The World Through My Eyes

Unless otherwise marked, images were taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia.

This week’s photo challenge is to share the world as we see it through our eyes.

As much as I love writing, my photography has improved tremendously and is a big draw to my blog.  The saying goes that a picture is worth a 1,000 words and it’s true.  Pictures show so much more than words can describe, something I wrote about recently when I saw the play, Hamlet.

So when I’m out with my camera (or even when I’m not!), how do I look at the world?  What am I attracted to?

I love blue skies.

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The roses were so pretty this year!

And white clouds, lots of white clouds.  Especially when I can lay on the deck and make up the images I see floating by.

View from my driveway - I think it looks like a whale eating a smaller fish!!

View from my driveway – I think it looks like a whale eating a smaller fish!!

I like to look up and see the landscapes, to look far.

Shenandoah Valley taken from Skyline Drive in Fall 2011.

Shenandoah Valley taken from Skyline Drive in Fall 2011.

I also like to look close, to see the beauty in the details.

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All kinds of asters are in bloom this week.

I like the sun, in whatever form I find it.

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This is much easier on my eyes than looking at the sun!

Although green and water also satisfy my soul.

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I always enjoy standing here for a few minutes and listening to the water tinkling over the rocks.

I like the unusual. . .

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This coneflower is truly this bright pink.

. . . and the ordinary.

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Queen Anne’s lace is such an ordinary flower, yet it’s so very pretty, even with a friend. It’s a sure sign that summer is here when these appear.

I can find beauty nearly everywhere I look, whether in a small space between office buildings in downtown or

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These coneflowers are to the right of the door where I exit the building for my lunch time walk.

. . . going out to my favorite places for photography.

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The greenhouse at the botanical gardens is a favorite place to visit.

There is beauty everywhere.  All we need is to look for it.

I cannot resist chasing the bees with my camera lens.

I cannot resist chasing the bees with my camera lens.

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.
~ Anne Frank

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure.
There is no end to the adventures that we can have
if only we seek them with our eyes open.
~ Jawaharlal Nehru

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious –
the fundamental emotion which stands
at the cradle of true art and true science.
~ Albert Einstein

Spring Reminds Us That Life Goes On

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Just living is not enough.
One must have sunshine, freedom,
and a little flower.
Hans Christian Andersen

This week’s six word Friday uses the word “flowers” and it perfectly describes my Friday at Colonial Williamsburg:

Flowers bloom ~ bees comes ~ life continues.

I took the day off from work to chase the light.  The weather showed overcast and / or rainy for the whole next week except last Friday.  I was eager to see the gardens, so off I went, leaving the office and all the tax audits behind.

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I love April – on the days the weather is nice.  So much of April seems to be rainy, windy, overcast, hot, cold or humid.  Each day is a guessing game – do we run the furnace or the air conditioning today?  And there are only a few days to leave the windows open.  Once the pollen comes, everything stays closed up.

The carpenter bees were having a good old time in this esplanade from a camellia tree.  They weren’t just rolling around in the pollen – they were head butting it, doing fast and furious circles in it, and greedily capturing as much as they.  Then they flew off, their rear legs looking like fat orange pantaloons.  I was surprised they could fly with as heavily laden as they’d become!

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The artist is the confidant of nature,
flowers carry on dialogues with him through
the graceful bending of their stems
and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms.
Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.
Auguste Rodin

I’m doing better at taking red flowers and it’s a good thing – there were red and pink tulips all over!  I don’t know if that’s normal or if that was this year’s color.  I didn’t visit Colonial Williamsburg last April and by the time I went in May, the tulips were done.  Here’s how the tulips and flowers looked at the botanical gardens last April.

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October is my favorite month, but each month brings its own beauty and April is no exception.  The days are finally warming up, everything is getting green and leafy, and the flowers have come back for another year.  Each month has different flowers, of course, and April’s seem to be rather delicate, showing for a few weeks and then dying back.

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I know it’s a bit of a jumbled mess, but I like these as well as the more formal and polished gardens.  It’s an apt metaphor for my own life.  I admire people whose lives are organized and orderly.  They know what they’re doing and when, things are planned out and thought out.

That is SO not me.  My life isn’t a total mess – we can find important receipts and instruction manuals.  Our vacation planning tends to be only a week or so in advance, although chasing the light influences that.  I have no intentions of planning a photo trip just to sit in a hotel room and wait for the rain to stop.  Likewise, I’d have been really unhappy to skip Williamsburg, then have crummy skies for photography on Saturday & Sunday.  This worked out much better to take a vacation day and have a great time.

