Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘death

Return to the St. Peter Lutheran Church Cemetery in Walburg

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Last April bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) covered parts of the St. Peter Lutheran Church Cemetery in Walburg, about 30 miles north-northeast of Austin. This April 9th we went back and were pleased to find plenty of bluebonnets there again.

Given that the town began as a German settlement in 1881, the oldest tombstones often bear inscriptions in German. The name atop the one below is Katharine Muehlhause. The front of the stone tells us she was born on the 16th of May, 1854, in Waldkappel, Hessen-Kassel, and died on the 26th of March, 1916 (presumably in or near Walburg). The quotation from the New Testament book of John means “I live, and you shall also live.”



Orange lichens now make it easier to read the inscription on the tombstone of Dorathea Kuhn, née Kissman, who was born on the 24th of November, 1813, and died on the 21st of March, 1906.



In contrast to that long life of a little over 87 years, compare the short one below: Louise T., daughter of W.H. & S.H. Homeyer and wife of W.J. Cassens. She died on Christmas Day in 1891 at the age of 19. The line at the bottom reads: “She was a kind and affectionate wife — A fond mother and friend to all.” Her son Wessel Cassens had been born two days earlier, so most likely Louise died from complications of childbirth. Her son lived for only half a year and is also buried in the cemetery, which holds the graves of other infants as well. In those days high child mortality was a sad fact of life—or rather death. Fortunately improvements in sanitation and medicine since then have let many more people live longer and healthier lives.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2023 at 4:28 AM

German tombstones

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Because many of the early colonists in central Texas were Germans, it’s not unusual to find old cemeteries here with tombstone inscriptions in German. So it is for the cemetery at the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek southeast of New Berlin—look at that name—which we visited (for I think at least the third time in the past decade) on March 25th, as you saw last time. Here are four of those German-language tombstones, along with translations. (If any of you German speakers catch mistakes in the translations, please let me know.) While the wildflowers surrounding the graves need no translation, I’ll add that the reddish-orange ones are Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja indivisa) and the yellow are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis).


Here rests in God
Emilie Lippke
Née Koehler
Born 27 September 1853
In Falkenburg, Pomerania
Died 18 January 1889
In Wilson
Softly rests her [soul]
[The ending is effaced.]




Here rests in peace
Edward Lenz
Aug. 5, 1839
Dec. 17, 1929

People’s death is only a sleep.
He gives rest to the weary,
Relieves the burden of those who suffer,
Brings them to eternal peace.
Weep not that this is a farewell:
The dead will arise.



Here rests in peace
The son of H.W.M.
Born and died
The 27th of October 1900.



Here rests in peace
Anna Bargfrede
Née Holtermann
Born 26 October 1861
Died 14 June 1932

Farewell, sweet Mother
Farewell for all time
When we find each other again
It will be for eternity.
Psalms 4.9.



© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2023 at 4:31 AM

Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek

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On March 25th we made our first visit in several years to the Christ Lutheran Church of Elm Creek southeast of New Berlin, whose grounds, including the cemetery, are reliably alive at this time of year with the myriad native wildflowers that the owners graciously allow to do their thing. The orange flowers are Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) and the yellow ones are Nueces coreopsis (Coreopsis nuecensis). On the opposite side of the church from the cemetery, Lindheimer’s gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri), though smaller than a paintbrush or coreopsis flower, outnumbered them both by far.




© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 30, 2023 at 4:32 AM

McKeller Cemetery

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The Rancho Cemetery in yesterday’s post was the second one we visited on March 13th. The first was the McKeller Cemetery a few miles north of Gonzales. One thing that jumped out at me was the contrast between the colonies of phlox (Phlox drummondii) and bluebonnets (Lupinus subcarnosus) on the one hand, and the artificial flowers people have put on some graves.

And speaking of cemeteries, there’s now lots more information about seashell-covered graves in yesterday’s post about the Rancho Cemetery.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2023 at 4:37 PM

A Halloween lizard

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I’ll occasionally punctuate the posts about our great New Mexico/ West Texas trip with some more-recent goings-on back in Austin. And what could be more appropriate for Halloween than a dead lizard? Mind you, I didn’t think it was dead when I first spotted it in our driveway on the morning of October 25th; I figured the cool temperature had rendered it inert while it waited for more warmth. I went back into the house, put a macro lens and ring flash on my camera, and went back out to the driveway. When I looked more closely at what I take to be a Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus), I noticed tiny movements in the eye socket. Then I realized I was seeing ants, and the lizard was dead. If you’re up for a close look at that, click the thumbnail below. Ghastliness is in the eye of the beholder—and in this case the eye of the photograph’s subject.

