to know that I thought, very briefly, about appending a Woolf-ish line to each photo. I gave that up pretty quickly, while still pondering the anole, and decided it would be better to let the photos stand on their own.

      In a way, it’s that simplicity thing again. A simple “they’re beautiful” is often better than any flowery and over-extended metaphor. So, in the same vein: thank you!

    1. Because of my own painful encounter with some paper wasps that built nests in my ficus tree, I thought of them initially, but I learned their nests are much smaller, and differently attached than this one. This was ball-shaped, and larger than a softball. When I finally get these beauties properly identified, I’ll update the information.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post — many thanks.

  5. “Lovely though the flower of the deep-rooted sedge may be, the plant often becomes invasive. When that happens, it deserves to be dispatched,”

    I joke about living next door to the Minnesota Mosquito Refuge, it is in fact, the Carex State Wildlife Management Area. Carex is the genus of sedge.

    But speaking of grass, an old wise man was traveling across North Dakota with a not so wise young man (who will remain nameless). Near Minot, they stopped to rest and the old man asked the young man, “What do you see?”

    The young man looked at the utterly flat, treeless landscape and said, “nothing.”

    “Then look into the grass,” the old guy said, “there is a world down there.”

    1. I only learned the word “Carex” about four days ago, and only learned about sedges in the past few months. Your references to the Mosquito Refuge always have tickled me, but it’s good to know that it’s a real place, offering some real joys and opportunities.

      Your story’s wonderful. It reminds me of my conviction that the so-called “vacant lot” doesn’t exist. There’s always something in those lots; the trick is to find it.

      In the same way, the complaint of the bored — “There’s nothing to do!” — says more about the complainer than it does about their actual options. Nothing to do? I can’t imagine.

  6. You already know how much I enjoy your written work and the thorough research that precedes your work.

    This time, not only your words are sparkling and glowing, but also your photographs. I can see you are enhancing the quality of your visual work.

    I’m studying the techniques of macro and close-up photography. There is so much out there, that can not be seen with your naked eye.

    Excellent post, as usual, dear Linda.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

    1. I have to give much of the credit for any enhanced photo quality to the new camera, Omar.

      On the other hand, I’ve been following you and some other splendid photographers for seveal years now, soaking up tips and hints and watching how all of you do things. I think that has put me in a better position to make effective use of the new camera.

      Why, I’ve even made my way through the instruction manual that came with the thing, page by page. You know me well enough to know what kind of commitment that represents!

      Thanks so much for your kind words — and for all those great equipment posts you’ve put together for us.

      Linda

    1. Speaking of brains, you know how mine works from time to time. “Visual pops” sounds remarkably like a cereal from the 1950s: perhaps with a tagline like, “Breakfast of Champion Photographers.”
      Apparently I ate more Sugar Pops than I realized, or watched a lot of commercials.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It was truly enjoyable to put together.

      1. You are such a crafty weaver of words and threads. I marvel at how smoothly your info and transitions between specific parts flow from one to the next. Your knack for ‘putting it all together” is admired and even envied!

  7. Those photos are spectacular.

    I remember Varnish John and his wise advice. We should all follow it.

    H is forever finding something in the garden and saying, “I’ll leave it until I can figure out what it is.” He’s a guy that likes to give everything and everyone a chance. Oh, boy. Sometimes you get a lovely surprise and sometimes you go back a week later and have some weeding to do.

    Great post, Linda.

    1. I’ll bet the fuzzy one is cuter than your centipede, Bella. I’m not sure if I found him or he found me. When I first spotted him, he was crawling up the front of my shirt. I don’t know if he came all the way up my pant leg, or if I brushed against him and he stuck.

      I’ll tell you this — he wasn’t much willing to let go. They have quite a grip. But no harm was done. I got him onto a grass stem, and he roamed around for a while before finally climbing onto the goldenrod and settling down so I could take his photo. I’m so glad I was patient.

      The good news about H is that he’s willing to deal with whatever appears. It may take a while, but better he’s in the garden than tree trimming.

      I do need to bring Vanish John back for another go-around. His kind is rare, and that advice is timeless. Its corollary, of course, is “Do what you can, not what you can’t.”

