More than a Glimmer

Soon after I returned from my mid-January trip to the Nevada desert I began noticing small glimmers of Spring. First, it was the tentative strains of Song sparrows warming up their territorial melodies in the woods behind my home. At the botanical garden witch hazel scented the air with an intoxicating fragrance, and the same week, sturdy daffodil shoots pierced the dull brown earth, powering up like legions of little green soldiers.






Under last year’s leaf detritus the warmed earth has been incubating new growth; even as I type, reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) motors briskly through the decaying leaf matter and into the sunlight. Speaking of sunlight, there may not be a lot of it around here, but daylight is no longer scarce after 4:00 pm. What a pleasure!






This is the time of year that our native Indian plum leafs out and thrusts cascades of tiny white flowers into the woods, providing nectar for early bees, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds.



Willows curtain the marsh with beads of lime green on softly waving stems. Way out on Lake Washington one day, just after sunset, I watch four river otters cavorting. Rafts of coots, wigeons and grebes gather near the shore and a pair of Mallards hauls up on a log to rest.








All the crisp brown leaves that were caught on branches and ferns are disintegrating into fine lace. I admire the map-like tracery of veins across the skeletonized leaves.ย  Pleasing little rows of bumps on Sword fern leaflets are evidence of plentiful spore dots (sori), located on the underside of the leaf. It’s rewarding to peer closely but sometimes I let my eyes and camera go out of focus, to better feel the wild energy of the cold air moving through the forest.




Bloodtwig dogwood stems (Cornus sanguinea) are showy with color now, and display a handsome, architectural simplicity of form. A few small blossoms on a shrub I can’t identify nod shyly along the wood’s edge.




At an arboretum in Seattle the earliest varieties of azaleas and cherry trees are blooming, and at their feet, snowdrops and crocuses punctuate thickly mulched beds. A few precocious daffodils are already out. Birdsong rings through the woodlands. We watch an Anna’s hummingbird flit impatiently from blossom to blossom in the azalea, his iridescent green back glinting brilliantly in the sunlight against clear pink flowers.








For over a month I have noticed trees laden with long, elegant catkins. I couldn’t figure out what they were and it was driving me crazy. At the arboretum I came across one of these trees while on foot and took a close look at it. The catkins, which hold male flowers, each with four stamens, were fully out. