Impermanence Revisited

Tulips and Bluebells
Tulips and Bluebells

Here in Pennsylvania the tulips are in various stages of maturity. The beautiful yellow ones in front of my house dried up and blew away, while the others are somewhere near the end of their life cycle.

I found these in a local park and they seem to be in their prime, but in a few weeks they will be gone forever-dust to dust. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m getting older or maybe I just notice it more, but things seem to move a lot faster now.

Watching the flowers come and go is also watching the days speed by, and I know I’m running out of time. Of course this is how life works; we’re here for a while and then we’re gone. And whether we acknowledge it or not, suffering comes from wanting things to be different than they are.

W. Somerset Maugham, author of The Razor’s Edge has a great perspective on impermanence: “Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.”

Along the way, take time to smell the flowers, in as many ways as you can for as long as you can.

The Problem with Mayapples

Mayapples
Mayapples

The Mayapple was once called the witches umbrella, and was thought to be employed by them as a poison. The English version of this plant is called Manroot or mandrake, and is believed to be alive.

According to folklore, its screams when pulled from the ground would render a man permanently insane. The plant is almost entirely poisonous and was once used by Native Americans to commit suicide.

There is also an old mountain superstition that a girl who pulls up the root will soon become pregnant. If you can ignore those few little things, many people say the fruit makes a great jelly. I think I’ll pass.

Water Your Dreams

Amethyst Dream
Amethyst Dream

“Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success.

Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.” Lao Tzu

Never Jam Today

Fiddlehead Ferns
Fiddlehead Ferns

So I went to my favorite garden, in the rain, to photograph some flowers and call the post April showers. The problem with that is you really have to wait for the rain to stop.

I read the N.Y Post from cover to cover, drank a cup of coffee, smoked two cigarettes and it was still pouring. Patience is a virtue I thought, just relax and wait it out. But patience is not my strong suit, so I grabbed my camera and mini tripod, pulled up my hood and walked the path.

The rain was finally slowing down when I saw something amazing, fiddlehead ferns. They were trying to hide under a dripping bush, and I knew it would be easier tomorrow morning in better light, but I was already there.

The sun’ll come out tomorrow, so you gotta hang on ‘til tomorrow popped into my head, and I said screw that. I figured I can at least take a few shots to practice my composition, so I did.

According to the weather channel Annie was right, and maybe I can do better tomorrow, maybe not. Then I remembered what Alice discovered; “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.” Words to live by.

A Tale Told By an Idiot?

Bleeding hearts
Bleeding hearts

In Macbeth Shakespeare writes: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I have to admit that I’ve felt that way before, as most people probably have when they realize that they aren’t going to live forever. A tale told by an idiot seems a bit strong though, and if Shakespeare were around today he would probably get a prescription for Prozac, but I digress.

After a light rain I went to a garden full of flowers and trees in a nearby park, which in itself is something very special, and I noticed that the bleeding hearts were starting to bloom.

Walking down to a small pond with a waterfall, I looked at them as if they were something new to me, because they were. In a few weeks they will be completely gone, and they will come back next spring whether I’m there to see them or not.

Watching these absolutely amazing flowers I remembered the feeling I used to get after washing down a couple of Xanax with a glass of Vodka. It was a feeling of calmness, and I knew that even though the tale doesn’t last, I like to be here when I can.

I no longer need drugs and alcohol to get that feeling, a walk in the garden can do it in a heartbeat. If life signifies nothing, so be it, its only going to be a short walk anyway.

Narcissus Tristitia

Narcissus Tristitia
Narcissus Tristitia

It happens at almost the same time each year here in Lancaster, one day it’s sunny and warm enough for the beach, and the next day it’s almost too cold to stand outside and fill your gas tank.

Recently, after weeks of record setting warmth, we had a cold snap with temperatures well below freezing. Although all I had to do was wear an extra sweatshirt, many plants, trees and flowers took a beating.

Some managed to hold on while others were not so fortunate. For them, it’s the end of the road. The ones that made it, the lucky ones, know that many of their friends are gone, and they seem depressed.

But this is nature, survival of the fittest and all that. Lions eat gazelles, giant tuna end up in cans, and photographers remember that it’s hard to adjust camera settings with frozen fingers.

Geraldo Rivera, best know for opening Al Capone’s vault, said: “Mother Nature may be forgiving this year, or next year, but eventually she’s going to come around and whack you. You’ve got to be prepared.” Touché.