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The Capital Building

Instead, our weekend (with the overcast skies) was spent in cleaning out the garden and planting it.  I’ve given up on vegetables so we’ve turned it over to flowers.  We’ll see if that grows better.  I already know I can attract bees, butterflies, and birds to it.  So with flowers, there should be more.  In fact, after I cleaned out and raked the garden, I was visited by a robin who enjoyed scratching around the dirt and finding some food.

Later this week, I’m leaving on a road trip.  I’ll be visiting my daughter the next two weekends, and off on a business trip in-between (a several hour drive from where she lives).  I’ll be visiting one of our manufacturing plants, seeing legislators, and in meetings with our tax counsel.  My favorite boy toy will stay home with da’ boyz.  I have no doubts he will enjoy having the house to himself and not having any regular meal times.

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Have a good week!  Pet a dog if you can, kiss a sweetie (two legged or four – but not on the mouth!), and enjoy the flowers.  It’s a good day every day, even if some days you have to look harder for it.

I believe in pink.
I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner.
I believe in kissing, kissing a lot.
I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong.
I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls.
I believe that tomorrow is another day and
I believe in miracles.
Audrey Hepburn

A Fall Walk

I love spending time on the weekends at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  Although they’re not big, they have a lot there and it changes every week.

More and more I realize though that I don’t go there to think, meditate or even contemplate.  I find that as I wander around with my camera, my brain is just. . . empty.  Yep, empty.  I’m not thinking about anything.  I’m enjoying what I see, what I hear, and sometimes what I feel without analyzing, questioning, or worrying about it.

I’m just enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.  Well, somedays there’s no sunshine and it’s too humid to hardly breathe, but that doesn’t stop me from having a good time.

For some reason, mostly because my garden is dying back, I didn’t think there’d be much there to see or take pictures of.  Ha!  I was wrong about that.

Sometimes the beauty is subtle.  I enjoy it because the colors or shapes appeal to me or I just find it interesting.  These cone flowers are way past prime, but the round centers that remain are just pretty, at least to me.

Sometimes it’s textures that surprise me.  I can’t always make them photogenic, but I try to capture anyhow.

This one really surprised me.  It’s a passion flower, but very different than the one on my mailbox.  I took a bunch of pictures from different angles, but that fringe was just incredible.  And the whole flower was just so purple!

So where was I?  Oh yes, empty brain.  I used to think it would be neat to go to the gardens and just sit there, praying and contemplating.  Unfortunately, the benches are really uncomfortable.  I can’t sit forward and I can’t lean back.

Besides, I can sit in a comfortable chair on the deck in my backyard.  Here, when I walk I see all kinds of things.  Some are just downright cute.

Other things are just beautiful, even if I can’t get a very good picture (I don’t think this butterfly is native to Virginia; I took it inside the butterfly exhibit that’s still here in town).

I can’t get too excited about my inability to focus or concentrate.  My job has a lot of stress and decisions that need to be made pretty much each day.  I need downtime on the weekends and learned a long time ago that if I don’t make time for it, my energy and patience the following week will pay dearly for it.

So I accept that leaving my brain empty and / or wandering is a good thing and to just leave it be.  It’s a great reset for my mental health and some exercise as well.  Besides taking pictures of pretty things :)

Did you know roses bloom from April to October?  I didn’t.  I found that out during the tram ride at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.

I also love visiting a few favorite places and observing the changes since the last time I was there.  Fall comes slowly to Virginia, but there are signs that it’s on the way.  In the spring of course, I look for the swelling buds that say the leaves are nearly here.

I have lots more pictures to share, but will end today’s post with more of the brown-eyed susans.  I loved them!  I took them from every angle I could think of.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a walk with me.  Did you empty your mind for a few minutes?  It would be nice if you did.  Maybe you can go take a walk now for a few minutes, even if just to fill your water glass, and relax a little longer before going back to your day.

I leave with you with this thought:

The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible
and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.
It is a little star-dust caught,
a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Although I’ve been using photos from both this and last year from the botanical gardens, I didn’t think to do a series each month of what I saw.  But here are my walks there in JanuaryMarch, April, and November.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

I’d think that with all the pollen on these hollyhocks there would be a lot of bees.  I was surprised to see just this solitary bee partying at the feast.