  8. Fabulous jewels Linda, my mind and eye, thank you!
    On editing: brevity is important, but perspective is everything.
    Now, I’m off to hang Varnish John’s snippet of wisdom where it can be seen, often.

    1. Deb, your comment about editing and brevity reminded me of one of my favorite lines from Flannery O’Connor: “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” Of course, if you’re writing ad copy other rules apply.

      I mentioned to Bella, up above, the corollary to Vanish John’s first rule. That would be: “Do what you can, not what you can’t.” Put those two together, and I believe they could get a person through life.

  9. Ah, Linda, these photos are gorgeous!! Such incredible detail you’ve captured, and I can’t help but be impressed you got close enough to that wasp’s nest for us to practically hear the buzzing!!

    “Kill your darlings” resonates with me. I think we all tend to be proud of something we’ve written that, to us at least, sounds fabulous. Cutting that passage out feels heartless (but is probably just what the piece calls for).

    I guess we don’t have sedge here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any, nor do I recall seeing any when I lived in Texas. Perhaps that’s one of those “mousy” plants I just never noticed — thanks for calling it to my attention!

      1. Thank you so much, Steve! I really had no idea — somehow, I must have missed noticing these (or noticing them, just assumed they were a weed of some sort, ha!)

    1. Sedges are like grasses, Debbie, in the sense that there are many varieties. Just as we have buffalo grass, bluegrass, and Bermuda grass, there are (for example) one-headed sedges, beak-less sedges, and hairy sedges. I was surprised to discover that papyrus and water chestnuts are sedges. And if you’re ever out with Dallas and find something with a triangular stem, it most likely is a sedge.

      I’ve never seen a nest like that. I often see mud daubers or paper wasps, but this one was different, and impressive. I was about twenty feet from it, but even though they didn’t seem to be interested in me, I wasn’t going to tempt fate by moving in any closer.

      As for killing our darlings — there’s another side to that coin. We have to be willing to fight for them, too. Just because someone says, “That’s bad, and it has to go” doesn’t mean it is bad, or that getting rid of it’s the only answer. That’s what makes the process so interesting: the need to figure out what stays, and what goes.

      By the way, I see the Texas Aggies are visiting Ole Miss on Saturday. You should thank your lucky stars they’re not playing here. Buckets of rain are forecast.

      1. Thanks for the info, Linda — I’ll keep an eye out for Sedges. I love what you said about killing our darlings, too — so often, we tend to cave when we’re criticized, when sometimes we’re right all along! Yep, this is a BIG game for us (and we’re expecting showers as well, though nothing like what Hurricane Patricia is going to bring. Stay safe out there!

  10. You are certainly seeing here — and now with your new camera! Wonderful closeup detail shots, Linda. You’re also applying these aphorisms of writing to photography, too.

    1. There’s no question my eye surgery has made an enormous difference, nikkipolani. The red-banded hairstreak was such a wee thing, I never would have seen it before my surgery. Or, if I had, I wouldn’t have been able to track its flight. Even being able to pick out a single guara in a sea of grass is a new delight.

      Now that you mention it, I have been putting those little rules to some use — especially when it comes to the culling!

  11. “When in doubt, throw it out” seems to have preceded my years as a math teacher, during which I often told my students ““When in doubt, try it out.” I’d noticed that when students confronted a math problem and weren’t sure whether a certain approach was legitimate, they’d often do nothing. My refrain was a shorthand way of telling them to try out the approach in question on a simplified version of the problem, one that they could easily verify the validity of. If the approach worked in those simple cases, it was likely (though not guaranteed, of course) to be correct. Better to go ahead and possibly get somewhere than to sit and do nothing.

    1. A good example of “When in doubt, try it out” was when you asked on your blog whether we could figure out how to get the two longer sides of a right triangle, knowing only the shortest, odd-numbered side.

      I had to make three runs at it, but I finally found a solution — with a hint or two, of course. If I’d had the pleasure of working my way to solutions like that in math classes, I might been less frozen with anxiety.

      As a matter of fact, I another recent experience of fun with math. The first week I had the camera, I took it to work with me, to take a photo of the osprey that’s been hanging around atop a nearby mast. I thought he’d be out of range for my lens, but I was curious, and it was worth a try.