What Difference a Day Makes

Crocus 2/28/17
Crocus 2/28/17

I went back to the park this afternoon for two reasons, I have too much time on my hands and I like to watch the progress of the spring flowers. And I’m obsessed with photography and if I don’t get out of the house I go stir crazy, so four reasons.

Yesterday the crocuses were closed for the day and today they were open for business. What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…

Sorry We’re Closed

February Crocus
February Crocus

It’s easy to forget that flowers that were open and enjoying the sunshine yesterday may not be open the next 30 degree morning. So I decided to go back later this afternoon with a mini tripod and high hopes. But for some reason the crocuses decided to close for the day.

I set up and took a couple of photos in between raindrops, experimenting with composition and aperture. Only the ones shot wide open at f/1.8 made any sense to me. Those images had that temporary, fleeting quality to them which is exactly what a crocus is. They are tiny bits of magic that will come up, flower, and have the bees over for lunch before disappearing completely in a very short time.

I noticed the sign at the entrance and it read Kiwanis Area Pavilion 22, which is part of Lancaster County Central Park. I also discovered this morning that they sometimes open before 8am and close at sunset. No mention of what time the flowers open so be patient.

Lancaster County Flowers

Lancaster County Flowers
Lancaster County Flowers

These Irises are some of the first flowers to come up in a part of Lancaster County Central Park that I visit every spring. This section is on Eshelman Mill Road about a quarter mile down from the Shuts Environmental Library (look for the gates). The flower patch is at the end of the road opposite the maintenance building, with a large parking lot that’s always empty.

Blue Crocuses are already popping up and white ones will be there in a few days. Bluebells will also make an appearance a little later in the season. The best light is early to late afternoon depending on clouds, and they don’t open the gates until 8:00am.

If you have time, stop at the garden of five senses, which is only a few minutes away and well worth a look. Tulips, bleeding hearts and many other flowers are in the garden between late February and April. The garden is open to the public year round, and the paved walkway easily accommodates wheelchairs, strollers and very slow photographers.

Note: Hundreds of deer live in this 544 acre park and wander around like they own the place. Drive slowly early in the morning and late afternoon, especially near the Rock Ford Plantation where they get together to discuss which plants to eat next.

Perfectionism-An Inquiry into Values

Snowdrops 2/24/17 Original
Snowdrops 2/24/17 Original

I wasn’t going to post these photos because I felt they weren’t good enough. The first shot is the original; the second one is cropped and processed in Lightroom. The flower is perfect, but the photos are far from it in my opinion. “Live your life as an experiment” said Chögyam Trungpa, so I will consider that and maybe learn something in the process.

I’ve been at the garden of five senses in Lancaster County Central Park photographing these snowdrops since they came up early this month. Out of close to a thousand images I saved less than ten, because none were exactly what I wanted, none of them were perfect.

I was taught in rehab, both times, that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity, but I was not there for a photography obsession. As every photographer knows, a photo can always be better; we know this is true from all those terrible shots of Bigfoot.

So when does the search for the perfect photo go from an enjoyable hobby to an all consuming obsession? Maybe it’s a question of quality, an inquiry into values. But as Robert Pirsig found out, this is a very slippery slope.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig said; “You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.” Oh.

So no more going back to the park at dusk every afternoon waiting for that amazing light and trying for the perfect photo, been there, done that. I’ll go back at dawn when the sun is rising just over the trees tops, lighting up this little patch of miracles in a way that I can only describe as perfect. And I’ll try again.

Snowdrops 2/24/17 Cropped
Snowdrops 2/24/17 Cropped

Impermanence

Snowdrops
Snowdrops

Every spring I visit the Garden Of Five Senses in Lancaster County Central Park to see the snowdrops. They come up in February and within a very short time bloom into the most amazing flowers I’ve ever seen, with small bell shaped pedals with just a touch of green on them. Then a couple of weeks later they’re gone, completely gone, as if they were never there.

It’s easy to see changes over time but to watch them happen this fast is really something to appreciate. Of course, people don’t want to be reminded of impermanence so it’s usually a passing thought, then another thought pops in like what’s for lunch?

Charlotte Joko Beck, author of Everyday Zen said this; “Intelligent Practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever changing energy field. I don’t want to be that.”

Depending on how far you really get into this whole nothingness thing, you’ll find it either terrifying or enlightening, or both.

Sogyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying wrote; “I shall never forget when Dudjom Rinpoche, in a moment of intimacy, leaned toward me and said in his soft, hoarse, slightly high-pitched voice: “You know, don’t you, that actually all these things around us go away, just go away . . .”

Alrighty then, what’s for lunch?