Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Sleek

with 24 comments

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Three days before I made the wide view in yesterday’s post that showed many flowers of Clematis drummondii, I did a closeup of a more advanced stage in the development of that species. It reminded me of these lines from Heinrich Heine‘s poem “Die Lorelei“:

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr gold’nes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar….

And here’s a rough translation:

The loveliest maiden is sitting
Up there, so wonderful, and
With her golden jewelry gleaming
She combs her golden hair….

Granted, the long and gleaming strands produced by this fertilized Clematis drummondii flower were more silvery than golden, and no maiden’s hair ever had a naturally green tinge, but the manipulators of form and light that we call photographers have as much right to claim poetic license as any shapers of words do. And speaking of words, when I saw this image through the camera’s viewfinder on the morning of June 16 on the River Trail near Hornsby Bend, not only was I reminded of “Die Lorelei,” but the English word sleek also popped into my head. It still seems to be the right word, and so I’ve used it for the title of today’s post.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 12, 2012 at 6:03 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Sleek and silky! Actually the first thing I thought of before even reading the poem was Rapunzel – also a German tale – where she lets down her golden hair from the tower in which she is imprisoned. But isn’t it actually called “old man’s beard”?

    Cathy

    July 12, 2012 at 6:59 AM

    • And while we’re with an initial s, I also thought of svelte. Even without an s, I, too, thought of Rapunzel. You’re right that the colloquial genders don’t match, given that Clematis drummondii is indeed called old man’s beard. If we’re willing to do some gender bending, we can point out that the name old man’s beard comes from the plant’s appearance at a later stage, and the stage shown here matches the Western archetype of women’s hair. The fertilized flowers are of course female.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    • Oh, and if we continue in the realm of fantasy, your phrase “sleek and silky” makes me think some manufacturer could use your words and this picture in an ad for shampoo/conditioner.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 7:20 AM

      • Much as I love this photo Steve, I’m not sure I’d really want my hair to look like that! ;-)

        Cathy

        July 12, 2012 at 1:34 PM

      • Well, keep it in mind the next time you’re stumped for something to wear to a costume party.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 12, 2012 at 4:01 PM

  2. I love the narration to your photos.

    Shannon

    July 12, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    • Thanks, Shannon. That’s the reader and teacher in me. I typically spend more time researching, writing, and proofreading than I do taking and processing the pictures that appear here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 7:23 AM

      • Suspicions confirmed. And we appreciate that extra effort!

        shoreacres

        July 12, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      • Thanks. In spite of all the proofreading, I still occasionally discover a mistake after a post goes out: today it was a dropped word, which I’ve since restored.

        Steve Schwartzman

        July 12, 2012 at 9:45 AM

  3. Lovely and eloquent, Sally

    Sally

    July 12, 2012 at 7:25 AM

  4. Beautiful! I would definitely have reached out and stroked this plant when I saw it.

    melissakoski

    July 12, 2012 at 8:07 AM

  5. Steve, I enjoy all your posts, but this is the best–wildflowers always inspire me to photos, paintings and poetry or prose! And the silk stage of this clematis way outdoes mine!

    animalartist

    July 12, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    • And you can tell that wildflowers inspire me, too. The silky stage shown here and the tangled one that often follows are my favorites.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 8:56 AM

  6. This is wonderful Steve, I love all the research you do. And sleek is a perfect way to describe this !!!

    dhphotosite

    July 12, 2012 at 8:43 AM

    • In the 13 months of this blog, I believe this is the first time I’ve used sleek to describe anything. For me, research goes with the territory: learning is fun.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 8:59 AM

  7. Like others, I thought “silky”, but my thoughts were of corn silk. I suppose it’s one more bit of proof that you can take the girl out of the midwest, but…

    It was fun to go back and see all the stages. The tangle doesn’t look so corn-silky later on, but the one-fiber-one-seed connection endures.

    shoreacres

    July 12, 2012 at 9:37 AM

    • It is reminiscent of corn silk, so you’re forgiven. I’m glad that you went back through all the stages. My favorites are those toward the end of the cycle, but next year I’ll try to include more views of early stages. Your mention of one-fiber-one-seed reminds me of one-person-one-vote, but I’m not sure what the plant would be voting for, except future generations of itself.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 11:15 AM

  8. Excact, je comprends ton rapprochement avec le poême. J’ai pensé à la chevelure d’une femme à la première vue de ta photo.

    lancoliebleue

    July 12, 2012 at 11:05 AM

    • Donc nous sommes d’accord sur la chevelure d’une femme. Malgré la Lorelei de Heine, la plupart de mes pensées étaient en anglais au moment où j’ai pris la photo, mais maintenant, en voyant le mot français chevelure, je me souviens d’un autre poème, celui de Baudelaire:

      http://fleursdumal.org/poem/203

      Val says she also sees this as a woman’s head of hair, and she can understand why I related it to the German poem. The link I added is to a French poem (with English translations) by Baudelaire called (in English) “Head of Hair.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 12, 2012 at 11:29 AM

  9. Excellent photo.

    Bente Haarstad

    July 12, 2012 at 7:44 PM

  10. [...] month, in a post entitled Sleek, you saw the relatively straight and distinctly shiny strands that female Clematis drummondii [...]


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