      After I got some images, I wondered how far away he was. Imagine my surprise when I realized I could figure it out. I was 20′ away from the boat. The combined height of the boat and the mast was 70′ from the dock. Pythagoras to the rescue! 400 + 4900 = 5300, with a square root of roughly 72.8. So, yon osprey was about 73′ away. It amazed me that I “saw” the solution so easily. Talk about a sea change!

      1. When one of the sides of a right triangle is several or many times the other (as 70 is 3.5 times 20), the hypotenuse won’t be much longer than the longer of the two sides (72.8 compared to 70) because the squaring gives much more weight to the longer side.

      2. By the way, Merriam-Webster traces the first known use of “sea change” back to 1612, when the expression presumably had its literal sense of “a change brought about by going to sea,” which the dictionary marks as archaic.

        If a landlubber experiences a sea change, does a mariner experience a land change? In our era a “plane change” seems a much likelier candidate for an abrupt bringer of novelty, as when in February after barely more than 24 hours I found myself on the other side of the globe in New Zealand.

        1. The dictionary may mark “sea change” as archaic, but the experience still is real.

          The thought of a land change is intriguing. It’s true that, after some time at sea, the first hint of land can be smell rather than sight. It’s amazing how far from the coast the fragrance of earth can travel. And while it isn’t exactly a land change, it often took me some time to trade sea legs for land legs. Like many people, I had a few hours of feeling the earth “move” with the rhythm of the boat if I closed my eyes.

  12. “To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle.”

    By coincidence, a PBS show about the human brain that aired last night included the case of someone whose epilepsy began in childhood and gradually worsened to the point that the young man could barely function. In desperation, surgeons removed his hippocampus. That indeed cured him of his epilepsy, but it also left the man incapable of forming memories. It seems that the hippocampus also allows us to extrapolate into and speculate about the future, which the man was therefore also incapable of doing. As a result, he lived in an eternal present—a sad one that, if I recall correctly, lasted for some four decades.

    1. There’s been much written of late about memory loss and its consequences, but the loss of both past and future is remarkable. The almost constant injunction in some circles to live in the “now” is understandable, given human tendencies toward distractedness and anxiety. On the other hand, without history and hope, it seems to me life in the present would leave us on the level of the dragonfly or moth.

      I’ve read and saved two compelling articles on memory recently. One, by Oliver Sacks, deals with memory formation. The other, “Hope Is the Enemy” by Dasha Kiper, speaks to dementia.

      Kiper’s article begins with a quotation from Jorge Luis Borges that certainly is appropriate for this post: “A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing.”

      And then there’s this:

      “Memory isn’t just about remembering, and memory loss isn’t just about forgetting. Memory is responsible for creating continuity, meaning, and coherence both for ourselves and for those around us. Its integration into every function of life, from speaking and learning to the forming of relationships, actually makes its loss all the more difficult to comprehend, since the visible repercussions – repetition, confusion, anxiety, and mood swings – distract us from the deeper, more intangible privation.”

      1. You may not have noticed your alliterative phrase “history and hope,” which would be an excellent title for an article or a book.

        In the same vein as the line you quoted, “Memory is responsible for creating continuity, meaning, and coherence both for ourselves and for those around us,” is the much-quoted (and often truncated, misquoted, or paraphrased) statement by George Santayana in The Life of Reason: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

        1. I hadn’t noticed “history and hope”, but you’re right about its possibilities as a title. It took me a minute to figure out what a misquotation of Santayana’s words could be: but then I figured out a couple of possiblities, and they were easy enough to find online.

  13. A great post on writing, Linda. It reminds me of guidelines I often follow myself, such as “kill your darlings” or “show it, don’t tell”. I don’t know where those quotes come from, but they are good advice – although, as always, one should not be afraid of breaking out of the conformity.

    1. In my early years of schooling, we always had some time set aside for what was termed “show and tell.” It was a time for us to bring something of interest, show it to our classmates, and then tell them about it. Your comment brought it to mind, and reminds me that showing and telling can be combined in a multitude of ways.

