It’s a Small, Small World

Early spring in the Ozarks is a mixed bag. Soon the hills will erupt in color, but not just yet. The trees are still bare but budding. Sometimes if you want to see what’s going on you have to get closer – much closer.

I have been getting up close and personal with nature – collecting shots with my Leica Macro lens. Sometimes when you get close you see beauty or complexity in the most mundane things. Color emerges, structure is revealed, discoveries are made.

The dandelion is far more complex that it appears from the seat of my mower deck. The center is almost crystalline

The dandelion is far more complex that it appears from the seat of my mower deck. The center is almost crystalline.

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These cover the fields all over this area – they look like a floating purple cloud from a distance. Up close they are more leaves than flowers, but those flowers are so delicate – less than an eighth of an inch across.

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I love johnny-jump-ups, and these remind me of those but much, much smaller. This tiny violet is less than a half-inch across.

From eye level this looks like moss on a rock. When you get down to ground level it is much more complex than expected.

From eye level this looks like moss on a rock. When you get down to ground level it is much more complex than expected.

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These hyacinths are at the end of their cycle. They mysteriously appeared a couple of years ago after my neighbor encouraged me to plant bulbs in the remains of an old cistern.

I don't know what these are, but they look a lot like some I have seen in my neighbor's flower beds. They are new this year. Thank you garden fairy!

I don’t know what these are, but they look a lot like some I have seen in my neighbor’s flower beds. They are new this year. Thank you garden fairy!

 

Here's a closer shot of that blue flower - there is so much structure to these flowers when you get close.

Here’s a closer shot of that blue flower – there is so much structure to these flowers when you get close.

I think this is some form of bluet - it measures about a quarter inch across.

I think this is some form of bluets – it measures about a quarter-inch across.

I'm pretty sure this is southern bluet. Tiny and white.

I’m pretty sure this is southern bluets. Tiny and white.

Is this the face of an owl? Nah, it's just the shell of a black walnut - it was probably a winter  meal for a squirrel

Is this the skull of an owl? Nah, it’s just the shell of a black walnut – it was probably a winter meal for a squirrel.

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The field around the Stone House is a mix of blue grass, clover, and low ground cover like this. An inch-long feather rests atop the ground cover.

I don't know what this is, but it is very tiny - smaller than a head of a pencil. It is so small that it's color is not even visible until you get very close to the ground.

I don’t know what this is, but it is very tiny – smaller than a head of a pencil. It is so small that its color is not even visible until you get very close to the ground.

I see these every year, they are low - under the grass. This one seems to have extra petals.

I see these every year, they are low – under the grass. This one seems to have extra petals. I love its star-shaped foliage.

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This is ice – water frozen in the bird bath.

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Daffodil buds emerging.

Water condensing inside the stalk of a daffodil.

Water condensing inside the stalk of a daffodil.

Getting these shots required me to get down in the dirt and undergrowth. Getting closer is not always easy, but is usually worth it.

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

You know the song.

Since Thanksgiving you’ve heard it a hundred times. Listening to the lyrics it’s not explicitly about Christmas, but it is from a movie we watch during the holidays. The list in the song is not my list. I’m not big on whiskers – I prefer the rest of the kitten. I don’t think I need mittens when using a kettle – it’s all a bit disjointed. Lyrically it’s genius – in practical use it’s not my cup of tea.

So what would my list be? I decided for my 100th post to share the list of things that inspire me behind the lens.

Raindrops on…

Anything.

Naked Lady in the rain

Naked Lady in the rain.

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop

You can see my house inverted in this raindrop.

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain

A newly opened dogwood drenched in the rain.

Lilac buds shining after a shower

Lilac buds shining after a shower.

I love redbuds - the first color of spring

I love redbuds – the first color of spring.

I’m not so much into bright copper kettles, but I am fascinated with…

Rust.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This is the rust and patina on my copper fire pit.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house - every surface is beautifully rusted.

This hay rake was in my woods when I bought the house – every surface is beautifully rusted.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

This padlock was on the jail in Midas Nevada. The lock spoke to me more than the shack it was attached to.

I don’t even know what schnitzel is – it sounds odd to me. I know it’s odd to love…

Dandelions.

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways

I like the delicate structure and I like to find a way to look at them in new ways.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The structure of the actual flower is pretty amazing even before it goes to seed.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

The substructure is so intricate. I shot this with a manual macro lens from the 70s.

I grew up in the desert so the idea of sleigh bells is foreign to me, but door bells make me think of home. I have a strong bent towards…

Sentiment and Kitsch.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

I love kitsch and I love it unusual places. I have had lawn flamingoes in the front lawn of every home I have ever owned.