Happy Halloween.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Two degrees of passing away

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In February of 2021 a days-long freeze killed off all the huisache trees (Vachellia farnesiana) in Austin. I saw no new growth for the rest of that year but am happy to report seeing some green springing up from the wreckage in the past few months, even with our current drought. The broken remains of the huisache tree shown here along John Henry Faulk Dr. on August 1st caught my attention because of the Clematis drummondii vine that had climbed on it and had entered its fluffy stage, with the seed-bearing fibers gradually turning dingy and accounting for the vernacular name old man’s beard. Seen from this angle, the fluffy mound calls to mind—at least to my fluffy mind—the way the main part of Spain looks on a map.


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Last month I quoted from a talk about free speech that Carl Sagan gave in around 1987. The other day I came across another prescient passage, this time from his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2022 at 4:27 AM

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This morning Facebook popped up a post from a group I’d never heard of: World Wildflower Photography. The post showed a cemetery in Walburg that had dense bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) in it. Walburg is a small settlement in eastern Williamson county, much of which has remained rural. Nevertheless, when I searched online I discovered the little town has two cemeteries. Noting the names on a couple of the tombstones in the post’s photographs, I searched in an online cemetery registry and determined that the right cemetery was the one belonging to St. Peter Lutheran Church (which incidentally is a mile away from its cemetery).



Despite the (much needed) rain coming down in Austin, we set out for Walburg and hoped the rain would let up by the time we reached Walburg. It did. Only a minute after we arrived, and before I’d had a chance to take a single picture, another car pulled into the driveway. A couple visiting Texas from North Carolina had also seen pictures of the bluebonnet-covered Walburg cemetery online and had come to check it out, too. Small world, no? And in the middle picture, how about the stylized flower decoration among all the real flowers?



 © 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 13, 2022 at 4:00 PM

Bare dead tree complexity

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Our first-ever visit to Georgetown’s Overlook Park on March 26th yielded pictures of complex dead tree remains in Lake Georgetown. To the novelty of our visit you can apparently add the title of today’s post, because Google returned no hits for the exact phrase “bare dead tree complexity.” Whether anyone has taken a similar photograph of these trees, I can’t say.

Looser groups of tree remains in the lake lent themselves to different kinds of photographs that gave greater visibility to the choppy water the breeze was whipping up that morning.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman





Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 10, 2022 at 4:36 AM


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Contorted is how I might describe the branch of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) already leafing out at East Metropolitan Park on March 25th. Five days earlier, as spring officially began, I’d photographed a prickly pear pad in my part of Austin that had reached the end of its life. In addition to the usual drying out and loss of green that a dead pad undergoes, it had contorted itself in a way that made me have to do its portrait.


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And speaking of contortion, I recommend Reason for its anti-contorted stance, which is to say its adherence to reason. The magazine of “free minds and free markets” promotes free speech, due process, and the deciding of matters based on evidence and logic. If you check out the Reason website, you’ll notice that it finds things to criticize in camps on both sides of the conventional left~right political divide. You could call that outlook libertarian.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Drowned remains

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At Barkley Meadows Park in Del Valle on January 29th we walked completely around Berdoll Pond, at whose far end I did many takes on drowned tree remains. The nearby skeleton of the plant shown below (perhaps poverty weed) also attracted me.


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The press is an availability machine. It serves up anecdotes which feed our impression of what’s common in a way that is guaranteed to mislead. Since news is what happens, not what doesn’t happen, the denominator in the fraction corresponding to the true probability of an event—all the opportunities for the event to occur, including those in which it doesn’t—is invisible, leaving us in the dark about how prevalent something is.

The distortions, moreover, are not haphazard, but misdirect us toward the morbid. Things that happened suddenly are usually bad—a war, a shooting, famine, financial collapse—but good things may consist of nothing happening, like a boring country at peace or a forgettable region that is healthy and well fed. And when progress takes place, it isn’t built in a day; it creeps up a few percentage points a year, transforming the world by stealth.

Steven Pinker, Rationality, 2021

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman 



Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2022 at 4:36 AM

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