Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Portraits from our yard: episode 10

with 33 comments

Do you remember the white avens (Geum canadense) buds and flowers you saw here recently?
From our back yard on July 22nd comes this view of a white avens seed head.
Its hooks are obviously intended to get caught on the fur of passing animals.

◊        ◊

One morning last week we took a stroll through a nearby part of our neighborhood. When a woman walking her dog came near us, I asked her with no prelude, as I recently started doing to find out how people feel: “What do you think about the current state of our country?” She indicated that she wasn’t happy with it: “Somebody needs to start doing something.” Then she mentioned her young grandson and said she was optimistic that he would turn things around. I followed up: “But do you think we have enough time to wait for him to grow up and do that?” After a few seconds’ thought she said: “No.”

The woman told us her name is Lenore. “Like the Lenore that Poe wrote about?” I asked. She said that was it, that her father was fond of Poe’s works. “So he actually named you Lenore because of Poe’s poem?” “Yes,” she replied, and then she quoted from “The Raven”: “a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” You never know what interesting things you’ll find out when you talk to strangers.

Just a few houses before the place where we encountered Lenore I’d noticed a yard sign for an organization called Braver Angels. Having never heard of it, I looked it up:

Our mission is to bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.

We do so by observing the Braver Angels Way:

We state ours views freely and fully, without fear.

We welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree.

We treat people who disagree with us with honesty and respect.

We seek to disagree accurately, avoiding exaggeration and stereotypes.

We look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together.

We believe that all of us have blind spots and none of us are not worth talking to.

We believe that, in disagreements, both sides share and learn. In Braver Angels, neither side is teaching the other or giving feedback on how to think or say things differently.

Our work ethic is citizen-leadership; we’re many volunteers assisted by a professional staff.

We’re guided by the Braver Angels Rule: At every level of organizational guidance, red and blue leaders are equally represented. Regarding race, ethnicity, and social and economic class, our constant striving is to be an organization that reflects the country we seek to serve.

Sounds like Lenore is getting her wish without having to wait for her grandson to grow up. Somebody is doing something.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 12, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

33 Responses

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  1. I love what you discovered on this journey out


    August 12, 2021 at 4:57 AM

  2. To anthropomorphize a bit, the seed head appears to be feeling a bit crotchety. When I saw how closely its seeds look like crochet hooks, I got curious. After reading about the etymology of crochet, it all makes sense. Someone hooked on the art of crochet might feel crotchety if denied that particular pleasure.


    August 12, 2021 at 7:03 AM

    • There’s nothing like a Thursday morning delve into etymology. (Naturally the same goes for the other six days of the week.) I wouldn’t deny you the fullness of that particular pleasure, so let me add that you can extended your doublets to triplets by including crocket, and to quadruplets by adding croquet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2021 at 8:29 AM

  3. Scary looking seed pod. I wish Braver Angels great success.

    Alessandra Chaves

    August 12, 2021 at 8:06 AM

    • Unlike some other kinds of hooked and barbed seed heads around here, this one is actually pretty benign.
      As for Braver Angels, the night before last I participated in one of their Zoom meetings for the first time. The topic was ethnic studies programs in elementary and secondary schools.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2021 at 8:34 AM

  4. The seedhead with its hooks is another marvel of nature’s way to help with the spreading of seeds.

    Peter Klopp

    August 12, 2021 at 9:05 AM

  5. I love your photograph. I love the poem. I salute you for stating your views so openly and so sincerely. In fact, I disagree with many of them. But I very much admire and respect you for putting them out. And the admiration and respect beat the disagreement every single time. Long may you wave, my friend.

    Michael Scandling

    August 12, 2021 at 12:26 PM

    • I want to add to that. Any disagreements I have are for the most part nuanced and measured in degree, not absolutes. There are some where I somewhat agree in some ways and somewhat disagree, and there are others where I pretty thoroughly disagree. And there are some where I do agree. But the point is that you communicate and you very obviously care.

      Michael Scandling

      August 12, 2021 at 1:27 PM

      • I read your first comment while I was waiting at the eye doctor’s this afternoon. I appreciate your clarifications. I’ve spent a lot of time putting together my commentaries; there’s research to do, facts to get right, links to articles that back up assertions, and of course writing everything up in a hopefully coherent way. Even so, as you point out, there’s always nuance. It seems likely to me that in an extended discussion of willing people, at least some points of disagreement could become points of agreement.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 12, 2021 at 7:00 PM

        • I think so too, but it takes a long discussion and mutual willingness on both sides to actually listen and sincerely try to understand. We live in a political climate where willingness to listen to the other side is often seen as a sign of weakness. I think that’s what scares me the most.

          Michael Scandling

          August 12, 2021 at 10:03 PM

    • I’m glad you love the photograph. A little artistic minimalism among friends doesn’t hurt.

      As I see things, our country has taken a dangerous turn toward authoritarianism, which includes censorship and failing to afford people due process. By my lights, things got so bad in the past year that I couldn’t not speak out. In deference to people who come to this blog for nature photography and don’t want any cultural commentary, I’ve separated the latter from the former by a conspicuous symbol; call it a kind of stop sign for those people. Even so, I estimate that reader interest has fallen off by a third to a half. That’s a price I pay for saying what I feel I have to say.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 12, 2021 at 6:54 PM

  6. More floral fireworks, albeit a spent bloom.

    Steve Gingold

    August 13, 2021 at 3:15 AM

  7. Oh, that is such a familiar looking and pesky seed-head. I’m forever picking the seeds out of my clothes and the cat’s fur! But you have photographed it beautifully. 🙂

    Ann Mackay

    August 13, 2021 at 9:19 AM

    • Are you referring to the seeds of the yellow-flowering avens?

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2021 at 10:44 AM

      • Yes, wood avens (Geum urbanum) which is also known as herb bennet here – it can be a nuisance because it really spreads itself around!

        Ann Mackay

        August 13, 2021 at 12:19 PM

  8. An interesting look at those hooked seeds and a terrific narrative, Steve. May the Braver Angels’ message be broadcast far and wide. 🙂


    August 13, 2021 at 10:54 AM

    • I participated in a Braver Angels Zoom meeting a few nights ago. You may want to do so, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2021 at 2:05 PM

  9. She sounds like a very cool woman and that’s a great story! I like the specimen here … rather sad but in a good way!


    August 16, 2021 at 12:27 PM

    • Yesterday while trimming some dead branches on my front lawn I struck up a conversation with a young couple passing by as they wheeled their little baby in a carriage. Turned out they were of Ethiopian origin. As for the specimen, dry though it was, it presumably gave rise to new individuals.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 4:23 PM

  10. […] on August 12th I reported that I’ve occasionally been turning to unknown people on the street and asking them out of […]

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