Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

More from Shaffer Bend

with 18 comments

Last Thursday’s post was the first ever to feature pictures from the Shaffer Bend Recreation Area along the Colorado River a little east of Marble Falls in Burnet County. During our inaugural April 19th visit I got to see a few huisache daisies, Amblyolepis setigera, a species I don’t find in Austin. The most recent time I showed you some was last year, when you saw a whole colony flowering in a place close to Shaffer Bend. Above are a huisache daisy bud and open flower head; the picture below shows an intermediate stage.



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In a post a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the Latin word for ‘head,’ caput, led to the English word capital. A state’s or a country’s capital is metaphorically its “head” city. In a different metaphorical usage, capital is money that we accumulate to “head up” or “head into” a new business.

As the Latin spoken in ancient Gaul evolved over hundreds and hundreds of years, caput gradually got transformed into Old French chief. (Yes, words can change that much over long periods.) The Old French noun chief retained the literal meaning ‘head’ and also allowed for figurative uses. When Middle English borrowed chief, it already had its familiar native word head for the body part, so it borrowed chief in its figurative sense of ‘most important.’ That’s why James A. Garfield could write in 1869: “The chief duty of government is to keep the peace and stand out of the sunshine of the people.” The leader of the nine justices on the Supreme Court of the United States is designated the Chief Justice; the other justices regularly refer to him simply as “the Chief.” For hundreds of years we’ve called the head of an American Indian tribe its chief. A large business has its CEO and CFO and COO, meaning its chief executive officer, chief financial officer, and chief operating officer.

With regard to managerial positions like those, the people running the San Francisco Unified Schools District have once again been up to mischief—etymologically a situation in which things have ‘come to a head [chief] in a bad [mis-] way.’ Out of supposed deference to the sensibilities of people in American Indian tribes, the bureaucrats in charge of that school district have decided to drop the chief from job titles like chief technology officer and chief of staff.

Whereas the chief responsibility of a school district has traditionally been to teach students, recent chief goals in San Francisco have included renaming schools and dictating what words people must and can’t say. The Wall Street Journal editorial “Chiefly Illiterate in San Francisco Schools” and the New York Post article “San Francisco school district drops ‘chief’ from job titles” will fill you in on the chief details of this latest ideological assault on language. Meanwhile, even before the pandemic, 27 of San Francisco’s schools were rated “low performing” and 9 were among the worst in California, which is in the bottom fifth of American states academically.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2022 at 4:31 AM

18 Responses

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  1. The intermediate stage looks like it has a grip of steel.

    Steve Gingold

    May 31, 2022 at 6:17 AM

  2. That second photo is immensely attractive. It’s the color that appeals to me: mysterious, and nearly metallic. It’s that green-blue crayon I liked as a kid, deepened and intensified.

    More than a decade ago, I included some favorite quotations on my blog’s ‘About’ page. One, from Ludwig Wittgenstein, still is relevant: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” It’s been increasingly clear over the years that those who are attempting to control our language are attempting to control our worlds.


    May 31, 2022 at 6:37 AM

    • You and Steve G. both went for metal in the second photo. That blue-green crayon from childhood has colored the way you see the world.

      You said it: plenty of people out there want to control our language and through it our thoughts and actions. “The Emperor’s New Clothing” and 1984 have never been more relevant than they are now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2022 at 8:00 AM

    • As for the Wittgenstein quotation, linguists and philosophers have long debated the extent to which language constrains our perception or understanding of reality. As a math teacher I held fast to the rule that if a student couldn’t accurately put the particulars of a mathematical relationship into words, then the student didn’t understand that relationship. On the other hand, our emotions easily evade description.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2022 at 8:12 AM

  3. I love seeing the different stages of growth. That bottom photo is great. The lighting really gives a certain feel to it, and I like how the hairs are highlighted around the bud.

    Todd Henson

    May 31, 2022 at 7:14 AM

    • When I got interested in native plants two decades ago I soon realized the value of documenting different stages in the life of a species. Sometimes I’ve been able to combine two stages in one photograph, as in the top view. More often I’ve portrayed a stage in its own right, which is easier to do.

      In aesthetic terms, I’ve lately been doing my share of limited-focus portraits, including both of today’s pictures. I’ve also been favoring moody views with dark backgrounds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2022 at 8:06 AM

  4. Beautiful compositions of flowers and the derivation of the Latin word caput.

    Peter Klopp

    May 31, 2022 at 8:46 AM

    • Latin caput is the cognate of German Haupt and, a little less obviously, English head. What english calls a capital city German calls a head city, Hauptstadt.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 31, 2022 at 9:41 AM

  5. That second image is stunning.

    Khürt Williams

    May 31, 2022 at 9:49 AM

  6. Ohh, I love those fuzzy bits on the top image, and the light, fuzziness, and colors in the second image.


    May 31, 2022 at 11:14 AM

  7. Wonderful images Steve … the second is so powerful


    June 11, 2022 at 3:25 PM

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