Attentiveness

(Click to enlarge)

 

One flower at a time, please,
however small the face.
Two flowers are one flower
too many, a distraction.
Three flowers in a vase begin
to be a little noisy.
Like cocktail conversation,
everybody talking.
A crowd of flowers is a crowd
of flatterers (forgive me).
One flower at a time.  I want
to hear what it is saying.
                                                      “Bouquet” ~ Robert Francis

 

 

As he did in his poem “Waxwings,” Robert Francis has portrayed a bit of the natural world with a simplicity, directness, and subtle humor I find deeply appealing.

A serendipitous discovery made during a recent browse through his work helps to explain that appeal. In a poem titled “Glass,” I found this line:

“Words should be looked through, should be windows…”

I smiled in recognition. In comments appended to an entry I posted in October, 2009, I wrote:

When I began blogging, I told one of my friends I hoped to achieve some degree of consonance between my life and my words. When she stopped laughing, she said, “But my dear – that’s the whole point of the internet. You don’t have to be who you are.”
I rejected her point of view then, and still do. As I like to put it, words can be bricks or words can be glass. We can use them to wall ourselves off from others, to hide our true nature, or we can choose them for their ability to let the light of our lives shine through.

If Francis hadn’t died in 1987, I’d be tempted to head straight to his home in Amherst, Massachusetts, with conversation on my mind. As it is, I at least have the pleasure of recognizing a kindred spirit, and enjoying a wealth of new poems.

To read more about Francis himself, or to enjoy his “Waxwings” poem, please click here.
The photograph of the spring spider lily (Hymenocallis liriosme) was taken in Brazoria County, Texas, on March 20.
Comments always are welcome.

101 thoughts on “Attentiveness

  1. I’m sorry to disagree with Mr. Robert Francis. It all depends on the story you want to tell, and how you will convey your message through one or several subject.

    Sometimes I feel one flower will tell the story; but sometimes the story will not express my feeling or emotions. Then I will include a bouquet of flowers. I don’t seem to hear any noise, but rather a symphony of feeling and emotions.

    In some cases a violin alone will not do the trick, but the same violin with the rest of the orquestra will give you the Nineth Symphony of Beethoven.

    On one thing I’ll agree with Mr. Francis, flowers are visual poems. That’s for sure.

    1. I’m as fond of great sweeps of field flowers, or a lovely bouquet, as the next person. I don’t see this as an argument to be agreed with, or not, but as a poem: a different way of looking at reality.

      Besides, did you notice the title of his poem? It’s “Bouquet.” Perhaps he’s suggesting that a single flower can be as rich, complex, and compelling as the greatest gathering of flowers.

  2. We enjoy the glimpses into the soul and character of those we meet and converse with via the Internet. It is refreshing to discover those who also wish to share their thoughts and ideas. Too often, people skim about and don’t pause long to say anything. Our Facebook friends lists are short. A few do take the time to return a well thought out response to something posted. But most just click the Like button. That isn’t very informative. It is a very dirty window.

    Blogging provides more opportunities to share thoughts and reactions. The pace is slower. One can count on a few friends to stop by, take a look around, and offer some words.

    1. I agree that the slower pace is a great advantage. I like being able to think about what I’ve read, or to offer thoughtful responses to comments.

      The very year that I began blogging — 2008 — was the year that the so-called “slow blogging” movement was gaining traction. One of my first readers introduced me to it, and we encouraged one another to avoid some of the pitfalls common to blogging at the time; quizzes, memes, awards, and cartoons meant only to fill up space.

      I always thought the advice a friend used as her tagline was especially wise. She put at the top of her blog, “If I don’t have anything to say, I won’t say it.” How very refreshing.

      1. I liked the story you linked. I started blogging in 2011 during another life. I felt I needed to impress with the quality of my posts. I posted weekly and more on a schedule that started to bother me.

        In the recent year or two, my feelings have changed. I blog more for myself. I like to teach and make complex stories simpler to understand. It satisfies something in me. There is a bonus to have some people who appreciate the efforts. Exchanges such as ours are rewarding. I can’t imagine posting everyday.

  3. For me, it is so beautiful and so meaningful… I haven’t read this poem and even I haven’t met with Robert Francis.
    ” It’s “Bouquet.” Perhaps he’s suggesting that a single flower can be as rich, complex, and compelling as the greatest gathering of flowers.”

    I loved your looking way and explanation. Thank you dear Linda, have a nice day and weekend, Love, nia

    1. Thank you, Nia. There isn’t a single way to sum up any poem, but that’s part of the delight they offer. Even when we re-read a poem that’s very familiar to us, we often find new things to enjoy.

      As for flowers, a dozen sunflowers from the field or a dozen tulips from the florist shop may look identical at first glance, but if we take time to look at them, one by one, every bloom is different. That’s part of their delight!

