Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

July 4, 2021

with 58 comments

Today being July 4th, here’s a vintage red-white-and-blue picture of Ipomopsis rubra, known as standing cypress and Texas plume. The sky was filled with plumes of its own in Williamson County on that long-ago day (May 20, 2009), so I included both kinds of plumes in the portraits I made.

And here’s a quotation that relates to July 4th:

may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

That’s from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Roger Weightman on June 24, 1826. (I’ve preserved the idiosyncratic punctuation and capitalization of the original.) It was the last letter Jefferson ever wrote. He died on July 4, 1826, as did John Adams. The story (perhaps slightly embellished) has come down to us that Adams’s last words were “Thomas Jefferson lives”; unbeknownst to Adams, however, Jefferson had died hours earlier in Virginia. Was any other simultaneous death ever as symbolic as that of the second and third presidents of the United States, both of whom were deeply involved in creating the Declaration of Independence and seeing it adopted exactly 50 years before the day they died?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman (whose age today and for a year to come will match the Spirit of ’76).

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 4, 2021 at 4:45 AM

58 Responses

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  1. The red border is a nice touch, and lucky you to have that wonderful sky as a background. Here’s to boldness, and the Spirit of ’76 suffusing the coming year for us all.


    July 4, 2021 at 5:13 AM

    • While central Texas mostly lacks the kinds of dramatic clouds I’ve seen in photographs from some other places, we do get wispy clouds from time to time. On days when those are above us I look for good subjects to play off against them. I appreciate your noticing the photograph’s red border.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 6:02 AM

  2. Happy Birthday.


    July 4, 2021 at 6:08 AM

    • Thanks, Lynn. Now if I could just get the whole country to celebrate me more than once a year…

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 6:19 AM

      • BTW, WordPress somehow stopped my following your blog ages ago. I thought you had stopped posting. Hopefully it will not do that again.


        July 5, 2021 at 7:04 AM

        • Oh, I’m sorry that happened. From time to time I’ve heard other people complain about problems with WordPress, including a few in your situation who suddenly stopped receiving posts from a blog they subscribed to. I’m glad you’re back.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 5, 2021 at 7:24 AM

  3. the perfect choice for this day!


    July 4, 2021 at 6:42 AM

  4. Fascinating- thank you for sharing this stirring quote and these remarkable bits of history, Steve!

    Birder's Journey

    July 4, 2021 at 7:54 AM

    • You’re welcome. Our schools should be teaching historical anecdotes like these, and yet they rarely do. I seem to remember that I learned about the same-day deaths of Adams and Jefferson after I was out of school. Some people have pointed out that any writer of fiction who included a coincidence like that in a novel would be criticized for the incident’s unbelievability—and yet that’s really what happened on July 4, 1826.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 8:11 AM

  5. The red colour of the Texas plume looks great against the blue sky, Steve. Happy Birthday, USA!

    Peter Klopp

    July 4, 2021 at 8:18 AM

  6. Happy Independence Day, Steve!!


    July 4, 2021 at 8:57 AM

  7. A real live nephew of our Uncle Sam! Many happy returns!

    Robert Parker

    July 4, 2021 at 11:00 AM

    • Thanks. Although I’m not aware of any uncle of mine named Sam, my father did have a cousin with that name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 11:12 AM

  8. Happy 4th July and best birthday wishes!

  9. Happy Birthday, Steve. Their friendship at the end of their lives shows that no matter the difficulties early in life they may be overcome if done so in good faith.

    Steve Gingold

    July 4, 2021 at 11:51 AM

    • Thanks. The reconciliation between Adams and Jefferson late in life is a great story in American history.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 2:16 PM

  10. Lovely photo! Happy Birthday, Steve!

    Sheila Creighton

    July 4, 2021 at 1:26 PM

  11. Beautiful flower and sky shot, Steve. The quote (and many from the time of Independence), is just as pertinent today as it was when it was written. These patriots were so invested in this fledgling country. It is uncanny that the problems then echo today, only thing different is the players.
    And lastly, Happy Birthday!

    Eliza Waters

    July 4, 2021 at 2:26 PM

    • Thanks for your good wishes and your thoughts about independence then and now. A former student of mine wondered what the founders might say if they saw what’s happening here now, and my answer was “Yikes!!!!”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 4, 2021 at 2:44 PM

  12. What a vibrant red in that Texas plume. Quite fitting for the day – both celebrating independence and your birthday. I hope it was a grand day for you, Steve.


    July 4, 2021 at 10:19 PM

    • Thanks for your good wishes, Lori. Actually we didn’t do anything special yesterday. The Domain, a large shopping complex a few miles from us, has been putting on Fourth of July fireworks in recent years but didn’t yesterday. The big Austin fireworks display is downtown. We’ve attended a few times but the traffic in that area is terrible, and finding parking is difficult, so neither of us felt any enthusiasm to go. Eve baked up a batch of her yummy empanadas, and that made my day.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2021 at 5:43 AM

      • My birthday was June 28th, and my 60th. It was actually funny but I did not hear from most of my family – even my mom forgot! Forrest finally remembered late in the day. With all that’s been going on here, it’s no wonder. We didn’t do anything special because of rehab work this year, but it’s fitting – I prefer a quiet day as opposed to a party and lots of hullabaloo. I would choose empanadas too!!!