Keys

These are my Grandpa’s keys. I love shooting things that belonged to someone special.

Purple Glass

My Grandma taught me about purple glass, I love to shoot things that are transparent and have color.

Apricot Pit

My great-grandfather carved this out of a peach pit. I love the surfaces of handmade things like this.

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes. I like snow, but not so much for its photographic opportunities. I prefer…

Spring Flowers

First color on the ground often before the grass starts to green up.

Crocus – the first color on the ground, often before the grass starts to green up.

Cherry Blossoms open skyward

Cherry Blossoms opening skyward captivate me.

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them

Daffodils have amazing color before we even notice them.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them - here for too brief a time.

Lilacs open as the sun hits them – here for too brief a time.

My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Hyacinths – My garden fairy planted a few of these a couple of years ago in a spot were there was once a cistern. I love them.

Cream colored ponies and dogs biting. I’m not too far off here.  I love the company of…

Dogs.

Sunshine is my Goldendoodle. He’s a lovely goofball and is a bit camera-shy, I like to catch him when he is unaware of me.

These are my brother’s pointers – I shot this one Christmas when Vegas had a rare snow. I loved the sheer joy the pups exuded as they ran in the frosted desert.

These are my two female terriers. They hate each other’s guts unless they are sleeping – they are precious when they sleep.

This is a pup I met on a trip – I love that he was interested in my camera. Curiosity is a favorite thing to capture in an animal.

Zipper was my first Kayak dog – he was so relaxed on the water.

Brown paper packages, blue satin sashes, silver white winters – there’s a lot of color in this song. I love color and am drawn to vivid colors. One color draws me more than all the others.

I shoot anything that is…

Orange.

The color of this car drew me to it - hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

The color of this car drew me to it – hundreds of cars and this was my favorite.

I'm pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

I’m pretty sure I chose this hard drive for that orange bumper.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

In the shop where I work I see lots of color, but this set of mixers caused me to go get my camera.

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the springs right at the edge of the woods

These Tiger Lilies grow wild around the Ozarks. I have them pretty thick in the spring – right at the edge of the woods.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

This sunset was so vivid that I missed an appointment when I stopped to shoot it.

Now that winter is here and it’s a grey day, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so … bad.

Requiem for Fall

The color here in the Ozarks is almost completely gone. Sometimes you’ll find a dogwood deep in a hollow – but the show is essentially over. Here are the last of the stragglers and my attempt to find something interesting or beautiful without a lot of color.

This hickory was one of the last holdouts. More leaves up than down.

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Today even these are on the ground.

Some maples hung on in spite of the recent wind and rains, sometimes the sky was visible right through them.

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Today the maples have all joined the oaks on the forest floor.

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A crunchy carpet of tans and golds a foot thick in spots is all that remains.

Driving west I saw this field full of something fluffy. The sunlight and wind made it dance.

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The puffs were actually quite delicate – like dandelion seeds. Even so they hung on in the wind.

On my way back to town I stopped by to see this old friend – fully exposed amidst its now barren trees. It makes me think of that transition from Fall to Winter.

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It’s just holding on to what little color it has left.

Fall is fleeting and I miss it already.

The First and Last of the Dogwoods

The dogwood is a favorite of mine. It shows itself early. Before the leaves of the surrounding trees have fully opened they appear like clouds suspended just below the treetops. The open and spread their wings, and then they are gone.

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Throughout the summer, the dogwood simply disappears. It’s green leaves blending into the canopy. Only it’s dark twisted trunks give it away. For months they hide as spindly trees in forests of mighty oaks.

In the fall they fight to hold onto their green…

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Giving into the transition slower than the rest, fighting the good fight…

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Until only red remains and they alone are at the peak of their color. As the others start to fall, they take flight.

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Bursting with color as the sunshines right through their translucent leaves.

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Holding on long after the others are gone.

The first and the last.

Mary Jane Looks to the Future

I’ve made some posts of the adventures of Mary Jane. She’s smart, she’s spry, she’s 99, and she cares about the future. Specifically she cares about the future of a small piece of the Ozarks.

Mary Jane’s parents settled in the area north of Eureka Springs around 1915. Her grandparents already had a small farm in town and her great uncle was a recluse down in a hollow near the railroad tracks. Her father and his sister bought a large tract of land east of the White River. Mary Jane’s father once told her that owning land meant you would never be broke. You could always sell a few acres. Over the decades Mary Jane has bought and inherited hundreds of acres, and as her family needs have changed she has sold some.