  4. While I do enjoy a field of flowers and wish I had what you folks in Texas have, I am with Francis in that, and you may have noticed, I much prefer to photograph a single flower (if possible against a nice soft out of focus background) to be studied and appreciated.

    Your photograph is a fine example of that. A handful of these lovely flowers would not yield the appreciation of the delicate parts of the lily.

    I was going to suggest a trip to Amherst where you could sit by his gravesite and see if he would communicate in some manner, but after looking through several articles I cannot find any evidence of burial and am guessing that maybe he was cremated. If so, his ashes may be strewn around Fort Juniper and you could visit there.

    1. You made me curious. I did a little light searching, and couldn’t find a thing about his death other than its date. There surely are people who know — there was a memorial service at the library — but I suspect you’re right about his ashes being strewn somewhere around Fort Juniper.

      Truth to tell, I’m not sure I could learn any more about him in Amherst than I can from his verse. I just found another of his poems, titled “New England Mind.” I smiled at his assertion in the poem that he needed no florist flowers in his house, but I also was caught by this: “My outer world and inner make a pair.” That’s precisely the sort of consonance I was referring to in my comment so many years ago.

      In many cases, the reason I so enjoy photos of individual flowers is that they recall experiences of whole colonies: experiences that aren’t so easily captured. I can’t tell you how many trips I made to Galveston this spring, trying to capture the beauty of the wildflower-covered cemeteries there. I have some nice photos, and even a few very nice photos, but they’re a far cry from the experience of those fields of flowers. I suppose that’s true for all photos: they’re tokens, and not the thing itself.

  5. Love the reminder of spring on the hot and humid August day… reminds me of the colony of spider lilies that show up each spring in a “bar” ditch beside a county road back in behind our place. I drive by it about once a week, and for a short spell the number of individual “bouquets” crowded together is truly amazing.

    And thanks Linda for the heads up about the wood stork at the wildlife refuge. I was able to add another bird to my list…

    1. Being “out of season” isn’t bad, especially in August. This particular lily was on the east side of CR25, not far from the Nash. I roamed pretty far afield that day, and by the time I got near the San Bernard refuge, the ditches were full of wonderful treasures: purple and yellow flags, obedient plant, and even some early Delta arrowhead. I call them my “ditch diamonds,” because they’re as pretty as any jewel.

      I’m so glad you got to see the storks. I went down again today, and came home with some of the most enthusiastically bad photos I’ve ever taken. I’m not sure what was wrong, but I was just “off” all day. No matter — I got a few photos worth saving, and there’s always tomorrow. Actually, that may be literally true. I might turn right around and go back. I’m staying away from the water’s edge, though. The gators were out in full force.

  6. Poems like Bouquet are a reminder to find the beauty in simple things—clean lines, perfect shapes, wonderful color. I doubt the poem is just about flowers, just my opinion.

    I like to put single flowers in bud vases but I also enjoy large bouquets as well. I buy a bunch of flowers frequently and will down size that bouquet through 3-4 vases as things die and before the last little bit of life is still there, as a single flower, to still enjoy. The old florist in me still believes flowers were put on earth to remind us of the cycle of life, that everything has its season—it’s time to live, it’s time to die.

    1. I don’t think the poem is just about flowers, either. When I was pondering a title, “In Praise of Individuals” came to mind, but I decided that might slant peoples’ reading of it. “Attentiveness” seemed in tune with the feel of the poem.

      I’ve always enjoyed large bouquets. A childhood delight was being sent out to the picking garden, or the lilac bushes, to bring in flowers for the house. In a family not much given to extravagance — and not much able to afford it — flowers were a way to splurge on beauty.

      Without the picking garden, the lilacs, or the roses, I rarely have bouquets any more. Grocery store flowers just don’t last. But when I do buy some, I follow the same practice you do: start big, cull regularly, and enjoy the flowers down to the very last stem. Of course, for those of us who enjoy tumbleweeds, dried grasses, and seed pods of every sort, enjoyment carries on well past any bloom!

  7. I really like the poem. “One flower at a time” is especially true for the wildflowers which are so tiny yet so beautiful, and I think a good close-up of one is better than many words of description.

    1. What can be done with a macro lens amazes me. Since I’ve begun following you, and some others who are skilled in their use, I’ve seen more, and learned more about those tiny flowers than I ever could have imagined.

      And it goes both ways. Seeing the photos makes me more aware of what’s out there, and I’m seeing flowers in nature I’ve spent several decades missing!

  8. If flowers are like people, perhaps Mr. Francis was just saying he’d prefer talking to ONE person at a time, rather than face the commotion of lots of people yakking at once. And if that’s the case, I’m right there with him!

    And likewise, I’m with you, Linda, on your comments about blogging. There’s something inherently wrong with putting on a false front, Internet or no. I’ve often wondered whether my own blogging space isn’t too revealing, but how can a writer touch a reader if he’s being dishonest or secretive??

