Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

“Clouds” of Clematis

with 41 comments

Look at the great fluffy mounds of Clematis drummondii I found at the southeast corner of FM 1325 and Shoreline Dr. in far north Austin on July 31st. This is a later and more feathery stage than what you saw in a July 28th post, which was later than the flowering stage shown the day before.

◊        ◊

Yesterday was a shameful day for the United States government. Through the gross negligence of pulling too many American soldiers out of Afghanistan too quickly, it allowed the situation there to collapse. For days we’d been hearing that the American government was processing papers for thousands of Afghanis who’d served as translators or done other work, so that they could move to safety in the United States. Why the sudden nitpicking over paperwork, when in the single month of July the American government allowed some 212,000 people to illegally come across the southern border as “undocumented immigrants.” All the government had to do in Afghanistan was start a round-the-clock airlift, get as many of those Afghanis out as quickly as possible, and deal with the paperwork later. Any Afghanis who helped the United States that get left behind can expect the Taliban to behead them. Nice going, current American administration.

And it’s a shameful day, week, month, year, decade for the United Nations for not intervening to put a stop once and for all to the barbaric medieval fanaticism of the Taliban. With that group back in control, any gains that Afghani women made in the past 20 years are immediately wiped out. Word has already gone out that all women must wear burqas. Afghani girls, say goodbye to school; the Taliban thinks your purpose is to grow up and breed, so why do you need an education? Nice going, United Nations.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 16, 2021 at 12:37 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , ,

41 Responses

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  1. Thanks for speaking out loud and clear, Steve. We can underline every word and add a few more countries that in retrospect have lost 20 years of hard work, many soldiers and billions of dollars. Poor girls and women, all their work, belief and rights wiped out in one day. I fear to think what’s next. Baradar, you make me sick.

    We have a big Clematis and I can relate to your clouds.


    August 16, 2021 at 3:14 AM

    • It’s good of you to point out that other countries also invested lives and money in Afghanistan. I feel so bad for the people there, especially the girls and women. As you said, we’re afraid to think what’s coming next.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 8:53 AM

  2. It was a difficult choice for many last election. Four years of the previous administration was catastrophic and there was hope for some intelligent governing. But in this instance I agree with you that this was poorly handled in a tragic way. We attempted to force our ways onto a nation and a region where such notions are almost surely doomed to failure yet led many to believe we would help them take control of their lives only to see us slink away with no commitment to aid further efforts and allowing inhumane forces to run over the country. We keep making the mistake of thinking we can change other countries and governments to mirror ours. And currently our own is approaching shambles and disorder. I don’t think leaving was a mistake as twenty years has proven that no matter how much money is and how many of our soldiers lives are spent there the government is incapable of doing the things necessary for the Taliban to lose their popularity, power, and support from enough people to see any change. Corruption abounds and what any one Afghani leader says cannot be trusted. After two decades one might expect a little more time to be spent protecting those who assisted us. We saw the same thing in Iraq where we abandoned so many. I understand the need for vetting. It really is not the same as allowing migrants from the south. We need to be wary of violent extremism in the ranks of those seeking asylum from Afghanistan but that could have been handled by not rushing our troops out of there.

    Steve Gingold

    August 16, 2021 at 4:08 AM

    • Both the previous and current administrations wanted to get out of Afghanistan after two decades of involvement, and my sense is that Americans as a whole agreed with that. Afghanistan has an ancient, tribal culture, with many of its people following their traditional ways. The British thought they could change that in the 1800s, the Russians in the 1900s, and the Americans in the 2000s. All failed. Centuries-old lifeways, including the deep corruption you mentioned, don’t readily change. I’ve been saying for years that as soon as the Americans pulled out, the Taliban would quickly take over again, and that’s what happened. Even I didn’t expect it to happen while some of our troops are still there.

      I’ll mention that at least a couple of suspected terrorists have been found coming across our southern border:


      Whether any made it through undetected is anybody’s guess.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:13 AM

  3. I really do feel as though I am looking down on clouds when I view this image. Or the clematis clouds could represent the rights of Afghani women and girls blowing up in multiple puffs of smoke.


    August 16, 2021 at 4:08 AM

    • I’m sorry that the pleasant metaphor of clouds so aptly lends itself to the unpleasant prospect of Afghani women and girls having their hopes go up in smoke.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:18 AM

  4. I’ve never seen so many clematis seed-heads at once – must have been amazing in flower!

    Ann Mackay

    August 16, 2021 at 5:39 AM

  5. I am not sure what you mean by the United Nations; as an organisation it can only do what its member governments mandate it to do. In matters of international peace and security the organisation and other member governments take their instructions from the Security Council made up 15 member governments, including the P 5, the US, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom. Any member of the P5 can veto a resolution. In the case of Afghanistan, when the previous US administration brought the US-Taliban agreement to the Security Council for a resolution of endorsement, the resolution on the ‘peace’ agreement was unanimously approved. I think it is more accurate to say ‘nice going P5’. This article in my link gives a very good analysis and account of the US-Taliban agreement and the resolution which came before the UN Security Council in 2020. https://www.lawfareblog.com/us-gets-un-support-taliban-deal It seems to me it was obvious from the day the agreement was signed that the current awful situation was a done deal no matter which administration was in power in the US.