The largest sale came in the late 50s when Mary Jane’s daughter was in high school. She sold her favorite parcel to a developer. She sold because the power company was bringing electricity to the area, her house was on the wrong side of the highway and her high-school-aged daughter desperately wanted to have power. She had been raised in a home where you carried water and lived by candlelight. She built a small home in the area where power was coming and moved to improve the lives of her family.

At the time Mary Jane had no idea what a development would be. She had sold to farmers and neighbors in the past. Today there is a golf course community and 1500 people living on that lovely tract of land where her beloved dogwood forest once stood. This experience has helped to shape her views on land use. It’s not that the development was bad or unrealistic, it’s that there was a sea change in how land was being used. This ignited a desire in her to see that the development stop at the current line of her property.

Since the 1970s she has been more cautious about who she sells land to. She has filled the hollows and hills with people she knows will love the land like she does. More importantly she has made sure that an entire hollow will remain just as it is forever. She has worked with the Ozark Regional Land Trust to create the Oak Hill Wildlife Preserve and Land Trust.

Once a year we meet with someone from ORLT who will verify conservation easements and go over stewardship plans with us. As a long time resident I’m included in these sessions, as a lover of this land I’m thrilled to come along and get the finer details from Mary Jane.

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This year we met with Preston, a smart young man who has a passion for land preservation and who made sure to make Mary Jane feel like he took every concern seriously. Here he goes over a 50-year-old map with Mary Jane that shows an accurate survey.

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Maps are all good and well, but going to the boundary points is crucial, Mary Jane’s memory is amazing. She can walk across a field and take you directly to a survey marker that she has not looked at in decades. Here she just barrels across a field towards the point.

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She pointed out a line where the corners of “the 40” should converge. Old school surveying was based on 40 acre tracts. Corners are marked with metal posts, rock piles, or witness trees.

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Here we are walking one of the lines. This was a really uneven area and Mary Jane reluctantly accepted some help as she walked the side of that 40.

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This find was somewhat disconcerting for me. This is an illegal camouflaged deer feeder six feet from the the property line. Hunting is illegal on the land trust, but it’s also prohibited in the development – I’m have no issue with hunting, but hunting without permission on land like this is incredibly dangerous. Over by the line I found a carbon shafted arrow. People hike and children play in this field. People’s homes are in the line of sight of this. It’s not safe, it’s not legal.

At this point we moved on to a hike into the actual land trust. This part was a little sad for me. Until a couple of years ago Mary Jane took these hikes with us. Physically she could still do it, but with her failing eyesight it’s just not safe anymore. She knows this hollow in a way that I can only compare with the way I remember the cracks in the sidewalk out in front of my childhood home. Not having her with us was sad, even so it was wonderful to be in her favorite place.

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This is the trail as we enter into the hollow. We walk along the remnants of an old logging road.

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Much of the woods are what I call a “beautiful tangle” – vines, saplings, leaves, fallen limbs.

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This is all that is left of an old Volvo parked a quarter mile into the woods sometime in the 70s. I know it sounds odd, but an old gold Volvo was a landmark for us. Turn right to see the pivot rock, go down to see the waterfall, keep left to see the spring. The owner of the Volvo was an old friend of many of my neighbors, he passed away a couple of years ago. The Volvo was full of personal items. It was Jim’s storage unit. Over the years hikers had stopped to look inside. There’s a story of a lady who found a chandelier inside. Tools, fixtures, antiques – one time my nephews carried out a huge french-fry cutter. Jim told me to keep it and its mounted in my kitchen to this day. After his death friends hung prayer flags over the Volvo. His son had been to visit it. It wasn’t natural, but we had all come to love it. About a year ago we discovered that it was gone. Probably stolen for scrap, prayer flags and all. I can’t even imagine the work it took to get that thing out of the woods. We all miss it and will likely leave the spare here as a marker.

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We continued down the trail towards the easement. The woods here are thick and this time of year the light through the trees can be stunning.

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A rich carpet of leaves about a foot thick blanketed the forest floor.

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The dogwoods in the hollow are starting to change – just the slighted turn towards red.

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Francie, an old friend of Mary Jane, owns a small piece of land inside the trust. It’s on a conservation easement and part of the process is verifying that these easements are in compliance. Francie owns a small spring and its a wonderful sanctuary for her. She comes twice a year to spend time there. It’s always going to be a peaceful place. Here Preston and Francie work their way to the spring.

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Dogwood leaves in the afternoon sunlight.

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Color through cedars. I should point out that I shot everything today with my fast prime lens – a Leica 25mm 1.4 – the equivalent of a fast 50. It let me isolate objects like these cedars. It’s not the greatest for the trail shots, but at least I get lots of detail.

