Wildlife Wednesday: Eastern Black Swallowtail

Novembr 27, 2018, I spotted two tough little Eastern Black Swallowtail cats munching on a lone fennel plant, left in a cleared out bed at the Williamsburg Botanical garden.

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Eastern Black swallowtails lay their eggs and their larvae feed on parsley and fennel. This bed was filled with Lantana, Salvia, and with fennel all summer, and hosted many butterflies from May until November.

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Butterflies covered this planting of Lantana at the Williamsburg Botanical Garden in August.

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When I told my friend Judith about the caterpillars, she came and rescued them the afternoon before a hard freeze, at the very end of November.

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Judith cared for the caterpillars until each formed its chrysalis, feeding them organic parsley in little habitats indoors; then she added them to her collection of living chrysalides. She cared for the sleeping caterpillars all winter and brought them over to our garden yesterday morning,  just as they were ready to leave their chrysalides as butterflies.

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She named the two caterpillars rescued from the fennel at the botanical garden ‘Rough’ and ‘Tough’. They spent the winter pinned to this Styrofoam in her butterfly habitat.

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A total of three Black Swallowtail butterflies emerged during her visit yesterday morning. She generously set all three free in our garden. There were two males and a female. The amount of blue on the hindwings is the main way to distinguish gender in these swallowtail butterflies.

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Here Judith is releasing the first of the butterflies, a female. Then she invited us to help release the other two butterflies into the garden.

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The butterflies need some time for their wings to fully stretch, dry and toughen before they are ready to fly. We were able to hold and observe them as they prepared for their first flight.

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Would you like to attract butterflies to your garden?

The first step is to plant a variety of both nectar plants and host plants.  Nectar plants attract butterflies, and host plants allow them to lay their eggs and will feed the larvae as they grow.

If you attract butterflies and host their larvae, it is important to commit to not using insecticides in your garden.  Yes, the larvae will eat some leaves on their chosen host plant.  The plants will survive.

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Fennel and parsley host several types of swallowtail caterpillars.  Other easy to grow host plants include oak trees; spicebush, Lindera benzoin;  paw paw trees, Dutchman’s pipevine, Aristolochia macrophylla; passionfruit vine, Passiflora lutea; and even common wood violets.

Most butterflies prefer very specific host plants and may only use one or two.  For example, Monarch butterflies want Asclepias, or milkweed.  There are several different species of Asclepias available, and most all of them will support Monarchs.

It is useful to do a little research on common butterflies that live in your own region, and then plant their host plants, if you don’t have them growing on your property already.

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This was the last of the three butterflies to emerge from chrysalis, and the last to be released. He wasn’t ready to fly, and so we gently placed him on this red bud tree, where he rested while his wings hardened. Finally, he also flew away into the garden.

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Butterflies need safe places to shelter out of the wind at night and during storms.  Trees and dense shrubs serve them well.  They also need places where they can ‘puddle,’ landing on the ground to drink water from mudpuddles, moist earth, or even shallow saucers filled with gravel and water.  Butterflies need the minerals they absorb this way.

Butterflies will feed from a variety of nectar plants, including trees, vines, and flowering plants you may plant in baskets, pots or beds.  Lantana is an absolute favorite source of nectar.  Agastache, anise hyssop, attracts even more butterflies than Lantana!  All Verbenas attract butterflies and are very easy to grow.  The more flowers your garden offers, at a variety of heights, the more butterflies will likely stop by to visit your garden.

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We have seen a variety of butterflies in our garden already this spring, including Black Swallowtails. In fact, an hour or so after the release, we saw another Black Swallowtail laying eggs on an emerging fennel plant in the upper garden. This is one of the butterflies we released, resting before its first flight,

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There are many butterflies and moths native in Virginia and all of them are currently in decline. We have a network of dedicated butterfly enthusiasts in our area who rescue and raise cats, releasing the butterflies into the wild as they emerge. By protecting the butterfly larvae, they help insure that more individuals make it to the adult butterfly stage, mate, and increase the population.

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One of the greatest problems faced by butterflies is loss of habitat.  The native plants they depend on to raise their next generation are often the ones removed for development, but not replanted by landscapers.

Gardeners can make a significant difference by providing a small bit of habitat in their own yard.  Like a patch in a quilt, our own bit of habitat may be small.  But, when many of us are all working together, we can provide safe places for butterflies to rest and refuel along their migration routes, and can provide safe and welcoming places for them to lay their eggs.

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Butterflies feed on Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’

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By working together, each of us providing a bit of habitat and safety for butterflies, we can help support the next generations of butterflies; making sure that our own grandchildren can enjoy these beautiful insects and share their magic with their own children, far into the future.