    1. I think the trick, Debbie, is to learn how to talk to one person at a time — how to be attentive — even in the midst of a crowd. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of talking to someone at a gathering when you suddenly realize they aren’t paying a bit of attention to you — they’re looking over your shoulder at someone who might be more interesting, more important, or more useful to them. It’s impolite at best, and in its worst forms, it can be degrading.

      As for issues of honesty and self-revelation in blogging, I’ve always said that I want my posts and comments to be personal, but not necessarily confessional. On my about page, I quote the woman who put her finger on it, beautifully: Georgia O’Keeffe. As she says, “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant… It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”

      In our self-and-selfie-obsessed culture, that’s not a statement that will resonate with everyone, but I find it bracing.

  9. This is so beautiful, Linda, and yes, if Francis were still alive, he’d open that door and welcome his kindred spirit.

    One flower at a time…how true. I also apply that to the people I encounter.. give me ‘one person at a time’ and not the entire bouquet at once!

    As for what I share on the internet, I try not to focus on the dariker side of human nature. For me maybe best to experience and absorb the lessons, then move back to the sunlight. Those latter stories have so much positive energy, easily shared with others.

    “We are who we are” — I think that some people find it hard to believe we can open our souls and say, ‘This is who I am. this is me – no sundry additions, masks or polish…’

    1. One of the things that makes your blog so interesting and enjoyable is that you share the people around you “one person at a time.” There isn’t a generic Ecuadoran, any more than there’s a generic Texan. Every human group is made up of individuals, and every one deserves to be seen as an individual.

      There have been times when I’ve written about difficult events — the Deepwater Horizon comes to mind — but I often do so somewhat after the fact. Like you, I prefer to take events in, think about them, and write about them only after I know what I think about them, or when I think I have something worth saying. That isn’t always the case!

      I smiled at your way of phrasing it: “no sundry additions, masks, or polish.” I think that might be another way phrasing what’s become a common phrase: “comfortable in our own skin.” It allows us to be the same person at a gallery, on the docks, at a nursing home, or online — and to be who we are, comfortably.

  10. I embrace both sides of the philosophy. I can become as easily focused on the fine points of a single individual as on the broader spectrum of how several different ones can interact and complement each other. Further, it’s often even more rewarding to concentrate on the simple elegance of small details of one member of the bouquet and its special place among the rest.

    1. One of the basic life choices I propose on my About page is “either/or,” or “both/and.” I’m very much a both/and sort, so the point you’re making seems sensible.

      Of course, as I mentioned to Omar, I read “Bouquet” as a poem, rather than as a proposition for debate, or a philosophy. Ask me to describe the difference, and I’d fail miserably. The best I can come up with right now is to say that philosophy implies a system, while the best poems have a sort of subversive power: the kind that can crack systems open.

      I keep thinking about Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem,” with its refrain: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” With my tongue only slightly in cheek, I’d say that might be what Francis is: a category cracker.

    1. A friend and I were talking about orchids today, and how they’re a bit of a difficult case. Like other flowers with multiple blossoms on a single stem, should we count each stem as one flower, or each blossom? Our conclusion was not to nit-pick, but just pay better attention to the flowers. After all, as others have said, even a bouquet is made up of individual flowers.

      I’m glad you like the photo. Those lilies are among my spring favorites. When conditions are right, they can fill the ditches.

    1. I suppose everyone has heard Thoreau’s famous exhortation to “Simplify, simplify.” There another line in “Walden” that comes just before it, and that always brings a smile: ““Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.”

      I’ve always wondered if Thoreau might have been taking his own advice, and cut out the third “simplicity” as a means of simplifying his writing!

  11. I can usually tell when someone is being themselves on line or not and I took you to be a wonderful person. Enjoy your weekend, Linda, just as you allow us to enjoy your poems and posts.

    1. The ability to pick out a troll or a trouble-maker at twenty paces is a real skill, GP. Keep it honed; it’s especially useful these days. If only our childhood playground taunt were literally true, and we could identify the liars by those “pants on fire.”

      Thanks for your kind words, and your good wishes. I’m going to try to apply the poet’s approach to dragonflies this afternoon — there’s a shady pond I know that will be just the ticket for a truly hot afternoon.

  12. Ikebana, or kado, is Japanese flower arranging and showcases simplicity, ie a single flower or at most perhaps three. Shibui, is a simple and subtle way to live in your surroundings. It is proper to display very few lovely things so that they may be appreciated.

    1. Of course you would know about that, Kayti, given your Japanese garden. I just looked at some images for ikebana, and the arrangements are lovely.

      I do think it’s interesting that we tend to move so quickly from Francis’s words about the single flower to floral arrangements and floral photography. My sense of things is that he’s more concerned with how we come to “know” a flower than with what we do with the flower. The best photography, the most beautiful arrangements, may come only after we’ve taken time to know the subject.