      Sometimes, pulling them apart can lead to unhappy results. Just telling (as in a certain kind of sermon, or college lecture classes) can lead to glazed eyes or a closed book. On the other hand, there are times when just showing (as with your Instagram photos) can be interesting and evocative. Figuring out how to balance the two, and how to use the different techniques, is the trick.

    1. Perfect, Susan, and so much like this in form, I can’t help adding:

      I have read
      the poem
      that was in
      your comment,

      and which
      you were probably
      saving
      for this post.

      No forgiveness
      is necessary.
      It was so bright
      and so bold.

  14. My, what a glorious harvest from Clear Creek Nature Center! These together with marvelous words – both yours and those quoted – are very fine invitations to look with some intention. I have found it interesting that, ever since I started blogging, I wind my way through the week with some attention to the blank page awaiting me Saturday. The decision to write, I think, shapes the way I see the world. I think it feeds a hunger of sorts. Thanks for the added nudge!

    1. Allen, I agree with you completely that the intention to write shapes the nature of the attention we give to the world. Not only are we called to look, we need to look closely, and carefully. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.”

      Of course, choices have to be made. A topic, once chosen, narrows our focus for a time. But then? We widen our view again, and wait for another path to suggest itself. I don’t know how it is for you, but I find the repetition of the pattern not only comfortable, but quite satisfying.

  15. Lots of great quotes. I also hadn’t known where the broken glass quote originated. The photos are wonderful. I think that my favorite is the picture of the Common Buckeye.

    1. I was interested to discover how that Chekov quotation developed, too, Sheryl. So many bits of wisdom come to us only as disconnected sentences, or sometimes paragraphs. When we learn something about their context, accidentally or otherwise, they often become even more meaningful.

      I’m glad you like the photos. I was surprised to learn that the markings on the Buckeye, which do look so much like eyes, are thought to be a defensive mechanism. Any predator up above would think, “What big eyes! It must be a big critter!” and leave it alone. It really is amazing.

      1. How true that many bits of wisdom come to us as disconnected sentences. Often when I read a book, just one sentence will jump out at me–and I’ll remember it. In some ways I’m not sure that it’s wise to lift sentences out of their context, but there are so many gems interspersed among less memorable text.

        1. Exactly right. And, if a particular sentence gives us pleasure, or inspires us, I see no reason not to keep it, and enjoy it. That sort of out-of-context use is rather different than a journalist quoting out of context, for example.

  16. One, Linda, I am really impressed with your photography. It seems to me that you have improved over the past year.

    Two, simplifying is always a challenge. I just read your comments on Practicing Resurrection. Clutter in our lives, clutter in our minds, and clutter in our writing happens, naturally. I’m convinced. Entropy rules and chaos is always always easier to achieve than order. That’s my two cents on the subject. –Curt

    1. I think I have improved over the years in my photo composition, Curt, but much of the credit for these great photos belongs to my brand, spanking new Canon Rebel T6s. Good equipment a photographer does not make, but good equipment certainly can help any photographer. It frustrates me now that I didn’t get the better camera earlier, to have it for some of my travels, but that can’t be helped. Expect to see a mix of point-and-shoot and DSLR photos for a while.

      I’m not sure whether we achieve chaos, or whether it simply is, but there’s no question that bringing order out of chaos is an on-going task. On the other hand, there’s such a thing as a happy complexity, too: and uniformity isn’t necessarily order. It’s fun to think about such things, and even more fun to grapple with them in daily life.

      1. Good camera’s do make a difference, as does having any camera at all! My dad, who always carried a camera, was frustrated that I never did in all of my wandering. It was only after he passed away that I became dedicated to recording my travels with a camera as well as words. Maybe his ghost got to me.

        I happy to allow a bit of chaos in my life. I think we lose something when we focus too much on control and order. –Curt

  17. Nice post! I really like your images, particularly the Salt Marsh Moth and the Deep-rooted Sedge. Steve, from the wildflower blog, made me fall in love with wildflowers some time ago. If you only knew, I dream of North American flora and going back to the U.S. again.