Will you join us?

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeding on Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’.

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Mindful of Seeds

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“Remember to be conscious of what seeds you plant,

as the garden of your mind is like the world.

The longer seeds grow,

the more likely they are to become trees.

Trees often block the sun’s rays

from reaching other seeds,

allowing only plants that are acclimated

to the shadow of the tree to grow—

keeping you stuck with that one reality.”

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Natasha Potter

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“The tree which moves some to tears of joy

is in the eyes of others only a green thing

that stands in the way.

Some see nature all ridicule and deformity…

and some scarce see nature at all.

But to the eyes of the man of imagination,

nature is imagination itself.”

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William Blake

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Sentinels of trees
breathe life into bodies of earthly flesh
As their mighty arms reach to the stars
we join in their quest for Helios’s mighty power
Like sentinels, we seek our place
in the forest of nature’s gentle breath”

.

Ramon Ravenswood

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Sunday Dinner: Telling the Truth

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“A lie can travel half way around the world
while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
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Mark Twain
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“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing,
and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
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J.K. Rowling
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“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
.
Oscar Wilde
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“Never be afraid to raise your voice
for honesty and truth and compassion
against injustice and lying and greed.
If people all over the world…would do this,
it would change the earth.”
.
William Faulkner

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“Above all, don’t lie to yourself.
The man who lies to himself
and listens to his own lie
comes to a point that he cannot
distinguish the truth within him, or around him,
and so loses all respect for himself and for others.
And having no respect
he ceases to love.”
.
Fyodor Dostoevsky
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“The truth does not change
according to our ability to stomach it.”

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Flannery O’Connor
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“When I despair, I remember
that all through history
the way of truth and love have always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers,
and for a time, they can seem invincible,
but in the end, they always fall.
Think of it–always.
.
Mahatma Gandhi

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“In a time of deceit
telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
.
George Orwell

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“Be mindful. Be grateful. Be positive. Be true. Be kind.”
.
Roy T. Bennett

Six On Saturday: Six Beautiful Things

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“The mind can go in a thousand directions,

but on this beautiful path,

I walk in peace.

With each step, the wind blows.

With each step,

a flower blooms.”
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Thich Nhat Hanh

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“Strangeness

is a necessary ingredient

in beauty.”
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Charles Baudelaire

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“Beauty is no quality in things themselves:

It exists merely in the mind

which contemplates them;

and each mind perceives a different beauty.”
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David Hume

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“Live quietly in the moment

and see the beauty of all before you.

The future will take care of itself……”
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Yogananda

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“All the diversity, all the charm,

and all the beauty of life

are made up of light and shade.”
.

Leo Tolstoy

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“Though we travel the world over

to find the beautiful,

we must carry it with us,

or we find it not.”
.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

 

 

International Day of Forests and Trees

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March 21 marks the International Day of Forests and Trees.

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We celebrate trees every day of the year in our Forest Garden.  They shelter and shade us, filter the air, block out noise, feed the soil, produce flowers, fruits, nuts and harbor mistletoe!  Our trees attract and shelter songbirds and squirrels and fill the garden with beauty.  We love their unique forms and colors.

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We live in an area where there are many trees still standing along the roads and in neighborhoods.  Our climate allows us to grow many different species of trees and they form the ‘climax community’ in our ecosystem.  In other words, without intervention, every wild space would soon grow up in trees.

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Sadly, this isn’t true across much of the planet.  Trees are the lungs of our planet.  Even as they clean our air and produce oxygen, they also fix carbon, and other elements, in their wood and leaves.  Trees filtering carbon and other greenhouse gasses out of the air helps mitigate global warming.  More trees will help regulate our planet’s temperature.  Fewer trees allow the warming to accelerate.

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In one of the great insanities of bureaucracy,  our state’s transportation department is widening a long stretch of Interstate 64 that goes through our area, to allow ever more cars to use the highway.  In order to do this, they are cutting down, this week, thousands and thousands of mature trees that have stood in the median between the lanes for decades.

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Dogwood is our Virginia state tree, and many beautiful dogwoods grew in the areas recently clear cut between the lanes of I64 through Williamsburg.

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Fewer trees, more exhaust, more pavement, more cars, more noise,  poorer air quality, and more rapid warming of our climate will result.  It is hard to believe how governments can operate with such total disregard for the quality of life for the people they are supposed to serve, or the environmental impact of their actions.

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Bald Cypress trees grow along the Chickahominy River.

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We’ve been watching the destruction of this narrow, but important strip of forest.  It makes us heartsick to see the waste and the ugliness, and to think about how this once attractive stretch of road will have lost its grace and its character forever.

