Flowers and Fungi

These early bloomers captured rain drops

These early bloomers captured rain drops

On a nature walk on Saturday, we were surprised to discover spring wild flowers in full bloom tucked amongst the leaf litter on the forest floor.  I don’t remember the name of these blooms, but they are often among the earliest to appear in the spring.  The thing is, it’s not spring.  We haven’t even reached Imbolc yet–it seems horribly risky for a delicate spring flower to appear so early.

The likelihood that it will manage to set seed before the weather turns too cold for survival seems very slim.  But it blooms anyway.

A completely different kind of "bloom"

A completely different kind of “bloom”

A flower, presumably, doesn’t ask questions about risk and reward.  It simply responds to the external events of water, sun, and temperature.  It doesn’t check the calendar before the seed begins to sprout.  Collectively, perhaps the seeds will have slightly different trigger points and only a few will sprout now.  The rest will require more warmth longer before they come to life.  And, in this way (I hope), the next generation will come from the seeds whose triggers allowed them to survive long enough to produce more seed.

Wood ears may not quite qualify in our traditional definition of "bloom," but they sure are interesting

Wood ears may not quite qualify in our traditional definition of “bloom,” but they sure are interesting

If we think of these flowers as a single entity instead of individual flowers, perhaps the lesson is more applicable to us as individuals.  Otherwise it may be tempting to take a lesson along the traditional lines of “only the strong survive” when the reality is that often it is not the strong that survive, it is the timely.

If we think of those early bloomers as the first attempt in the process of trial and error, perhaps the lesson is more applicable to our own lives.  After all, being timely requires a lot of luck.  If we sit around dormant until the exact right time, we’ve already missed it when we realize it’s come.  But if we put up a few sprouts too early, we get to practice and practice some more.  And when the right time comes, we’re there, ready and blooming at just the right time.

Layers of mixed fungi make a fascinating display on a rotting log

Layers of mixed fungi make a fascinating display on a rotting log

Fungi work differently.  They largely reproduce via spores, which are different from seeds in that there’s no pollination.  While I know very little about fungi, reportedly, at least some of them produce spores on their own time clock without regard for environmental conditions.  Others require environmental factors that include nutrient levels, carbon dioxide levels, and and light levels (see  Another study I found suggests that atmospheric moisture (which I assume is the same thing as humidity) has the greatest impact on how much fungus grows.  This seems a bit like saying the ground will be wet when it rains to me–after all, do we really need a study to tell us that more humidity drives more fungal growth?

This is neither a flower nor a fungus--it's a Lichen

This is neither a flower nor a fungus–it may look like lettuce, but it’s a Lichen

That being beside the point, the continual, misting rain for the past few weeks has created a unique kind of bloom.  Although the fungi had faded a bit from their peak, there were still some really beautiful colonies.  Beautiful fungi–words I never expected to write together.

Final look at the more colorful fungus we saw

Final look at the more colorful fungus we saw

The Importance of Yoga

The most important thing I learned from my mother is to allow myself to experience awe and wonder.  To experience the feeling of wonderment is to experience a sense of delight with what is.  It’s a moment of rest for the brain where you just accept and feel the feeling of “wow.”

As someone who is overly analytical and who could keep up with a three-year old on the frequency of uttering the word “why,” I particularly appreciate these moments when I’m simply too awed to think.

Today, I want to experience the joy of exploring beautiful flowers.

Instead of picking flowers, I photograph them.  One would think that photographing flowers would be a relatively easy task.  They are, after all, not going to run away.

However, given the flowers I most want to photograph are growing in colonies on a hillside, getting into the flowers with my big feet and a tripod turns into quite a feat of athleticism.  I carefully plant the toes of one foot and balance like the karate kid on one leg as I try to gently create a space for my other foot; I am painfully reminded of how long it’s been since I last went to yoga class.

Once I get myself in a spot where I can put both feet on the ground without crushing anything, I bend down and look through the viewfinder to focus on the flower.  The wind is blowing so hard the the flower is literally blowing completely out of my frame.  I have to hold the flower gently with one hand while I move the camera a bit with the other.  And, it turns out, I’m not close enough to the flower to focus.

I must stand, lift the tripod, find another clear spot for each of its legs and repeat the process of focusing and framing without moving my feet.

When I bend back over the camera again, desperately wishing for a place to rest a knee, my hand is shaking–I can’t keep the flower still enough to focus.  I have to straighten up, shake out the soreness, and try again.

In the end, I am grabbing snapshots of a flower as it waves by my lens in the wind because I cannot stand the pain of the position I have to stand in to do otherwise.

While I suppose I could buy a bouquet at the store or even start growing flowers in a pot, one of the things I like about shooting flowers up close and personal in a park is the feeling of surprise.  The first time I look inside a blooming flower with my macro lens, I see something I never expected to see.  Going to the park and exploring flowers I can’t identify and have never seen before keeps me in a state of wonder.

I just didn’t expect photographing flowers to have a prerequisite of regular yoga classes.