      I thought of you yesterday when a friend mentioned one of her neighbors had asked her to photograph one of Maria Martinez’s pots that she’s donating to a museum here. It’s a beauty — and signed by both Maria and Julian. The pot owner’s reasons for donating it included a desire to have it displayed and appreciated by a wider audience. Exactly right.

      1. It makes me so happy to know someone is so caring as to share a work of art with a museum. The pieces of Maria and Julian are getting rarer I’m sure, though many were made during their demonstrations at the 1939 World Fair in S.F. I too have a small one which had belonged to my aunt.

  13. When I began to read the poem by Robert Francis, my first thought was she wrote a poem! You see I like your poems :) but then I saw that it was not your name at the bottom. How disappointing for you, but not for Mr. Francis. Words are a beautiful way to see yourself and the world around you.

    1. Tamara, i enjoy writing poetry, but I’m never disappointed when I find a new poem that appeals: especially if it introduces me to a new poet. It’s fun to share good work by others, too, and I think Robert Francis does a remarkable job of interpreting the world around him.

      If we’re going to use words to convey the world around us, we need more than good grammar and an ability to spell. We need imagination, and we need to be able to see what’s right in front of our noses. I think Francis has learned those skills well.

  14. Here in the UK women go in for flower arranging; it is a whole art form. I believe (I am not trained in the art) every flower needs to speak for itself as well as enhancing the entire arrangement. I like flowers, singly or in bunches, to please me. As I am not an accomplished photographer either, my efforts are pedestrian rather than arty. I do see what the poet says, though, because poetry is something I do understand.

    As for not being yourself in your blogging, I cannot agree with that. What’s the point of pretending to be someone you aren’t? In that case write fiction instead.

    The only blogs I enjoy are the ones written by people whose true personality comes through the words. Mind you, if that personality has little to say of any import, then, no matter how genuine, I soon get bored.

    There’s no pleasing some, as they say.

    1. I remember certain of my mother’s clubs offering programs in flower arranging, back in the 1960s. Neither she nor her friends seemed to take it very seriously. Of course, they weren’t particularly serious gardeners, either. More concerned with fragrance than formal arrangement, they were happy enough if they could smell the dining room lillacs two rooms away.

      I did learn from them to look at a table bouquet from all angles: basic, but important. A good hostess never denied one side of the table the pleasures of floral drama.

      You say, “There’s no pleasing some.” I say it’s a delight to know someone with standards — even idiosyncratic, purely personal standards. A few months ago, I mentioned to someone that, with twenty years of life remaining (give or take) I had little patience left for the banal, the stupid, or the boring. I suppose that could sound snarky, or elitist, or some other terrible thing. So be it. i’m not going to spend my time running after PokeMons, or shopping ’til I drop, or obsessed with social media affirmation.

      It’s taken me some years to appreciate this, from Annie Dillard:

      “There is always the temptation in life to diddle around making itsy-bitsy friends and meals and journeys for years on end. It is all so self conscience, so apparently moral. But I won’t have it. The world is wilder than that in all directions, more dangerous, more extravagant and bright. We are raising tomatoes when we should be raising Cain, or Lazarus.”

  15. I love this poem, and I will look up Robert Francis for more. I keep puzzling over the line
    A crowd of flowers is a crowd
    of flatterers (forgive me).
    I wonder how to capture the (or a) meaning for that.

    1. That one is a bit of a puzzlement, isn’t it? I don’t have a quick or easy answer for what he meant. I know that flatterers can be easy to spot, and I’ve known people who use flattery to try to stand out in a crowd.

      We do tend to think of flattery in negative terms, but this Wiki entry suggests something else. It says,

      “Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolò Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II de’ Medici in The Prince.”

      Perhaps Francis only is suggesting that his single flower is royalty, and deserving of flattery!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and sharing your thoughts. You’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

  16. It occurs to me that in a crowd, one can be an observer from a distance, but one to one requires presence and attentiveness. A balance of both – although not necessarily in equal proportions is what keeps me, um….. was going to say sane but that’s probably doubtful!
    A single flower will always be commanding to my view.

    1. On the other hand, there is that experience captured in the song, “Some Enchanted Evening.” And who hasn’t had the experience of being in one-to-one conversation with someone who clearly isn’t present?

      One to one doesn’t necessarily require presence and attentiveness, although it certainly allows for it. And as for that experience of being truly seen, across a crowded room? Anyone who’s known it remembers it, even if it led to nothing more than a conversation.

  17. For many years we had a flower shop. Six days a week, I would drive to the flower market. Flowers still are part of our diet for inspiration and joy. Not a day goes by without discovering something new in our small garden. This morning the first of the daffodils have opened up. Spring must be knocking on the door.