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Powhatan Creek

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But this is a common story in our area, as it likely is in yours as well.  Trees are cut so more roads, shopping centers and homes can be built.  What can any of us do?

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Magnolia grandiflora growing along the Colonial Parkway near Jametown, VA.

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Plant as many trees as we are able, to make some effort to offset the damage done when trees are cleared.  Have you planted a tree lately?

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A row of Crepe Myrtles stands near College Creek.

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I actually bought two little maple trees earlier this week.  They are only about a foot tall now, but they will grow.  And so will the trees that you plant!

We don’t plant trees just for ourselves; we plant trees for the generations to come.

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Acer palmatum

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We can also speak for the trees, use our own voices to support conservation efforts, to support parks and wild spaces, and to support the local vendors who raise and sell trees and shrubs in our area.

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We have lost a great many trees across our region in recent years to storms and construction.  Our trees and forests are precious resources.

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Let’s each do what we can to protect the trees still standing, and replace those that are lost. 

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A native redbud tree seedling appeared by our drive. This tree can eventually grow to 20′ or more.  Sometimes protecting trees is as effortless as protecting seedlings and allowing them to grow.

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Our grandchildren’s lives depend on what we do today.

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Gold is a luxury.

Trees are necessities.

Man can live and thrive without gold,

but we cannot survive without trees.”
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Paul Bamikole

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Sandy Bay, which frames one end of Jamestown Island, provides a home for many species of birds in its shallow waters. Bald cypress trees grow along its banks.

Six New Things On Saturday

Japanese Pieris

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The novelty of emerging spring draws me outside to tromp around our garden on the rawest of late winter days, when most reasonable people would busy themselves inside.

“What’s new today?” I wonder, slipping into my muddy shoes and pocketing my camera.  There are changes now hour to hour, let alone day to day.

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Iris reticulata ‘Sunshine’

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Yesterday, I noticed the first two of our yellow Iris reticulata in bloom.  The skies opened up with more rain before I made it back outside to photograph them.  I wondered how they would hold up in heavy rain, as I listened to it pounding on the roof and coursing through the gutters last night.   And in answer they still stand smartly this morning, petals holding strong, if splashed a bit with soil.

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Helleborus orientalis seedling, in its first season of bloom

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The passage from February into March is measured by emerging colors, in our garden.  Brighter, fresher greens, yellow, pinks, purples, blue, white and sometimes red,  appear with Disney-like synchronicity.  Of all the colors of spring, yellow feels the warmest and most penetrating.

I can see the yellow Forsythia exploding like fireworks, and dafffodils appearing, like flickering growing flames, beneath the shrubs.  Yellow is the color I can see from across the yard, through the window as I wait indoors for the latest storm to pass.

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Oakleaf Hydrangea buds began to open this week.

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Like a litter of kittens awakening one by one from their naps, so the shrubs awaken one by one, all in their proper time.  Forsythia leads them all, with flowering quince buds swelling and unfolding a few days later.

This morning I found the first of the Japanese Pieris opening, Magnolia stellata buds finally glowing white instead of fuzzy grey, and the first white carnation like Camellias opening on a juvenile shrub.  We added this Camellia in autumn 2016, and this is its first spring covered in buds.

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Camellia japonica

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Such is the rhythm of making a garden.  We make small gestures, a bulb here, a perennial there.  A new shrub or two each year, perhaps a tree.  We plant and build, shape, prune and plan with some idea of the shape of things to come.

But maybe sometimes we forget, as the months and seasons follow one after the other, while we wait for our small gestures to root and grow.  And then suddenly it’s spring, again.  And the garden awakens, and our investments mature into beauty beyond imagination.

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Hyacinth

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Woodland Gnome 2019

Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

Still Learning How To See

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“I keep drawing the trees, the rocks, the river,
I’m still learning how to see them;
I’m still discovering how to render their forms.
I will spend a lifetime doing that.
Maybe someday I’ll get it right.”
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Alan Lee

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“In a forest of a hundred thousand trees,
no two leaves are alike.
And no two journeys
along the same path are alike.”
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Paulo Coelho

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“There is life and death in all forest,
the life will bring you beauty
and the dead will bring you new life!”
.
Roland Kemler

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“One moment the world is as it is.
The next, it is something entirely different.
Something it has never been before.”
.
Anne Rice

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“So many hues in nature
and yet nothing remained the same,
every day, every season
a work of genius, a free gift
from the Artist of artists.”
.
E.A. Bucchianeri

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“This is why children can see Angels, touch spirits,
hear the songs of the trees, and talk to the animals.
Quite simply, they acknowledge the magic.”
.
Elizabeth Eiler

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At first glance, it was just another wet and chilly February day.  The sounds of wind and rain had awakened me in the night, another storm passing over swelling creeks and spongy ground.  Heavy clouds still roiled across the sky, blocking all of the golden from the cold, grey light that reached us.