I feel the same way some days, like I’m the only one that sees or enjoys the beauty or laughter around me.  I’m always gawking at what’s around me, whether walking during lunch or sitting outside on the deck.  I see the bees and the butterflies.  I notice the peacefulness of the trees and the sky.

The day the blue heron was fishing in the James River near the bridge, I accosted people on the path to go look at it.  No one else noticed it.

I wish I had my camera for that, but I didn’t.  Not everything can be captured in a photo and somedays, remembering beauty and laughter is enough.

To see how what other photographers posted for “solitary”, check out the comments here (at the bottom).

Fall Is Coming

Lately the nights are cool and so are the early mornings.  It’s been a welcomed relief from the record-breaking heat we’ve had this summer.  Until I heard the geese overhead, honking as they flew in formation.  And I thought, fall is coming.

It’s been several things now.  I first heard the geese several weeks ago, but only once.  Now it’s daily that I see and hear them.

Remember when I said I don’t see the goldfinches unless they’re migrating?  Well, that was a clue too.  I figured it out when Patti said she saw them hanging around too.  Patti doesn’t live too far from me.

She did identify the male vs. female and yeah, mine was wrong.  All those gorgeous pictures I took were the female.  The male has since appeared on our deck but I only got one not very good picture of him.

What’s that you just said?  You can’t hardly see the male goldfinch in this picture?  There’s too much basil and too many tomato plants, and not enough bird?  Okay, try this one instead.

I was taking pictures in the garden last weekend and saw my basil yank down sharply.  I looked closely but only saw the bees.  Then it yanked down again and I thought – darn squirrel!  No, it was a little brown wren who also just showed up recently in the yard.  It flew off as soon as it noticed me watching.

And I saw hummingbirds last weekend too – a pair!  They were hanging out by the evergreens, so I think they have a nest there.  They’re usually around all summer, so I probably just didn’t notice them.  Of course, I also didn’t get buzzed this year like I did last year.  That made me notice them for sure.

Oh yes, I was writing about fall coming.  Our trees and grass are still very green due to all the rain and moisture.  That’s unusual for this time of the year.  Often the leaves start to dry out and you hear them clacking before they start turning brown.  That hasn’t happened yet.  The spiders aren’t yet crazy with their webs, although the insect noises at night have really ramped up.

I’ve tried to identify the reasons why I think fall is becoming.  The air feels different, the sun is lower and days are shorter, but mostly it just feels different out there.

Here’s one of the pictures I took out in the garden last weekend.  The red flowers are scarlet runner beans.  The beans are delicious, but I don’t know why these waited over three months to decide to bloom.  I don’t think they’ll grow and ripen enough before the first frost.

More Backyard Activity

The activity in my own backyard continues!  It’s been great fun to have such great photographic opportunities right outside my back door.  The nice weather is helping too, as I wouldn’t be sitting outside reading if it were still so hot and humid.

This time, it was the male eastern black swallowtail butterfly visiting the flowers.  I’d noticed him earlier in the day on the trumpet vines, but he was gone by the time I got my camera off the kitchen table.  A little while later, he landed on the lantana’s, which was much closer to the deck and enabled me to get a better picture anyhow.

There were actually at least two male swallowtails in the yard – the other one had more yellow than this and was just slightly smaller.  I did not get pictures of the second one though.  It’s not a surprise to have the male butterflies after the female was hanging around the other weekend.

In the meantime, the bees were going nuts on the basil.  I love trying to catch them in flight and actually got a good one!  Unfortunately, this was not as innocuous as it looked.  The bee on the right kept challenging the one on the left.  After a few more seconds, they flew off together and then locked in combat.  I have no idea why the one was so aggressive to the other one, but I made sure to not get too close.

In the meantime, the dog entertainment center was in full swing.  He now has the miniature pinscher chasing bees too!  Thankfully neither of them have caught one this year, although a few flys have been caught and swallowed.  The one above swallowed a bee last year, but didn’t seem to get stung.  He did make a number of yukky faces though from the bee fur on his tongue.

Lastly, I changed my header photo.  I took this picture earlier this summer when we were doing some weekend wandering.  I don’t go out in sailboats myself, but to me they are a symbol of summer.

Have a good week!

Downright Pretty For A Brief Time

This is the fourth year the passion flower has bloomed on our mailbox.  The flowers don’t last but a few days, but they are downright spectacular when open.  The bees love them, getting between the yellow stamens and purple fringe.  I’ve seen as many as three of them, always going clockwise in a circle.

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Word for tomorrow – MELLOW.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.