    Your writing is very beautiful also. “Threading the needle called life requires steadiness and vision, patience, and a willingness to endure occasional pain. That said, shadows still fall on the paths like an elbow bent. Islands of light swim on the grass, and the world continues to unroll itself for our pleasure, day after day.” This is beautiful.

    When I was very young, I read more philosophy than fiction novels, and one writer called “François de La Rochefoucauld”:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/François_de_La_Rochefoucauld_(writer)
    was an all-aphorism writer. He was very influential to Friedrich Nietzsche, and I consider his little book “The maxims of de la Rochefoucauld” a little philosophical jewel. They are all philosophical aphorisms of existential nature.

    Linda, I like what you did with your blog. You eliminated the “Likes”. I’m thinking of doing the same thing pretty soon. I see it’s the only way to narrow down blogs which are worth reading. I don’t know when, however, because it’s somewhat of a transition, for me anyway.

    Best,
    Maria

    1. I have so much to learn about the new camera, Maria, but I am very pleased with it. I’m getting used to the necessary new routines (keeping track of the lens cap, keeping spare batteries and cards at hand) and it’s not at all awkward to use. For the time being, I’m just taking as many photos as I can, in a variety of settings. When one is especially good or especially bad, I stop and ask myself: why? Once I’ve figured it out, or think I have, I go back to experimenting.It’s great fun.

      I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the writing in this post, too. Beautiful language pleases me, but it’s not always easy to achieve. Always, there is emotion involved, and a degree of self-revelation. For someone who tends to be more private, and somewhat introverted, overcoming internal barriers to writing is far more difficult than constructing a coherent paragraph.

      I was delighted to be reminded of La Rochefoucauld. He was part of my school curriculum, and now that you’ve brought up his “Maxims,” I’ll search them out. I like to contemplate little snippets of wisdom while at work, and these would be perfect. Perhaps a maxim a day will keep boredom at bay!

      It’s interesting that you bring up my blog. I’ve just gone through a period of trying to decide whether to adopt a new theme. In the end, I decided against it.

      I did decide against the like button when it first arrived. There are arguments for and against, of course, and I don’t mind it on others’ blogs, but I prefer comments to likes, and I can remember only a handful of times when I liked a post rather than commenting. I wanted to encourage conversation here, and eliminating the like option seemed a way to support that.

      Another reason to eliminate the like button, as well as a blogroll, awards, calendars, and such, is to keep the format simple. This is a very old theme, and it’s not one made to automatically adjust for mobile devices. Cleaning things up makes it easier for people reading on tablets or phones.

      And, it decreases the page load time. When I first ran my blog through a speed test, it was loading at 3.8 or 3.9 seconds. I just ran a test at Pingdom, and the load time was 1.17 seconds, faster than 87% of the sites they’ve tested. Even on a blog page, decluttering is good!

        1. I meant to add that I do use the Like function for responding to some comments, especially if there’s been a back-and-forth, and another comment isn’t necessary. It’s a nice way of saying, “I’ve read your comment, and appreciate it.”

  18. As ever Linda, your blog is a haven of varied delights and practical tips. Many thanks for the Quote Investigator link – it’s an important one to have since exact attribution is often not an exact science…loved the photos, and the quotes are sending me back to re-read The Waves.

    1. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used the Quote Investigator’s site since finding him. He’s on Twitter, too, and well worth following @QuoteResearch. He tweets irregularly, but always with panache.

      I was so happy to dive back into “The Waves” that I nearly didn’t towel off to finish this post. All I wanted to do was keep reading. I found my battered old copy, and have it out for our rainy weekend. It’s one of those special books. I’m not surprised to know you’ve read it, and suspect it may have been more than once.

  19. Highly detailed photographs with a delightful new camera. Congrats. The shots are lovely.
    As for advice to budding writers. My recipe is as follows:

    Diction + Detail+Tone = Voice (and voice is the most important aspect of high quality writing)

    1. Now you know why I’ve been prowling around, making inquiries, I’m not one to obsessively research a purchase, but I like to know what the options are, and I’ve always thought that seeing what people can do with their cameras is a far better way to judge than reading reviews.

      It’s funny — I don’t exactly disagree with your recipe, but I can feel something missing. I agree completely that voice is the sine qua non for high quality writing, but it seems to me that some aspect of voice develops separately from diction, detail, and tone — and then influences those three.