It was still a day worth using, and so we set out to have a look at the river after brunch and before busy-ness.

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There is beauty and grace, even in February.  There is the halo of faint color around the latticework of limbs, clothed in swelling buds.  There is the wake left by a passing work boat, and moss glowing thick and green through the gloom. There is the delicate etching of branches stretching for the sky; the living nearly indistinguishable from the dead.

I paused to consider that after a life-time of looking, I’m really still learning how to see….

Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Everything has beauty,
but not everyone sees it.”
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Confucious

Six on Saturday: The Greening of the World

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“I can breathe where there is green.

Green grows hope.

It keeps my heart beating

and helps me remember

who I am.”
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Courtney M. Privett

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The first daffodils of spring opened in our forest garden yesterday.

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Watching the greening of the world each spring never fails to fill me with appreciation to live in such a beautiful place.  How many people live in cities or arid lands that remain clothed in shades of grey and brown throughout the year?

Without winter, I’m not sure that I would appreciate the living greens of February so much.  At the moment, every emerging leaf and stem excites me.

I want to photograph them and watch their daily progress as new growth emerges from woody stems and muddy earth.

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Green is the color of life, of growth, of change.  The simple chemistry of transforming sunlight into living bio-energy happens only in the green.  The alchemy of transforming polluted air into pure; the creation of oxygen to fill our every breath requires green leaves to filter every inhalation of breath we take.  Green sustains our lives even as it soothes our spirit.

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This is the season when the first tentative bits of green re-appear from the warming Earth.  Perennials re-awaken and stretch folded leaves and lengthening stems, reaching for sunlight and warmth.  Moss plumps and spreads,  tiny weeds and blades of grass sprout from patient seeds.

I am glad to find them all, encouraged at the stubbornness and determination of greening life to prevail over the forces of darkness.  The old and rotting will be swept away to return to the compost pile of history, releasing its remaining energy to fuel what is vital and new.

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“Pursue some path,

however narrow and crooked,

in which you can walk with love and reverence.”
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Henry David Thoreau

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Woodland Gnome 2019

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“Green is the soul of Spring.

Summer may be dappled with yellow,

Autumn with orange and Winter with white

but Spring is drenched with the colour green.”
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Paul Kortepeter

Sunday Dinner: The Art of Memory

February 2017 Powhatan Creek

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“When people look at my pictures
I want them to feel
the way they do
when they want to read a line of a poem twice.”
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Robert Frank

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March 2016

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“The Earth is Art,
The Photographer is only a Witness ”
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Yann Arthus-Bertrand

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April 2018

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“What I like about photographs
is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever,
impossible to reproduce.”
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Karl Lagerfeld

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May 2018

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“When words become unclear,
I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate,
I shall be content with silence.”
.
Ansel Adams

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June 2017

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“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely,
every hundredth of a second.”
.
Marc Riboud

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July 2018

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“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us
nothing more than what we see with our own eyes,
there is another in which it proves to us
how little our eyes permit us to see.”
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Dorothea Lange

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August 2018

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“To the complaint, ‘There are no people in these photographs,’
I respond, There are always two people:
the photographer and the viewer.”
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Ansel Adams

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September 2017

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2018

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October 2014

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“Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see,
which is the very reason one should try to attempt it.
Otherwise we’re going to go on forever
just photographing more faces and more rooms
and more places.
Photography has to transcend description.
It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject,
or reveal the subject, not as it looks,
but how does it feel?”
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Duane Michals

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October 2014

Sunday Dinner: Vision

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“While there is perhaps a province
in which the photograph can tell us nothing more
than what we see with our own eyes,
there is another in which it proves to us
how little our eyes permit us to see.”
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Dorothea Lange

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“How you look at it
is pretty much how you’ll see it”
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Rasheed Ogunlaru

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“The power to concentrate was the most important thing.
Living without this power
would be like opening one’s eyes
without seeing anything.”
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Haruki Murakami

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“The more boundless your vision,
the more real you are.”
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Deepak Chopra

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“If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is –
infinite.”
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William Blake

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“Your heart is able to see things
that your eyes aren’t able to.”
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Kholoud Yasser

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“I await your sentence
with less fear than you pass it.
The time will come
when all will see what I see.”
.
Giordano Bruno

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“At the moment of vision,
the eyes see nothing.”
.
William Golding 

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014-2019

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“You get what you focus on.”
.
Chris Hutchinson

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“After all, … your eyes only see
what your mind lets you believe.”
.
Paul Jenkins

 

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