    1. There used to be some open-air flower markets in Houston, close to downtown. There were rumors that they were covers for other, less licit activities, but the flowers were plentiful, beautiful, and cheap. Today, there aren’t any markets or truly fresh flowers in striking distance, but I make up for it by enjoying what’s around me.

      A couple of blog friends in Washington and Michigan post regularly about their flower markets — much larger and more varied, of course, because the flowers are grown there commercially. It must have been a real delight to go to such a place and choose from among the offerings.

      I’m so glad to hear that your spring is lurking. It’s always hard for me to remember that you’re experiencing quite different weather down there — I’m sure you’re as ready for spring as we are for a break in the heat.

    1. Speaking of painters, Andrew Stalder’s work is on exhibit at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin until August 21. You can see some of his work with flowers here. It looks to be a stunning exhibit — floral photorealism at its finest.

  18. I prefer to photograph one flower to many, but it depends on the circumstances, Linda. Some flowers are better appreciated in a group. With me, it is more of a feeling than an artistic judgement. As for blogging, I view what I do as story telling and my blogs tend to be longer rather than shorter. 500 words is a short blog for me. If I can entertain a bit, educate a bit, and make someone smile, or better yet, laugh, I feel that the time and energy I put into blogging is worthwhile. –Curt

    1. Your preference for the one over the many when it comes to flowers doesn’t surprise me, Curt. For one thing, you’re a master at photographing the “one” — whether it’s a dinosaur bone or a rendering of a “Gray” with big eyes. On the other hand, who could capture the feeling of the Archer City bookstores without showing the whole group? Or the feeling of the Southwestern desert without showing those milesandmilesandmiles stretching on to the horizon?

      As for word length on blogs, I try to follow one rule: “Use just as many words as are needed to tell the story. No more, and no fewer.”
      Now, that’s a goal that really requires some attentiveness!

      1. Each of your blogs reflects your focus on ‘conservation of words,’ Linda. And it shows, not only in your posts but also in your responses. My blogs are more driven by the pace of my travels. There is always a large backlog of what I want to write about. They should come with a warning: Some editing may be required. If and when I turn them into my next book, further editing will be done. I always feel that your posts could be/should be dropped into a book as is.
        I find photography a lot of fun and feel my photographs are an important part of my story. And I have watched as I feel they have become a more important part of yours. The single flower was exquisite. –Curt

        1. That backlog reference made me laugh. I’ve got drafts from five years ago still waiting. Good grief. But editing? You’re one of the best there is. You’re especially good at keeping focus in each post, while making one flow into another, naturally — sort of like chapters.

    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I was shooting from a sunlit road, past the flower in the ditch, into a darker woods, so that accounts for the background. The flower’s position is a result of cropping after the fact. I had the whole flower, but everyone centers those flowers smack in the middle. The result’s always nice, but I really enjoyed focusing on the flower a bit differently.

      I hope you and yours are dealing all right with the heat. We’ve suddenly made that plunge into full August, and even though things still are green (with a little crispy brown around the edges) the gardens and the wildflowers are fading. Yesterday, I found many plants already gone to seed, and almost no flowers. The silverleaf nightshade is putting on fruit, and the clouds of white butterflies have moved on. The good news? It’s party time at the pond.

      1. Dear Linda I always enjoy reading your replies. I clicked on party time and I saw the beautiful flamingoes.

        I’m barely holding up in the heat. I feel extremely weak in my legs and I’m not sure if it’s depression, my heart meds or physical decline. My sis had a minor stroke that left her unable to stand or walk. She’s in nursing/rehab center since last Tuesday. She is oriented and all but her health has impacted me. I can’t keep up with bloggers that post every day so now when I comment my words are brief. I’m glad that you post once a week. You can erase any of what you feel should not be on here or leave it if you wish.

        1. Believe it or not, those aren’t flamingos, but roseate spoonbills. Many people think they’re flamingos because of their color. Scientists say their diet helps to create that beautiful pink; the more shrimp they eat, the pinker they get. A few might show up farther inland, but they mostly hang out along the coast, or farther south.

          I’m sorry to hear about your sister, but I’m relieved to see the word “minor” connected to her situation. Being able to communicate makes the path to recovery not easy, but easier.

          Feeling extremely weak can be a result of the heat. Do be careful. It’s hard even for me to remember to drink as much water as I should, and it makes a difference in so many ways. Water’s important for the maintenance of muscle, and the heart is a muscle — ’nuff said! I’m just pleased you stopped by — do take care of yourself.

          1. Thanks Linda. I’m rather rattled now days and after I sent the comment I thought you dumb-dumb just called the birds flamingos but I did not go back and correct to spoonbills because I was short of time and I could not come up with roseate for my mind is now on hold from worry. Some days are better than others. Don’t know why. Stress will probably kill me way sooner than I would like. Don’t need to answer this, Linda. OK?