      Here’s one way to put it: whether I’m describing a hillside, writing dialogue, or making an argument, every word I write should be true, in the old, builder’s plumbline sense of true. In that sense, voice is an expression of self — neither narcissistic nor confessional, nor self-obsessed, but something deeper, and more real.

      That’s put terribly, and I need to think about it more. Somewhere in this blog, I know there are a couple of paragraphs about the issue. If I can find them, I’ll bring them around.

      1. Voice is like your fingerprint–individual to you. If I were to put your writing, my writing, and Kayti’s writing on a page without name, can I know whose writing is mine, yours, Kayti’s? Yes. That’s voice. It’s as difficult to create as it is to photograph lightning.

        1. Photographing lightning: a good analogy. And of course it reminds me of another bit of wisdom I’ve always enjoyed, but haven’t thought of for a while. In a letter to George Bainton, October 15, 1888, Mark Twain wrote, “The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

  20. Wow Linda, there is just SO much here to investigate, (the ongoing conversations complex and informative) but there’s just not enough time to indulge myself (November Show season is fast approaching): so I’ve made a note to come back.

    But, having said that, I LOVE Osprey! There are many in this area and, to me, they seem the bird version of the Raccoon – highly intelligent, mischievous-looking bandits, with a distinctly lethal side. Definitely would not want to be impaled on those amazing fish hooks! Great pic, Linda – and looking directly at you, too – talk about Focus, hey?

    Hope Patricia’s short and sweet. Meanwhile, be well… D.

    1. I experienced something with that osprey I’ve never seen before, although I’ve often read of the behavior. While we were watching one another, he began moving his head from side to side. I haven’t yet discovered what the behavior indicates: whether its simple interest, curiosity, or something else. But it was fun to see. He may have been sizing me up, but decided I was too big to tackle. (They do take squirrels around here from time to time. I didn’t know that, either.)

      It’s not yet started raining here, although the moisture plume from Patricia, combined iwth some other factors, is bringing substantial rain and flooding west of us. I’ve finished my Saturday chores, so I’m ready to amuse myself with inside pursuits for the rest of the weekend.

  21. You’re using that new camera, aren’t you/ And I’d say that though it’s new, you’ve mastered the art of the detail! These are incredible, each and every one. And how fortunate you are to find them all (though the hornets nest gives me the chills!). Your words on observation go to so many I’ve thought of — the seeing of the details, not just the big things — or rather, looking at the third storey. There’s such meat to treasure here — I must share this with some writer friends!

    1. Yes, ma’am, I am. The only thing I hate is that I didn’t have it during my travels over the past couple of years. I’ve planned some photo-heavy posts that would have been ever so much better if I’d had the new camera (or so I imagine). But, I’m certainly not throwing out the old photos, so there just will be a mix for a while.

      The biggest mystery to me is how much more I’m suddenly seeing. I’ve never encountered anything I showed in these photos, except the anole. I suspect it’s a combination of factors: new eyes, knowledge gained about the natural world, the slowing down that seems a natural result of carrying a camera.

      That last factor is an interesting one. While I was out last weekend, I saw several people who were taking photos with their phones. They barely would pause before snapping, and none ever fully stopped. I saw one woman take a photo of the field where the caterpillar was grazing, without even pausing. She just flicked up her phone, clicked, and kept going. She has the proof that she “saw” the field of flowers. But, did she see it?

  22. I read many of your WP entries, but don’t often post a comment, but had to comment on this. The photos are wonderful, so much clarity and detail, with spot-on focus. I was glad to see you had been “out” with the new camera for a couple of days.
    Hopefully we won’t be seeing images of flooding in the next WP entry!
    Take care.

    1. You know what’s funny, Sandi? I thought of you the other day when I couldn’t find my camera bag. Of course it still was in the car, but I remembered that time you left yours sitting on a table during one of your photo shoots. I don’t know where you were, but I remember you posting a picture of the house — red brick, I think it was. Anyway: lots of memories, and a lot of eagerness to cultivate the same sort of enjoyment you’ve had for years.

