Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Old and new at the same time

with 26 comments

Most of the Maximilian sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) we saw in Buda on December 20 in what is now last year had already dried out, as shown below. Even so, the top photograph confirms that some fresh plants were coming up and even producing flowers so late in the year, presumably thanks to the warmest December on record in Austin and the state of Texas as a whole.

If you’re an avid arachnid fan, click the thumbnail below for a much closer view of the peppered jumper spider, Pelegrina galathea, whose genus name traces back to the Latin pergrinus that meant ‘coming from foreign lands’ and that has given us, via Old French, the word pilgrim. Nevertheless, Pelegrina galathea is native in Texas and other parts of North America. The species name galathea seems to be fashioned from Greek galatea, meaning ‘white as milk,’ which this spider isn’t. And that reminds me of how I used to keep a straight face while quipping to my algebra students that we use the letter m to represent the slope of a line because the word slope doesn’t have an m in it.

Speaking of language, there was a time in your life when you didn’t know that the ti in English words ending in -tion, like lotion and contribution and vacation, gets pronounced sh. Years later, if you took high school chemistry, you learned that that rule doesn’t always apply, and that unlike the cation in vacation, cation as a word on its own gets pronounced in three syllables, as if it were cat-eye-on. Why these thoughts occurred to me a couple of mornings ago, I have no idea. But then a good question to start the new year off with is why so many of our thoughts come to us seemingly unbidden.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 1, 2022 at 4:35 AM

26 Responses

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  1. Happy new year, Steve!

  2. Here’s to more sunny flowers, more random thoughts, and more peregrinations in 2022, Steve. Happy New Year to you and Eve.


    January 1, 2022 at 7:30 AM

    • A happy and productive 2022 to you, too. I expect we’ll all have our pergrinations (perhaps even a peregrine falcon) and peregrinating thoughts.

      Not unbidden, triggered by pelegrina and its transformation to pilgrim, is the memory of the phrase pilgrim soul in a poem by William Butler Yeats, who started with a famous sonnet by Ronsard and recast it. You can find the original, along with English translations, including Yeats’s paraphrase, at


      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2022 at 8:19 AM

  3. Here to another year of thoughts in 2022, Steve.


    January 1, 2022 at 8:13 AM

  4. That’s a sweet furry little jumper. Since it refers to an ion I never confused the pronunciation with a shun at the end.
    Happy New Year.

    Steve Gingold

    January 1, 2022 at 9:34 AM

    • What’s in a name? During the time I viewed the jumper it never jumped.
      Surely someone has studied a cation on a vacation, and in so doing would have hit both pronunciations.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2022 at 2:11 PM

  5. A happy sunny flower for New Year!! I like it! The spider is a bonus.

    I don’t know why our thoughts do what they do when we think our brains are quiet. The subconscious is a strange and wonderful thing I think.


    January 1, 2022 at 9:39 AM

    • We still have wildflowers in Austin today, even if the sunflower shown here dates back 12 days.
      Where would we be without our brains, no matter how inscrutable they so often are?

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2022 at 2:14 PM

  6. I’ll keep a cat eye on the future, and wish you a lot of honey soy in 2022.

    Brad Nixon

    January 1, 2022 at 11:06 AM

  7. Oooh, that little spidey is a beauty! With the coming freezes, we’ll be saying ‘so long’ to our bloomers this week, at least most of them. That’s okay, things should rest.


    January 1, 2022 at 12:17 PM

    • The weather forecast for tomorrow morning makes me think I’ll have to put on warm clothing and go out for more frostweed ice pictures. After the slight freeze we got a few weeks ago, the Mexican hats and Engelmann daisies along MoPac continued unfazed. We’ll see if a few degrees colder this next time will do them in or if they’re hardy enough to last.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 1, 2022 at 2:18 PM

  8. Researchers tell us we have on average 6,200 thoughts per day… that’s a lot of room for random, stray thoughts!

    Eliza Waters

    January 1, 2022 at 6:19 PM

  9. The old and the new flowers both have their charms. Being illiterate in chemistry I didn’t know about cation, cat-eye-on. I can now add that to the approximately 6200 thoughts which Eliza says we have each day. The first thought I had on New Year’s Day was to do with Taylor Swift’s song “22” which led me to thinking about the year I turned 22. What a year that was. I travelled from New York to Fiji and then later from Fiji to Oxford. En route from New York to Fiji there was a stopover in Singapore where I was introduced to the infamous Boogie (Bugis) Street which is no longer. ( Strangely the thing I most remember about that is the fabulous street food) A week on from Singapore and I was in the heart of Sydney and staying in the Hilton Hotel when this happened; the first major terrorist incident in Australia. ( I think I have mentioned this to you before) https://www.nfsa.gov.au/collection/curated/terrorism-strikes-sydney-hilton-hotel-bombing Life is never dull. I am sure the little spider and its flower would attest to that, if they could. By the way, I like the sound of 2022. It has a nice ring to it.


    January 1, 2022 at 9:59 PM

    • If I follow your line of thought and think back to when I turned 22, it takes me to the year I graduated from college, spent the summer in Minnesota and Michigan, underwent 13 weeks of Peace Corps training in San Diego (my first time ever in California), and then found myself at the beginning of a two-year stint in Honduras. So we both had adventuresome years at that age, with you traveling a lot farther than I—and experiencing a bombing in the process! Life is never dull, indeed.

      As for the spider and the sunflower, if only we had a way to find out what they could attest to. And speaking of 2022 having a nice ring to it, let’s hope the new year rings in good tidings as approach the beginning of a third pandemic year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2022 at 12:05 AM

      • Your early adventurous years were closer to home than mine but definitely adventurous for all that. I suppose you have attended Peace Corps reunions over the years.


        January 2, 2022 at 12:38 AM

        • During the first year of the pandemic, 2020, I participated in two Zoom meetings with some of the people from my 1967–1969 Peace Corps Honduras group, most of whom I hadn’t had any contact with for 50 years. Of the people I knew the best, I’d kept up contact with just a handful over the decades. Eve and I visited one in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 2018.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 2, 2022 at 6:14 AM

  10. Amazing that you still have sunflowers appearing. We’re having the warmest New Year in UK records, but not many flowers around. Learners of English must soon learn that its pronunciation must be tackled with caution. Happy New Year to you and Eve!

    Ann Mackay

    January 2, 2022 at 10:29 AM

    • We wish you a Happy New Year back.

      So the UK has been mimicking Texas, at least through yesterday. Our warm spell finally ended last night, when a windy cold front came through and brought temperatures down from 73°F to 25°F by morning. When I was out a couple of hours ago I still found a few Mexican hat flower heads that had survived the freeze and were looking only slightly the worse for it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2022 at 11:53 AM

  11. I’ve heard of salting a bird’s tail, but never peppering a spider. I suppose if we wanted to interrogate it about its life as an arachnid, we could pepper it with questions.

    Robert Parker

    January 2, 2022 at 12:19 PM

    • Which reminds me of the line from that old salt of the earth, P.D.Q. Bach: If you want to curry favor, favor curry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 2, 2022 at 12:32 PM

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