        1. They look like fusilli pasta. I’ve never noticed them. I should have been more attentive, huh?

          When I dug around for my own photos of the pinks, I did find at least a couple that show the little corkscrews. Did you take your photo with your 100mm lens? A good macro does help to pull out details like these anthers. Thanks for mentioning them.

          1. You’re welcome. Yes, I took that picture with a 100mm macro lens, and back in 2011 I was still using a Canon EOS 7D, whose smaller-than-full-frame sensor effectively magnifies the focal length by a factor of 1.6. That’s how I managed to focus so closely on the “fusilli.” It’s good that you were able to go back and see them in some of your mountain pink photographs.

  19. Flowers in a crowd can be a wild cacophony of floozies or a fine symphony of snow flakes of the Nutcracker ballet. Depends on the season, vase, and viewer?

    I love the idea that words “should be looked through”.

    Slow blogging. With where I am right now, that’s worth thinking about — thanks! (Pleae excuse any dirt clods tossed from dogs’ feet that managed to squeeze through the screen…)

    1. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that any crowd — of flowers, people, lizards (!) is composed of individuals. Dogs, too. (How are things going?)

      Isn’t it funny that most of the politicians and bureaucrats currently promoting “transparency” actually mean the exact opposite? I still remember when that word began to gain popularity, and I said at the time, “We’re in for it.”

      As for too much fast everywhere, here’s my prescription: take two listens, and call me when the wind freshens.

  20. Waxwings would be a show of my life. I´ve not seen them.

    Congrats on your sharp and crispy image. Canon can be really addictive when it comes to sharpness, although now many are jumping ship to Sony because of the small, high quality cameras they are making. However, I think Canon will soon follow this trend.

    1. Even here, waxwings are an unpredictable migrant, which makes their appearance doubly delightful. They’re social, and vocal, and voracious in appetite: such fun to see.

      Your compliment on the image means a lot. I’m starting to relax a little with the camera now, and that helps. But, after steady improvement, I came home yesterday with a card filled with truly bad images, and very nearly deleted the whole lot.

      I’m glad I didn’t, because I ended up with a dozen keepers — good enough for any day. But the bad ones were so bad, I eventually just shook my head and laughed. If things go the way they often do, my next trip out with the camera probably will be my best. It’s a process, this learning!

  21. And a gorgeously photographed shot to illustrate singular beauty.

    Reading your comment above about transparency. Like “people are our greatest asset”, any time a politician or corporation has to tout transparency, I assume that’s because there isn’t any.

    1. The lily is beautiful, isn’t it? Emily Dickinson said, “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant..” Sometimes, I think photographing “on the slant” is good, too. Shown full-faced and symmetrical, the flower would have been lovely, but I thought this was more interesting.

      I agree with your assumption about transparency, and perhaps also about the true value of people in certain organizations.
      People know what they’re supposed to say, and so they say it: but they don’t always mean it. (See: politics, 2016-style.)

      By the way — the poached fish is in the fridge. I’ll let you know how it is.

  22. What a delightful post and photograph! Enjoyed the enlightening discussions that followed! You have a way with words, Linda. Am trying to learn more about Robert Francis.
    Thanks!

    1. There are real delights in Francis’s work, rethy. I think you’ll enjoy your exploration.. I’ve not been fond of everything I’ve read, but I find that true with every writer. And of course, what I most enjoy, you might think banal, and your favorite might leave me shaking my head. That’s part of the mystery of the writer/reader connection.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. It’s always a pleasure to have you visit.

  23. The photograph is stunning. I must give thought to the poem. He speaks to the distraction of the many and the focus of the one. As I write this comment here on my patio with a brook bubbling by, I view my pot of orange begonias, each reaching for sunlight, stretching before the day begins. Their numbers add to the beauty. And. Yet. Next door to this pot is a small miniature yellow rose plant, given to me when my yellow rose of Texas, my mother, died. On it today is a single small feminine bud.

    1. Thinking about your pot of begonias, this is what comes to mind: the whole may well be more than the sum of the parts, but it’s also true that every part is unique. No bloom is exactly like another, and to truly know that tiny orange blossom hidden away at the bottom of the pot, it’s necessary to attend to that blossom. No other will do.

      Some may take Francis to be a sort of Marie Kondo of flower arranging, wanting only to reduce the floral clutter, but that doesn’t feel right to me. When I think of him and his engagement with the single flower — or of you and your yellow rose — I’m reminded of “Auguries of Innocence”:

      To see a world in a grain of sand,
      And a heaven in a wild flower,
      Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
      And eternity in an hour.”

  24. A lovely post and an interesting discussion about writing. Personally I take a more practical approach to writing. I use words in whatever way to convey my feelings and what I want to impose on the reader—and still leave openings for personal interpretations. Words can be mirrors or they can be windows, they can lie or they can convey innermost truths. I totally agree with your comment from 2009.