    August 16, 2021 at 7:52 AM

    • A sentence in your linked article stood out: “But former senior U.S. national security policymakers have been skeptical of the terms of the deal, which already appear to be under pressure from renewed Taliban-initiated violence.” Call me skeptical: I don’t believe the Taliban will live up to any agreements it makes. It’s a brutal, fanatical organization. My wish was for the P5 to authorize an international army of sufficient size to go in, block off the border with Pakistan to keep the Taliban from escaping to a safe haven, and then annihilate them. You may be surprised to have such a bellicose correspondent, but I think the world has to be as brutal toward the Taliban as they are to everyone. Failure to do that has caused the loss of whatever progress was made in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:40 AM

  6. This Financial Times article with its interactive map is also very interesting. You can see from the map that once the Taliban had its place at the negotiating table options for the US and Afghanistan became more and more limited unless the US was willing to break the agreement and bring in masses of new troops. https://www.ft.com/content/df617411-3d5c-4665-8c54-0f9df95e0a19 Additionally as the Taliban gained ground it also gained varying degrees of support from Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan. I feel terribly sad for the people of Afghanistan. If this is any consolation, other countries, like NZ and Australia, have also been caught on the backfoot over the rapid developments in Kabul. We are scrambling to evacuate people too. Did the US forces move out too quickly? I am not sure. Possibly they didn’t move out soon enough. The writing was on the proverbial wall months ago.


    August 16, 2021 at 8:15 AM

    • And therein lies the obstacle to my plan of annihilation: Russia and China, themselves dictatorships, wouldn’t condone destroying an equally dictatorial regime.

      Someone on television yesterday agreed with your statement that “Possibly they didn’t move out soon enough.” The person said that if the current state of affairs is what we’ve ended up with, we could have accomplished the same thing by pulling out 10 years ago and saving lives and money.

      My proverbial wall seems to be older than yours. In a response above I noted that I’ve been saying for years that as soon as the United States pulled out of Afghanistan the Taliban would quickly take over again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:48 AM

      • It could be an older wall than mine. Going back in history just a little, I remember in 1992 when our UNICEF colleagues were evacuated from Kabul to New Delhi. They were so sad to leave Kabul but glad to be safe. I remember too the influx of refugees from Afghanistan. For awhile we had a refugee family living next door to us in New Delhi.


        August 16, 2021 at 7:52 PM

  7. Sorry to be so long winded in my comments. Like most people, I suppose, I am just trying to figure out what is going on and what has gone on up until now.


    August 16, 2021 at 8:39 AM

    • No need to feel sorry for telling your thoughts, at whatever length you feel appropriate. We’re always happy to hear your ideas. The world’s a complicated place, with so much to consider.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:50 AM

  8. The millions of the clematis seedheads look like foamy waves whipped up by a violent storm.

    Peter Klopp

    August 16, 2021 at 8:49 AM

    • A sea metaphor is one I hadn’t considered, nor had I thought about a violent storm. We all have our imaginations.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 9:52 AM

  9. Wowza!! It reminds me of those massive spider webs they get in Australia. Really neat find, Steve.


    August 16, 2021 at 11:58 AM

    • Now that you mention it, I’ve seen pictures of some of those massive Australian spider webs. Our Clematis drummondii can form good-sized areas of fluff like this. The hard part for a photographer is finding one that’s not interfered with by other objects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 4:12 PM

  10. I cannot say I’ve seen so many clematis in one place! That’s just beautiful! And I’m with Dina on “Yesterday”.


    August 16, 2021 at 1:46 PM

    • Regarding the Clematis, you might say we do things bigger in Texas. As for the events of yesterday, unfortunately the chaos has continued today. I feel so bad for those people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 16, 2021 at 4:15 PM

  11. Your mounds of feathery clematis look for all the world like piles of seafoam. We get it here, but it I’ve never seen it along the Gulf in such abundance. Occasionally it might form piles a couple of feet wide and a foot or two high; the most I’ve ever seen was on Ocean Beach in San Francisco. In 2007, the beach off Sydney Australia was dubbed the ‘Cappuccino Coast’ because of the huge amounts of foam that formed there.


    August 17, 2021 at 8:49 PM

    • I couldn’t help noticing the contrast between the image of two guys romping around in sea foam and the caption below the photograph: “Given that it can contain toxic algae and sewage, the foam is no place for fun.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 17, 2021 at 9:29 PM

      • Well, sure. But just like with fire-ant and sewage filled floodwaters, there always will be a few who are up for a challenge — or mentally challenged, depending on your point of view.


        August 17, 2021 at 9:36 PM

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