Sunday, September 7, 2014


Chicory, or blue sailor.

Jewelweed, or touch-me-not.

The images you see here were taken around the cottage, within a few hundred feet of the front door. None are what you'd call stunning, not even close. Just shots of common wildflowers—or in some cases, weeds, if you prefer—I liked well enough to keep. A sort of botanical/photographic version of "when you're not with the one you love…love the one you're with."

Alas, I've managed only a couple of very brief photo rambles lately—one to a favorite prairie where I'd hoped to photograph butterflies, various blooms, and maybe a few birds, and the other to a nearby pond for dragonflies. Both were total busts. 

The 100-acre prairie—and another, slightly smaller prairie patch a few miles away—proved all but devoid of butterflies; I saw only one monarch and a rather bedraggled tiger swallowtail fluttering over the bluestem and coneflowers. Yet the morning was sunny, warm, and windless. To my way of thinking, there should have been dozens of different butterflies about busily nectaring.

A few mornings later, the usually reliable pond turned out equally lacking in dragonflies. Normally, the airspace above the cattail fringes, boggy corners, and stands of marsh grass is working alive with these incredible aerial hunters, their whirring wings glittering, shimmering like jewels in the bright light. Again the day was sultry, sunlit, calm. What should have been perfect weather. But I saw no more than a handful of dragonflies, mostly blue dashers, during a full circuit of the 2-acre pond.

Self-heal, or heal-all.
What was going on? The only explanation I can think of would be the fact that until three or so weeks ago, our "summer" weather was more like mid-spring—daytime highs in the upper 60s˚F, nights low-50s˚. Not ideal butterfly or dragonfly weather. But that's only a guess. 

All I know is they weren't there…why remains a mystery.



Gail said...

Hi Grizz - love the pictures of the wild flowers/weeds. Favorites. We too have been short on butterflies. The heat and humidity finally broke - cooler weather here to stay for a while.
Did u get to see the pictures of Dolan's book launch event on the 28th on Facebook? And I am back to my abnormal normal (almost) as I manage, adjust to, accept and redefine - still I have gratitude, hope and laughter -
I know you aer busy but I have missed your 'words' as of late and I make no apologies for that or for the fact that I look forward eagerly to your view and perspeective and shared wisdom...I hope you are ok -
Love Gail (missing you)

George said...

Call them what you will — wildflowers or weeds — but those photos are stunning for me. In a world that has seemingly gone mad (based upon the dubious assumption that it has ever been sane), I find small manifestations of nature's beauty are required to sustain my heart and keep me moving forward daily.

I've also spent a great deal of time this summer photographing hummingbirds, butterflies, and dragonflies. I suppose the more important fact, however, is that I've spent a great deal of time just observing these lovely creatures and their brethren. When I come in from a photography outing and and sit down to go through the images, I often think to myself that it really doesn't matter how great the images turn out to be, for I found what I was looking for — what I needed — just by being there.

Grizz………… said...


Having taken another look, and trying to keep my perfectionist genes at bay, I will say the pix appear better on the blog than they seemed on my desktop…though much of that, I suspect, is just the power of the layout's "framing" aspect. What I like most about each one, and the reason I kept them, is how they look less like botanical illustrations, and more like the natural image that caught my eye through the viewfinder. More and more, I find that's what's really important for me to count an image successful. I'm also always looking for that dramatic separation of background—i.e. the ironweed and chicory shots.

Most of all, I enjoyed and agree with what you said re. the images we bring home. In many ways it is, indeed, of little importance how good or successful or—God help us—artistic they are…what matters is having the good fortune of being there to witness and try to capture such beauty and wonder. Life takes place in the moments. And like you, I find my solace and recharging through simply being there, seeking the revealed adventure, and whatever attempts I make—successful or not—to photograph those moments I'm privileged to discover.

Frankly, it's the only way and place I know to escape what's increasingly a frightening and senseless world.

Grizz………… said...


Thursday and Friday here were both 90˚F. But it was cool and rainy yesterday, 54˚F this morning, and has been sunny but nice and cool all day. I'm hoping we've seen the last really hot weather for the year.

I did see the FB post. I bet you're so very proud…as you should be! I hope his book does well.

I've been crazy busy these past few weeks, with columns and granddaughter, Moon's issues, and all the remodeling stuff. Never enough hours in a day. That's one reason I've been so awful about posting and shooting photos. I haven't even gone fishing in days—and all I have to do to catch a smallmouth bass is grab a spinning rod from behind the door, walk a couple of steps and descend to the water's edge, then make a cast or two into the tongues of current coming off the big riffle. There's always a willing taker or two luring about who like my wares. So my not fishing is a particularly loathsome admission for an incorrigible angler!

Scott said...

Grizz: The image of the chickory, despite your misgivings, IS spectacular. We've had noticeably fewer butterflies this summer in the northern Piedmont as well; photographers and insect-lovers alike have mentioned it to me on more occasions that I can count. I wonder what's up?

Grizz………… said...


Good to hear from you. And I appreciate your comment. I often make a photo that doesn't seem to conform to what I think others want to see or will like. Often, looking at the shot full-size on my big monitor, I'm judging based on a technical issue. Yet something in the image still appeals to me, or triggers a response, even though I can't define it with any certainty. Yet, while I'm generally solidly self-assured re. my work, when it comes to a these quirky shots, I hesitate posting.

I have no idea what to blame for summer's very noticeable lack of butterflies and insects in general. But it was certainly a fact.

There's a nice prairie just a couple of miles from here…conveniently not very far off the route I usually take on the way back from the grocery. So I made occasional swing-by stops there all summer. I can't tell you how many times I cruised the short loop interior road, pausing every hundred feet or so, and saw not a single butterfly fluttering over the acres of furiously blooming prairie plants! Not one! In normal years there'd be dozens if not hundreds, depending on wind, temperature, and time of day.

Alternately, there's a pond where I regular go to photograph dragonflies. An alternative grocery run detour. Generally, on a July, August, or September day there are countless dragonflies or various species, buzzing about along the cattail-lined shore, or about the marshy head end, even out over the damp meadow. Some days this year I could count the dragonflies I spotted on the fingers of both hands—and some days I saw not a single on!

Hereabouts, cicadas didn't start singing until late-August, and then only a very few. Crickets and katydids, too, haven't been as vocally numerous. And the same goes for lots of others insects. Bees and wasps, for example…even grasshoppers in the fields seem fewer.

I don't know what caused this—odd weather patterns?—but it's most worrisome.

Scott said...

Grizz: Fortunately, the dragonflies, cicadas, katydids, and crickets don't seem to be diminished this year here in the northern Piedmont--just the butterflies.

Grizz………… said...


Huh. Wonder why the difference? I haven't gotten around to the other corners of the state this summer, because of all the remodeling work. So I don't know whether this was localized or widespread—but it was sure apparent here.