    1. One of the interesting aspects of blogging is the way personal interpretations emerge in comments. I’ve been surprised many times by the variety of responses to a given post. If there are ten comments, each one may focus on an entirely different aspect of what I’ve written, and there are times when a reader will suggest an idea or interpretation that never has occured to me.

      Part of that’s due to the inherent richess of language, and, with poetry, its slipperiness. The American poet Robert Frost once said that poetry is ““what gets lost in translation.” I think that’s exactly right.

      As for words as mirrors — that’s interesting. We certainly know what happens when someone’s words resemble a fun house mirror, distorting reality beyond all recognition.

  25. I’m late to this party. I love that poem by Robert Francis, which I feel can very easily be taken on two levels – literally as a comment on flowers, and secondly as a parable applicable to other situations.

    I was also amused by the exchange of opinions you mention about being oneself (or not) on the internet. Something that I wrote long ago, perhaps in a post or in a reply is as true today as it was then: The fact that I value the most about being a ‘Blogger’ is that I write and post exactly what I want when I want. I consider myself as a columnist in a world wide magazine that has no editor that tells me what to write, and how many words to write. I am myself, just like my photography is mine and mine alone. My photography is my visual voice, and my words are the soundtrack to my personal visual journey. And that is how it will be, for always.

    1. You’re never late, Andy. This is the party that never ends!

      I agree with you about the poem. It can be read as anything from a comment on aesthetics to a reminder of the importance of the individual. I find it a salutary reminder to stop and look at the world: and more, to truly see.

      What you say about your approach to blogging reminds me of some delightful correspondence between Flannery O’Connor and her editors. As early as 1949, writing to potential editor John Selby, she said: “In short, I am amenable to criticism, but only within the sphere of what I am trying to do; I will not be persuaded to do otherwise.”

      Later, writing to Paul Engle, a wonderful poet himself, she reflects further on her experience with Selby and Rinehart: “To develop at all as a writer I have to develop in my own way… I will not be hurried or directed by Rinehart.”

      She could be cantakerous, but she was determined to write as she pleased — not as others prescribed. The freedom to speak our own word — however we choose to do that — is wonderful.

  26. What a poet! I did enjoy that poem, I haven’t read it in years.
    I’m all for people being themselves on the internet, what’s the point of hiding behind a screen, I think people’s characters always come through in the end, whether they want them to or not.
    That’s a lovely flower, reminds me of my spider lilies.xxx

    1. That little gem of a spider lily is shown alone, but it had plenty of friends in the ditch. They were especially abundant this year because we received so much rain. Whether it’s the same species as yours I can’t say, but all of them are beautiful.

      Things certainly have changed when it comes to online life. When I first began blogging, I didn’t know anyone who used their real-world name: anonymity was the name of the game. But that was years before Facebook was founded, and all the other social media. We still were feeling our way through a new world, and the easy back-and-forth of today was unimaginable.

      Even the “would you dare meet a blogger in real life?” discussions seem a little silly now. Just today, I had lunch with a woman I met through our blogs. We turned out to be neighbors, and not so very different in real life as we seemed on our blogs.

  27. To me, it is many times a matter of metaphor. Nature and her creations are literal – a flower, a field, the sky, the stars. But by the time these visions travel down to our eyes, our addled imaginations can’t help but take them and run, until another meaning has been found. And the words we use have begun on a completely different journey.

    I think of words as rich and baroque, and in need of liberation – the strictness of adjective and noun…in the end, I believe that the definition of and hold on words should be slackened – it is ourselves who should be under the control of words.

    1. “Addled imagination” is an interesting phrase, Aubrey. I’ve been turning it over and over, trying to decide what I think of it. I’m still not sure, but your point’s well-taken. Imagination always begins with reality, however tenuous the connection.

      To be in thrall to words, to be under their control, is an idea that causes me some discomfort. Words are expressions of our humanity, and tools to be used — as widely varied as a hammer and an artist’s brush, but each with their own purpose.When words are used as a tool to control people, as they have been so many times through history, the consequences often have been swift, and terrible.

  28. That really is a lovely poem. I think there is deep merit in using the internet to actually be truer to who you are as a person, and so far, that has benefitted me greatly… so, be you, and keep spinning such beautiful prose for us to enjoy, please!

    1. I’m glad you’ve found the internet to be such a benefit, Alex. I’ve certainly found it a useful tool, although after some thought, I’d say that it’s not helped me be truer to myself — only that it is one way to express the truth of who I am. This may be a different way of saying essentially the same thing, of course.

      On the other hand, it’s thanks to the internet that I finally surfaced some information I’ve been searching for about a family member. It was, shall we say, most interesting — and just a bit unnerving. It will be served up next, and I’ll try to keep the prose at least interesting, and perhaps even a little graceful.