      Who knows? I may even start posting to my never-activated Flickr account. Or something. I’ve no desire to turn this site into a photo blog, but there’s still the impulse to share. We’ll see what develops.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and especially for those kind words about the photos. Here’s one thing I find curious. Dixie Rose has been camera-averse since the first time an unplanned flash went off when I was taking a picture of her. This camera doesn’t seem to bother her at all. I’ve even taken some flash photos, and she just looked at me. I can’t explain it, but it certainly is an added benefit to the new camera!

      So far, no rain here. It’s on the way, but aparently won’t begin until this afternoon or evening. Slow mover. Farther west, it’s been a mess, but still not as bad as Memorial Day, from what I can tell.

  23. A lovely bit of writing and I can see the difference in the photographs. They’re so sharp and detailed.

    Oh, do write something about Varnish John. I’d love to hear more about him. I think about his saying, “Start where you can start and do what you can do” when I get overwhelmed at work. Which has been quite often, lately!

    How are you faring with the TX deluge? From what I’m hearing, the TX rain totals may just beat out SC’s from 2 weeks ago.

    1. I was going to say we still hadn’t seen any action from this system, Gué, but that no longer would be true. It’s truly raining now — but it’s a very nice, well-behaved rain. I’ve got my buckets out, and probably will have re-supplied my plants by tomorrow.

      I was astonished to find that roads like I-45 well north of us had been closed by flooding. We expect it on the coastal roads down here, especially with high tides, but that’s something different. The terrible irony is that this is the weekend Carolyn was to move back into her house. Believe me, I have my fingers crossed that the bayou doesn’t flood again. That would be such a painful experience — to say the least.

      With Princess to get me around, the camera to record what I see, and the computer to help me share it, I figure I’m pretty well set for the rest of my life. Or, at least as long as I stay mobile and semi-coherent!

  24. I loved the quotes, almost impressionistic! This was my favourite impressionist piece…

    In descriptions of Nature one must seize on small details, grouping them so that when the reader closes his eyes he gets a picture. For instance, you’ll have a moonlit night if you write that on the mill dam a piece of glass from a broken bottle glittered like a bright little star, and that the black shadow of a dog or a wolf rolled past like a ball.

    Now that is utterly paintable!
    Your pictures are stunning, such clarity. I did enjoy seeing some of your native wildlife, especially the Hornet’s nest and the Red-Banded Hairstreak.xxx

    1. It is paintable, isn’t it? There was an artist from Louisiana who captured the spirit of that “black shadow of a dog” so beautifully. His name was George Rodrigue, and his Blue Dog is famous: at least in these parts. This is one of the paintings that came to mind when you highlighted those words about the dog.

      I’m glad you liked the photos, too. You’re accustomed to wildlife photography, and do such a good job. For me, it’s a new experience, and the fact that I can capture something like a butterfly amazes me. I was pretty surprised to find the hornets’ nest, too. Of course I’ve seen many around houses and bridges, but to find one hanging from a tree in the woods was special.

  25. The here and now is really all we have. We can study and learn from the past and use that to plan for an unguaranteed future but life is what is happening now. I often think of time as a crest we ride, the past propelling us as we constantly move forward into the unknown. Despite all our preparations, there will always be surprise waiting. For the constant now we are best just to try to stay in the moment.

    It’s nice to see the nature of your surrounds…especially the Salt Marsh Moth caterpillar and the Common Buckeye.

    1. One of the theologians I’ve especially appreciated is Paul Tillich, who wrote an influential book titled “The Eternal Now.” Though some of the language he uses differs from yours, parts of his message are very much the same.

      Here’s a question. If time is the crest we ride, what does hanging ten look like? And where can I buy the board, and take the lesson — or find the gnarly wave, for all that?

      Isn’t the caterpillar fun? You may have missed reading that, when I first found him, he was crawling up my shirt. Who knows how he got there. I think he was pretty happy to land back on a flower, though.
      What surprised me is that no one has mentioned my favorite — the dragonfly with his lunch. I’m not sure what he’s eating It might be a fly. There’s one of those surprises you were talking about. I didn’t know I’d captured anything more than a dragonfly on a branch until I got home and uploaded the image.