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Leaves on the ground.

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Leaf in the sky.

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Seeds…

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Limbs…

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Burls…

These shots are from a special place along the trail. This was Mary Jane’s playground. She tells stories of playing in between the “pancake rocks” and imagining that it was a fort, or a pirate ship, or a carousel…

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I can just see her playing and climbing on these rocks. I would have loved to have had a place like this as a child…

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Climbing, playing, finding wonder in what nature gave her.

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I love the way the moss grows on the sides of the pancake rocks.

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Reds

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A look back down the hollow.

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This leaf was huge – over a foot across.

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I laid it on an old washtub I found near an abandoned wickiup back in the hollow. Throughout the 70s there were young people who lived back in this hollow. Some children were even born back here. Mary Jane loved to have people who enjoyed the land there and they still come back to see it from time to time.

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A look up…

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Off the trail…

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A relic of an earlier time…

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Sunlight…

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Deep woods…

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Dogwoods playing their last song before winter…

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Bent color….

All in all a glorious day in the hollow. My land abuts this amazing place. Thanks to Mary Jane I never have to worry about condos looking up at my mountaintop. Our trip yesterday got her a bit fired up. Some markers are not quite right, some boundaries need to be redefined, some calls need to be made. The whole day made me think about what an amazing gift she has given not just to us, but to those who will come a century after us. Remote, undeveloped, real nature. Over 160 acres of it left to the flying squirrels, the owls, and the dogwoods – forever.

A Prelude to Fall

I’m on a plane flying home from a business trip to Michigan. The signs of the fall are already apparent there and the colors are in the early stages of changing. Before I left I saw a couple of trees just starting the transition. After the warmest summer that the Ozarks has ever experienced there were concerns that there would be no color at all, but the gentle rains after Isaac may have saved the season.

Although Isaac brought less rain and wind than anticipate, he also brought my very first macro photo ops after a long, brown summer,
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I have no idea what this is – it was on the ground and it wasn’t brown.

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In a pinch, even a greened up weed will suffice as inspiration.

In between showers I would pop outside and look to see what had changed. I love rain or dewdrops on leaves.
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If you look very closely and let your imagination fill in the details, I am visible reflected in the bottom center water drop. I’m gonna have to try to do that for real soon 🙂

On July 4th I posted a lament to cancelled fireworks and focused on some lilies that seemed to thrive in a hidden garden at my neighbor’s place. As promised the lilies have gone to seed and the seeds look just like blackberries.
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This subterfuge confuses birds to pick them and drop them elsewhere once they discover that they are not tasty berries. I need them to carry some my way.

Another lily that peaked after Isaac was the local favorite, the Naked Lady – not sure why they call it that, but I got a chance to shoot some macro between showers.
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Before the leaves change colors, a lot of the local wildlife gets a makeover for fall. This young fawn has lost her spots and is starting to go from a rusty brown to a more grey brown that matches the color of the barren winter trees. The tourists are also changing from motorcycles to minivans.
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Even the cardinals are starting to spruce things up – This is one of the birds I posted images of a few weeks ago when he was impersonating a scraggly parrot. His transformation for fall is almost complete and he’s looking pretty dapper.
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I don’t know what these are but they are gorgeous, I shot them at the Ponca Elk Education Center last weekend.

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The Hummers at my place are fattening up and getting a bit cocky with me. This guy is roosting in my crepe myrtle, totally unconcerned with my proximity to him
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In fact – I get a raspberry from him – he’s taunting me, I just know it.

Even the rain doesn’t dissuade this guy from watching over what has become his own personal feeder.
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Lest I live under the illusion that I am a hummingbird whisperer and that my birds have accepted me into the flock – here are a couple that I shot at the Ponca Elk Education Center.
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Apparently they are more concerned with stocking up on calories for the long journey south than they are with stalkers like me going in for the shot.

The color’s out there, and its about to explode – now is the time to take that camera absolutely everywhere! What’s the color like in your neck of the woods?

A Fungus Among Us

Issac came along and pretty much ended a summer of drought in the Ozarks. We didn’t get a lot of rain, but it was a nice slow soaking – 3 inches over a couple of days. My grass came back to life and I considered mowing it for the first time since mid May. I noticed some large white blobs over by my cedar tree while I was clearing limbs while getting ready to mow.

I saw several odd round turban-shaped mushrooms underneath the cedar tree. They were growing in a circle about 6 feet across. A friend told me that this was called a fairy circle, for me it was an excuse to put off mowing another week while I waited to see its progress. It was also an excuse to take some photos of something living. Drought = no wildflowers, no lawn, no color. Imagine my excitement at seeing white blobs!