  29. Oh, my, I love that poem! It makes me think of Pete Seeger’s meditative folk song, “One Grain of Sand,” which I am listening to while I write this comment. It is a lullaby, one discovers partway through, and very suitable as one, as I notice right now. :-) Its focus on one small thing or another is soothing or tedious, depending on one’s need.

    I also think of my only visit to Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, which was quite overwhelming – I couldn’t enjoy it, because there were just too many sub-gardens and flowers to take in. If I lived nearby and had a yearly pass, as many do, it would be different. I could go often, without time pressure, and look at one arrangement or flower at a time….

    Thank you for a stimulating post. I haven’t even read all the comments and I’m sure I’m missing a lot there.

    1. I’ve never heard Seeger’s song. Perhaps it’s more truthful to say I haven’t listened to it, because I had the album which contained it when I was just out of high school. I remember many of the other songs, but I suspect I judged “One Grain of Sand” tedious at that point in my life, and moved on.

      It does bring to mind Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence,” and its urging to “see the world in a grain of sand.” I suspect Seeger knew that bit of poetry.

      One reason I tend to return to places is what you suggest: there’s too much to take in at one time. Of course, that can apply during even the simplest excursion. Walking a path at a local nature center on Wednesday, I didn’t see the swamp lily on my way in, but on the way out? There it was, so large and vibrant I had no idea how I could have missed it. Think how much we miss, every day of our lives.

    1. I think that’s most people’s feeling, Andrew. At this point, our political process has become an example of what happens when honest communication is at a premium, and it doesn’t bode well for the future.

      On the other hand, some creatures like butterflies use camouflage or mimickry for self-preservation. Perhaps there’s a place for verbal camouflage!

  30. I am glad you are exactly who you are and that you have never deviated from that for an instant. Online and I’m presuming off. It’s why I know if you were to pop up on my doorstep at this very moment, I would enjoy every minute and there would be no awkward pause — just leaping into all sorts of conversations and discoveries!

    I love the poem — I’ve always found that a single bloom in a vase is so simple, so eloquent. And yes, sometimes a flashy bouquet may better tell the story (and there can be great fun in abundance) but for beauty, total elegance, sheer perfection — yes. One bloom. Now, if I could do that with my bookcases and other clutter…

    1. I think it’s true that I am who I am, Jeanie, online or off — but I wasn’t always the person I am today. I suspect you’d be rather astounded by the shy, insecure, awkward creature I was in my younger years. The good news is that change is possible.

      As for deviating from “who we are” — I suspect you’ve had the same experience I have. From time to time, I look at myself and wonder, “Where did that [behavior, feeling, attitude, interest, conclusion] come from?” There’s nothing like surprising ourselves.

      The difference between the things that clutter our lives — the books, the dishes, the crafting supplies — and the flowers is that the flowers are alive. They might well have something to say to us, if only we would listen.

      By the way — guess who I found down at the refuge? Not just Harry, but Tom, Dick, and Harry. I did laugh!

  31. I thought I had written on this, yet it seems I hadn’t. Love the way you’ve chosen to capture the flower in this photograph, a great example of attentiveness, I’d say. I also like very much the idea of words as windows. I had a slightly different gloss on the line, which was that words open out into the world you see beyond them, rather than close down to a fixed, given meaning.

    1. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve thought I’d responded to a post, but in fact had gone trotting off down a thought-path, and took days to circle back.

      It pleases me that you like the photo. You’re quite good yourself at capturing the natural world in photos. There’s never anything in your slide shows that feels off-the-cuff.

      Your way of describing words reminded me of shutters, which can be opened or closed. And there, of course, is an interesting connection between writing and photography. Shutter speed makes a difference — and both the opening and closing are necessary to capture an image of larger reality.

      1. “trotting off down a thought-path,” yes, that’s exactly it, isn’t it? And, actually, if any post inspires that sort of trotting, it’s given us as readers a bonus gift.

  32. Beautiful notions, and photo. “Bouquet” is his title but “Attentiveness” is yours, right? I love yours. Time is wasted, I think, by pretending to be someone else. It’s hard enough getting to where you are! But a more valuable goal.

    1. Yes, “Attentiveness” is mine. I went through quite a list of titles until I settled there, and I think it’s just right.

      As for pretense, I suspect [internet anonymity aside!] it’s more commonly a result of insecurity than of ill intent. Teenagers are a good example; they adopt and shed personalities as easily as a tree sheds leaves. The pretentious adults I know have their own doubts and fears. The great gift of the aging process is being able to move beyond all that to self-acceptance. As you say: it’s a valuable goal.

    1. Allen, that never had occurred to me. Clearly, your time with Superior has granted you superior insight into all things poetic. And, yes, you’re right. There is entirely too much of that these days. We’ve come a long way from “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

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