        July 5, 2021 at 7:28 AM

        • If so many people forgot you on the 28th, maybe you’re not really 60 after all. You might as well take advantage of the extra time.

          Let’s hope someday you’ll get to sample Eve’s empanadas.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 5, 2021 at 7:39 AM

  13. Happy 4th of July and Happy Birthday, Steve. I did not know that story about Jefferson and Adams but then we were taught absolutely nothing about American history at school. The HBO series, John Adams, sounds good. Have you seen it?


    July 5, 2021 at 3:52 AM

    • My guess is that you learned more about American history when you were in school in New Zealand decades ago than most American kids learn in the United States today. Look at this discouraging article from a decade ago:


      I’ve seen television segments similar to the “Jay Walking” mentioned in that article, in which a reporter stops people on the street and asks basic questions. I remember one segment in which several Americans didn’t even know what country the United States broke away from.

      (After I wrote the first paragraph of this reply, I came across a relevant sentence in Steven E. Koonin’s 2021 book Unsettled: “As around the world, most citizens in America are not scientists, and the educational system does not deliver much in the way of scientific literacy to the wider public.”

      I believe we did see the dramatized series about John Adams, though I’m not sure how, given that we don’t subscribe to HBO. A few years ago I read David McCullough’s biography of Adams.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2021 at 6:16 AM

      • Forbes doesn’t like me using an Adblocker so won’t let me read the article. I am sure I have mentioned before that my daughter, through her education at American schools overseas and in New York was well-schooled in American history ( I probably picked up what little I know from her ). She also got a good grasp of Egyptian, Greek and Roman history while at the American School in Cairo. When she came to NZ, she was amazed to find that there was an entire world of English history that she knew nothing about. She was a fortunate student to be exposed to different education systems and to be exposed to the incredible history of Egypt.


        July 5, 2021 at 7:41 AM

        • It sounds like the American schools overseas do a better job than most schools inside America, or at least did so at the time when your daughter was a child. (I don’t know what kind of school she attended in New York.) It’s easy to understand why a school in Cairo would expose students to Egyptian, Greek and Roman history, but by that logic American schools in the United States should be seeing to it that schoolchildren here know about their own history—and yet that’s not happening.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 5, 2021 at 7:52 AM

          • My daughter was at a public high school in White Plains. It is sad when national history is neglected. That has been the case in NZ. In 2022, NZ History will be compulsory in primary and secondary schools. Up until now, NZ History has been an optional subject.


            July 5, 2021 at 7:59 AM

            • I’d be surprised that NZ history hasn’t been mandatory in your schools, except that I’m so used to American schools not teaching much American history. Even more insidious here now is the push to accentuate bad things in our history at the expense of all the good things.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 5, 2021 at 8:04 AM

    • By the way, I can pretty much guarantee that many, perhaps most, Americans have no idea where New Zealand is.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2021 at 6:17 AM

      • That would not surprise me at all, particularly as New Zealand is often left off world maps. I may have linked you to this item before. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/new-zealand-left-off-world-map


        July 5, 2021 at 7:26 AM

        • That’s funny. I hadn’t heard about the problem of disappearing New Zealand, nor of your South Island being described as “an artistic smear of mashed potato.” At least NZ produces plenty of butter to put on your big mashed potato.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 5, 2021 at 7:36 AM

          • We do have good butter and lamb chops! It is a bit of joke in NZ, about being left off world maps, but it does make one think about why maps are like they are.


            July 5, 2021 at 7:44 AM

            • Like most people, I grew up with world maps that used the Mercator projection, and I remember how enormous Greenland and Antarctica looked. Other projections exist, but if they cure the problem of having land masses far from the Equator looking disproportionately large, they induce other misrepresentations. There’s no non-distorted way to express a three-dimensional reality on a flat surface. World globes give a proper representation but then you have to deal with their bulk.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 5, 2021 at 7:58 AM

            • By the way, the upscale supermarket where we bought the hickory-smoked butter from New Zealand has apparently stopped carrying it. They still sell several other varieties from the Lewis Road Creamery, but not that one.

              Steve Schwartzman

              July 5, 2021 at 8:00 AM

  14. What a patriotic photo! 🙂 And that story never ceases to amaze me.

    M.B. Henry

    July 5, 2021 at 3:21 PM

  15. We know, of course, that “these rights” weren’t equally applied to everyone then, and still aren’t today, despite claims to the contrary.


    July 5, 2021 at 5:29 PM

    • Yes, it’s criminal the way education bureaucrats shortchange so many black and Hispanic students and hand them meaningless diplomas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 5, 2021 at 6:35 PM

  16. Terrific photo, Fourth of July quote, and information.


    July 7, 2021 at 2:45 PM

    • Did you know about the same-date deaths of Adams and Jefferson? James Monroe, our fifth president, died exactly five years later, on July 4, 1831.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 7, 2021 at 2:59 PM

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