      1. I did notice the dragonfly’s lunch. It is always a nice surprise when you miss something positive. Usually when we miss something we go “DOH!” why didn’t I see that “whatever” that has ruined my picture. Not the case here.

        1. I was surprised at the number of flies, spiders, bees, and mysterious other buzzy things that showed up after I uploaded the files. If I’d known some of them were around — like a brilliant turquoise and green fly that looked like it had been enameled — I would have tried harder to get them in focus. Next time!

    1. Some time back, Wendy, I read an off-handed comment by a very good photographer, who said he only posts his best. These look pretty good, but of the photos I’ve taken, I suppose I’ve kept ten of every hundred, and consider one of every ten worth posting publicly. Over time, that will improve. But will I have more fun? I doubt it.

      It’s a good weekend to stay nose to the bank. Stay safe and dry!

    1. You’re welcome, Terry. I’ve often thought the line from Chekov (as revised, or not) could serve as a pretty good substitute for an MFA writing course: especially if it was taken seriously, and a lot of work put into doing what it advises.

  26. Well Linda, looking at these images, and reading about your new camera, I can only ask ” when is your photo book coming out?”

    1. Oh, eremophila — that’s truly funny. These images look nice, but none of them (except perhaps the dragonfly having lunch) is unusual enough for a book, and none of them are of high enough quality. You’re sweet to suggest it, but when I look at the work of the professionals I follow, I see how far I have to go.

      Right now, I’m just enjoying the process — especially the way it’s slowed me down to notice things in the world I’ve never seen. Learning about them after the fact is great fun, too!

      1. Ah yes Linda, others may have ‘better’ images, but the combination of your words, with your images, make it special.

    1. And isn’t it true that the “telling detail” is so much better than simple detail, piled up for its own sake? Your ability to pick out telling details is what makes your posts so much fun to read.

  27. The new camera is wonderful. You say you are just starting…many would like to just end up this good.
    Lots to mull over in the post – great phrases.

    “Murder your darlings” made me laugh – it’s good advice. “More, it lives in the now: hanging suspended between memory and imagination, past and future, dreams and obligations.” Another winner.

    Looks like the grey is cloaking us. A good time to muse over phrases and such – try to put the puzzle together. Nice read, thanks
    (Quote Investigator is so much fun to wander around in, isn’t it?)

    1. It’s going to be an indoor morning, for sure. Time to upload camera instruction manuals to the computer, write blog posts, sort photos. There’s nothing quite like the delicate blue glow of transformers blowing. The lights are flickering like crazy. That’s all right. I have my coffee made, and the tornado warning’s expired. Life is good.

      Gray days are good for musing, aren’t they? They seem to encourage the kind of slowing down that’s necessary for the sort of mental process we call musing. “Thinking about” is fine, but it’s too purposeful, too goal-oriented, for some sorts of things.

      I do enjoy the Quote Investigator. Sometimes, I’ll go over just to browse. It’s always worthwhile.

      1. The skull shaped asteroid missed us 5 min.ago – guess we have to pay those bills.
        Grey days are perfect…if you’re not a dog nanny. (We got up early before the rain for outdoor facilities. Whew!) Oh, to be an indoor cat on a day like this.

  28. Linda, this post reminds me of a short piece I read in a Readers Digest publication in my early teens. In that piece, an old man asks a younger man who is nearby talking to someone else to please tell him in his own words what the morning looks like. The younger man obliges and describes in vivid, beautiful detail the sights and sounds of life all around them. He ends by asking the old man: “Can’t you see, man? Can’t you see?”

    The old man replies that he can’t because he is blind. Then he thanks the younger man for helping him to “see” again for a brief moment.

    Sadly, too many of us are so caught up with the spurious things of life, we often fail to take the time for seeing and appreciating the here and the now.

    1. That’s a wonderful tale. Two things strike me about the younger man: first, that he would be willing to take the time to accede to the older man’s request, but even more, that he had the skill to do so.

      On the other hand, the hunger of the older man to see again — even at second hand — is so poignant. Isn’t it ironic that so many of us, perfectly capable of sight, take so little time to look? The expression “short-sighted” certainly applies.

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