This shot is misleading – they are not actually larger than my terrier Velcro in the background, but they were quite large. Baseball-sized fungi…

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The fungi surface looked like flan that had been stretched to reveal a plush and fuzzy sub-layer.

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Over the course of the next 24 hours the ball opened and flattened into a disk the size of a salad plate. Perfectly round like one of those parasols you get in a fancy drink, only not so fun and colorful…

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All-in-all they were kind of boring, but you gotta work with what nature gives you. I thought I would try to impose some artsy angles on them to make them appear more dramatic. I got very dirty doing this.

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The details of their gills were pretty amazing – there are spider webs in there, or maybe tiny cob webs – a tiny microcosm…

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This is the view a field mouse or packrat might have as they approach one of these babies – reaching for the sky. I got very dirty getting this shot. I also was bitten by chiggers. There’s nothing I won’t do for art…

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Eye level to a rabbit, if my dogs would let a rabbit get this close.

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Enough already, I’m putting on some calamine and getting out the mower!

My Box of Ozarks Crayons

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An Ozark Spring starts with plentiful rains followed by waves of colors – vivid and saturated like a box of crayons. Forsythias, red buds, dogwoods, violets, daffodils….on and on from late March through August.

Like much of the south, the Ozarks are under pretty extreme drought conditions this year. The season started well and just stopped in mid May. Except for some roadside chicory, the color is all but gone. The field grasses are yellow, the earth is crunchy. I miss my crayons….

Fuscia
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Red
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Purple
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Yellow
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Pink
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White
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Blue
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Green
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Violet
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I know that the drought, like all things, will pass. The colors will be back.

In Lieu of Fireworks

Like much of the south and midwest – the Ozarks are in the middle of a heat wave. In the last couple weeks we’ve had only a couple of days when the temperatures were under the century mark. I’ve run out of wildflowers to photograph – the heat has claimed them. it’s so dry that all fireworks have been banned and all of the shows have been cancelled.

For a shutterbug, this is serious. No shot at those once-a-year fireworks over the water photos, no summer greenery, no roaring rivers. I still carry my camera everywhere, but I mostly get shots of thirsty deer or birds at the feeder on my porch.

Last night my 99 year old neighbor, Mary Jane called. She told me that there were some blackberry lilies in the “old garden” – I should come shoot them now and when they go to seed In a couple of weeks. When I got off work I decided to head over. It was 105, but I was desperate for something colorful and alive to photograph. Mary Jane took me into the woods, past some old debris to a small clearing – everywhere there were these gorgeous lilies – smaller than the native tiger lilies – only about the size of a half dollar.

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I never knew there was an “old garden” – I learned that it was planted by Mary Jane and some young people who came to the area in the early 70s for a Folk Festival. In the years after Woodstock these kinds of events attracted young 20-somethings and when Mary Jane met them, she was happy to let them camp on her property and even live in her parent’s abandoned house. To this day these flower children are a part of her life – she cared for them as young people and now many of them return the favor. Anyway, once I got past the brush at the perimeter it’s clear that this was an amazing spot. Lilies, passion flower vines, redbuds – all following the contours of a draw as it slopes down the hill. Right now the deer bed down at night in the clearing, you can see their tracks and that the brush has been compacted where they rest – but winding throughout it all are these rich and colorful lilies, growing in this shady spot.

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Before the lilies open their petals are twisted together in a spiral.

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The centers of these flowers are very thin and delicate.

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Needless to say, these small lilies were as exciting to me as a fireworks display on the 4th of July. Truly, nature is full of wonders. I had given up on finding anything beautiful to shoot and now I have the “old garden”. I think this will help me make it through the heat wave – i can only imagine it’s beauty when we finally get some rain.

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My Mother’s Favorite

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What’s so special about dogwoods? I grew up in Las Vegas and I remember my mother making a sprig of wood pulp dogwoods when I was a kid. It sat on the top of our TV. She always told me how lovely they were – her favorite flower. Me, I thought they were boring. Just a white flower with 4 petals, nothing special. That lonely sprig in a vase on the TV did little to convince me that they merited the awe in my mother’s voice as she recalled her childhood among them in the woods of Virginia. Just another thing my mom and I disagreed on.

About 10 years ago I relocated to the Ozarks. The first spring was amazing to me – the variety of wildflowers, the shades of green, the wildlife, the water – and the dogwoods.

A canopy of delicate blossoms afloat in the understory of the forest – serenely suspended between heaven and earth. Glorious – and another thing my mom was right about.

Wish I had the chance to share these with her.

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This one’s for you mom – miss you…

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