The iconic Monarch butterfly certainly made an impression on my young self. Late in August we’d be out floating on the pristine marsh rivers of Ontario, picnicking after a swim, and in the balmy afternoon breeze a flutter of orange would catch my eye, brilliant against the teal green water.
In those days I didn’t realize the Monarchs traveled from Canada to Mexico on their monumental migration. I was impressed enough it would head out across the 30-mile span of Lake St. Clair.
These beautiful and inspiring creatures are facing multiple survival challenges from commercial agriculture, deforestation and climate change.
What you can do:
•Create a habitat in your own garden and in your community. Plant milkweed (Asclepias L), the only species that Monarch caterpillars will cocoon upon. Invite and protect the flashy caterpillars and their homesand you can enjoy the Monarchs rebirth in late summer.
Please do not use pesticides or herbicides in your garden or lawn. These chemicals have a devastating effect on not only monarchs but all pollinators, the creatures that make our food grow. For assistance with organic gardening practises click HERE.
And, tell me your Monarch stories. I’m sure you’ve got some!
This is a reblog from the NewYorker.com. Please follow the link to read the complete article. Who knew fig reproduction was so unusual?
Bite a fig in half and you’ll discover a core of tiny blossoms.
All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination, but because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.)
When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.
The fig and the fig wasp are a superlative example of what biologists call codependent evolution. The plants and insects have been growing old together for more than sixty million years. Almost every species of fig plant—more than seven hundred and fifty in total—has its own species of wasp. But codependence hasn’t made them weak, like it can with humans. The figs and fig wasps’ pollination system is extremely efficient compared with that of other plants, some of which just trust the wind to blow their pollen where it needs to go. And the figs’ specialized flowers, far from isolating them in an evolutionary niche, have allowed them to …
Chicory blue and creamy Queen Anne’s lace give way to the hot happy yellows: first the Mullein, then state flower Tickseed Sunflower. But it’s the first young tendrils of Goldenrod that cause my heart to pause- September and back-to-school is nigh. It’s bitter-sweet, this moment, every year.
I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.
When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.
Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.
If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!
You can catch me at the monthly Moyaone Markets, where I often have art for sale and in progress. In good weather I love to set up outside and invite anyone to make art with me, and that’s what I did at the August 1 Market, a blissful summer’s day.
I had a variety of guest artists of all ages, and we had fun in the dappled shade, splashing our watercolors, sprinkling with salt for cool effects, and watching the colors run and bloom, just like the flowers we were painting.
Haven’t you wanted to pick up the brush or pen and make images? What’s holding you back?
Next Moyaone Market Saturday September 5
9am-1pm • 2311 Bryan Point Rd, Accokeek MD
One cool and blustery day in November of 2004, just after the re-election of George W Bush, I was in London. I wore a button that read “I did not vote for him.” Being a lefty all my life, I had quite recently campaigned for Kerry, and had vigorously protested our going to war with Iraq.
As I approached St. Paul’s cathedral an older man in antique uniform approached me with a paper poppy. I gladly exchanged it for a 2£ coin, and when I thanked him he exclaimed: “Oh, you’re a Yank!! We love you Americans. Thank you for all that you did. We love you!” and there were tears in his eyes, and my own.
Power speaks the truth
This installation vividly illustrates the grief and horror of war, and greatly honors the bravery, sacrifice and commitment of veterans and the families who lost them. The visual power of that monumental wash of red, surrounding the Bloody Tower itself, feels like a truth-telling. One we have all needed for some time.
Last weekend I took photos of the magnolia seed pods and sent them to a friend, who exclaimed: “what an awesome praying mantis!”
I hadn’t even noticed the creature when I clicked the shutter. So, I thought, how many photos do I have with accidental critters in them? A few. But if I expand the concept, I have a great many images of life among the flowers.
Most, but not all, of these images have animals among the blossoms. Human animals included. In a few, like the first, the wildlife is invisible. It’s been a colorful year!
Fairy house on Capitol Hill
Poodles Lily & Laika in Congressional Cemetery
Compulsive Gardener Glee
Jose visits from the Left Coast
Lynn and her lovely daughters, plus Hunter
Laurels blooming on NoName Road
Pollinators at work
Blogger in Bliss
Silver-bordered Fritellary on Echinacia
Boats & Day Lilies
Zebra Swallowtail on Buttonbush
Lotus in the Mattawoman, flood tide. Who swims below?
The Carolina morning is sweet, cool and clear, a frisky breeze ruffling the new leaves.
We’ve left the coast, and with it the bowl of still and humid air that is the mid Atlantic, even in the freshest seasons.
We’re further south but higher, resulting in the same stage of spring: radiant dogwoods, new leaves, early bloomers still bright, with the irises in bud. Yesterday we climbed and climbed. Route 360 through Virginia unfurled in wave after wave of low hills, each one cresting just a bit higher than the last. Now the land is labyrinthine hollows and piney woods, with no roads that follow any cardinal line.
I can feel the mountains even though they’re at least a hundred miles away.
This lovely house is a haven for birds, butterflies, blossoms. Mama cardinal nests outside the door. The beams and planks of the old part of the house are fragrant with age: a bit smoky with a frisson of ancient dust. I’m sleeping in a slant ceiling room with white beaded ceiling, in a nest of pillows and comfort. I found a tiny vase of lily of the valley beside my bed, something my grandmother Bea would have done.
