Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

But soft, what light on yonder flower falls?

with 24 comments

The date was August 13th, and the place was a property along Wells Branch Parkway at Strathaven Pass on the Blackland Prairie in far north Austin. You’ve already seen a flowering colony of partridge pea plants there, so now here’s a closeup of a single Chamaecrista fasciculata flower as it opened. Notice how the reddish blush shades through orange to yellow as your eyes follow it away from the flower’s base.

◊          ◊

Our word coincidence comes from Latin, where co meant ‘together with,’ in meant ‘into,’ and cid came from a root that meant ‘to fall.’ A coincidence is ‘things falling into each other.’ The night before last a 1929 movie shown on Turner Classic Movies ‘fell into’ tragic current events. The film, mostly a romantic comedy, was The Love Parade, directed by Ernst Lubitch. The movie marked the screen debut of Jeanette MacDonald, who played Queen Louise in the imaginary country of Sylvania. Opposite her was Maurice Chevalier as the hitherto womanizing military officer Count Alfred Renard (which happens to mean ‘fox’ in French). A synopsis of the film says this: “Queen Louise’s cabinet are worried that she will become an old maid, and are delighted when she marries the roguish Count Renard. Unfortunately, he finds his position as Queen’s Consort unsatisfying and without purpose, and the marriage soon runs into difficulties.”

In a scene that shows the wedding between the royal Louise and the commoner Alfred, the dignitaries include the ambassador from Afghanistan (there’s the coincidence with this week’s tragic events). After the priest follows royal protocol and pronounces the newly married couple “wife and man,” the ambassador comments in a fake language: “A singi. A na hu. A na hu. Prostu, pass harr. Fo malu a yu.” The Sylvanian Prime Minister asks what that means, and the Afghan ambassador’s translator tells him: “He says, man is man and woman is woman. And if you change that, causes trouble. He does not see how any man could stand being a wife. And therefore, he hopes this will be a most unhappy marriage.” The Prime Minister replies: “For heaven’s sake, if he reports this to Afghanistan. Tell him, this is a love match. It will be the happiest marriage in the world.”

Unfortunately, the two-decade involvement of the United States and Afghanistan didn’t end up being the happiest marriage in the world. Things fell apart.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2021 at 4:22 AM

24 Responses

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  1. Not only the color gradations but also the petals’ texture make this a lovely portrait. In my photos of this plant’s buds, taken in late morning, strong light had washed out the texture and made them appear a ‘flatter’ yellow — which didn’t flatter them at all. Of course, Juliet might not have seemed so attractive if Romeo had seen her at high noon.


    August 26, 2021 at 6:49 AM

    • I don’t remember ever before photographing a partridge pea flower at just this stage of opening. I welcomed it. You’ve got a good play on words with flatter, and you’re funny in imagining Romeo’s less flattering take on Juliet first seen at high noon.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 8:08 AM

  2. Beautiful image and the quote is so fitting!

    Birder's Journey

    August 26, 2021 at 8:14 AM

  3. Lawrence of Arabia had long ago warned against going in there ( Afghanistan). The flower is pretty, I want to see it open.

    Alessandra Chaves

    August 26, 2021 at 8:45 AM

    • Since ancient times, people have regretted going in there.
      Here’s what an open flower looks like:

      Partridge pea against a blue sky

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 8:52 AM

      • Lovely combination of colors in the flower. Twenty years of occupation and no long term improvement is a sad defeat. Governments should watch more episodes of the original version of Star Trek. So much money, resources wasted. I may have an incomplete understanding of what happened there but this is my impression.

        Alessandra Chaves

        August 26, 2021 at 8:55 AM

        • The touches of red make this otherwise yellow flower distinctive.
          Afghanistan is another sad defeat for the United States—and of course for most of the people who live there. Onlookers have likened the fall of Kabul to the fall of Saigon close to half a century ago.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2021 at 9:11 AM

  4. The flower portrait is, as usual, fine in detail and composition. And, as one shifts into anthropomorphization mode, it appears to be praying in supplication, “Oh Lord, save me from bulldozers and let me bloom again next year.” (I noticed that this location is along the margins where apartments, etc. have been developed recently. How big are the margins, one wonders)?


    August 26, 2021 at 10:19 AM

    • The margins around the pond there and up the slopes varies in depth. I’m not sure how to estimate it, but maybe 50–100 ft. That land won’t be built on, but I expect it’ll get mowed from time to time—just not too often, I hope.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 1:02 PM

  5. Beautiful photo, Steve. I like that blush from the base of the flower upwards, ending in the rich golden yellow. So nice, so warming.


    August 26, 2021 at 10:47 AM

    • Thanks. This portrait worked out about as well as I could’ve expected, with a good balance between what’s in focus and what’s not.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 1:05 PM

  6. Thank you for the explanation of the word ‘coincidence’, Steve! The unhappy relationship between the US and Afghanistan was not a coincidence. When one country provides military support to another, it must also insist that corruption and mismanagement end in the country that is being helped.

    Peter Klopp

    August 26, 2021 at 12:49 PM

    • Ah, if only! Even in our own countries some corruption remains. In third-world countries corruption is an ancient way of life and therefore hard to reduce to any meaningful extent.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 1:09 PM

  7. Beautiful image – but the thing that caught my eye was the name Strathaven Pass. Strathaven is a village near here, pronounced Strayven. I wonder how the pronunciation has evolved in your neck of the woods?

    • I’d wondered about the pronunciation of that name. My guess has been either Strat-haven or Strath-aven. I’m pretty sure nobody here says Strayven, which is a pronunciation that developed over centuries and no longer corresponds to the original spelling. I just phoned the apartment complex on Strathaven Pass but I couldn’t reach a live person to ask how they pronounce the street’s name.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 26, 2021 at 3:15 PM

      • That’s dedication to your blog readers!

        • And here’s a dedicated follow-up. I’d not left a message when I phoned the apartment complex but my call must have registered in their system, because a few minutes ago I got a call back. I asked the woman about the street name and she said she pronounces it Strat-haven but has heard people say other things as well, including Stráth-a-ven and Straight-haven. I told her about your comment that in Scotland it’s pronounced Strayven, and she surprised me by saying that when she puts the street in her navigation system to get local directions, the system pronounces it Strayven! Apparently whoever programmed that navigation system grabbed the Scottish pronunciation.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 26, 2021 at 3:59 PM

          • Fabulous! Thanks for following up. It’s interesting to know that nobody can agree how to pronounce it – but that the satnav gets it (in my opinion) correct! Though don’t ask me how Strathaven comes out as Straven. See also, for example, Milngavie, pronounced Mulguy.

            • It’s common for words to “erode” phonetically over time, as in your examples. There are many more. Bethlehem got worn down to Bedlam, for instance. In current American English, the three-syllable probably often comes out as the two-syllable probly, and for some speakers that gets further reduced to prolly.

              Steve Schwartzman

              August 26, 2021 at 5:18 PM

  8. Glad to see this closeup as I neglected to photograph any of those in the yard and they are now long passed.

    Steve Gingold

    August 27, 2021 at 2:15 AM

    • You won’t be surprised that yesterday I found another partridge pea colony flowering away. It’s that difference in latitude again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 27, 2021 at 4:01 AM

  9. So delicate Steve .. super detail on the leaves


    August 31, 2021 at 3:00 PM

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