We’ve had a beautiful day of coffee, garden, kitchen, luncheon with friends under maple leaves so new they were nearly yellow, vivid against the blue. It’s been lovely to BE here, taking in the beauty of the place, knowing that the next few days we will be dashing through many places worthy of lingering.
BTW, if you want to follow us on Twitter, use hashtag #coast2coast. I’m @patriseart.
Here’s a few pics; if you want more, they are on Flickr, at right.
It’s right there, just outside your window: an incredible world filled with (magic, love, science, energy, mystery, god, light, LIFE). A world where the smallest thing is vital, integral to the whole. Where your breath is as necessary as air, where angels really do dance on the head of a pin.
Just step outside and let the modern din, as alluring as it is, fade back. Listen: bird, plane, crickets, another bird, grasses waving. Look: sky filled with clouds like wings, deepening from white to cream to gold in the lengthening light.
It can be so easy to miss, these things, what with all the worries in your world: hurry, money, late, bills, gallop through your day, always reaching further than you fear you can reach. No room for the moment when a Damsel Fly (some call them darners) lands on your hand. She chooses you as the stable place to unfurl new wings. To accustom her new body to air before lifting off.
See the rainbows in her stained-glass wings. See the green-gold scales, irridescent armour protecting her beating heart. See the bulbous insect eyes, comically large, that see your world through a kaleidescope. She’s tender, pulsing, driven by hunger, born to move in the world, alive. She lifts off your hand, ready to fly.
I met her while kayaking earlier this week on the Mattawoman River. Considered one of the last pristine rivers in Maryland, it’s a major nursery for sport fish and other wildlife.
Just a little ways away, right now, lotuses are furling for the night, their generous cups closing until dawn. Their velvet green leaves, big as dinner-plates, ripple, floating. Droplets of water beading like mercury. beads and rolls off the rich . The water is warm silk, the boat parts the way through the lotus forest, somehow not an intruder. Green frog with satisfied grin watches from a floating leaf island. His tiny cousin climbs aboard. Small as a fingernail and perfectly froggy in every way; his orange eyes blink, unafraid.
Froggy rides with us further upriver. This creature that swam below the surface just days ago now sails through the upper world. He lost his swimmer’s tail ashe grew strong legs, preparing to begin a new life above the mirror’s surface. Now he’s on the prow of our craft. vivid green-apple green, skin patterned with leaf-llke veins, fading to cool lemon-white on his belly, punctuated toes ready to grasp or release; dead useful.
We paddle against wind and current, a proud craft with figurehead on the prow. Somewhat later, scratching ashore on gravel bank, Froggy debarks into his uncertain future. Happy hunting, my friend.
Here in this water our life begins, our sustenance is generated, life arises again and again every moment. Sun spun to sugar, consumed by tiny creatures that feed the tadpole, destined to be frog. CO2 into oxygen, caterpillar to butterfly, jellied egg to trophy bass, muddy seed to transcendent lotus: the everyday miracles are countless, and everywhere you look.
Now the sun slips below and only the high wings of the sky still beam us light. Tree swallows begin their dusk ballet and we glide on the outgoing tide, motionless, while the birds fly low and fast over the water snatching their evening meal. They pass so close we hear the flap of feathery wings rustle, as if we were invisible to them.
The lifeblood of these creatures flows around us, buoying the boat, carrying food and messages, pulsing with a heartbeat of current and tide. What happens miles away will determine the story here.
One day when you mow your lawn and dump the clippings in that low spot behind the garage, you may notice a little water moving.The grass clippings, lush with fertilizer, send plant nutrients trickling down, from drain to ditch to creek to river and sea. En route, your contribution joins all the other small amounts of fertilizer and excrement ultimately fouling the River and Bay as they feed great green clots of algae that suck all the oxygen from the water, creating ‘dead zones’ where no fish or crabs can live.
It’s a messenger, the water. It carries your chemical story into their world, but returns a message as well. Listen: in that quiet little shimmer there’s a pulse, a movement not unlike your own. I’m heading to the sea, taking your messages with me. Don’t you want to come along?
River gets bigger, finally spreads out into shimmering marsh lands, whole worlds of wild rice, spatterdock, pickeralweed and lotus, where young bass grow up to be sport fish. Where green frogs grin and lotuses unfurl and soaring birds eat their fill of flying things over the sunset river. You belong here, too.
Here’s a painting recently completed for my neighbors, to celebrate their 1st Anniversary.
The painting was purchased and a fundraising auction earlier this year, and I worked with them to create a bird painting that had special meaning.
Both K and her husband S live in close contact with the natural world. They keep chickens, raise award winning garlic, grow most of their own produce. S teaches organic gardening. They plant these flowers especially for the goldfinches and enjoy watching them from their porch.
Both of them love to watch the goldfinches, especially in late summer when the flowerheads on sunflower, coneflower and rudbekia are ripe for the snacking. The goldfinch is at its brightest plumage, too. Now that the air is cooler, the finches have lost their brilliant colour and are greying down for winter.
It was a pleasure to make a painting like this while watching these birds each day in the garden. I hope K & S enjoy it in their home as much as I did making it for them.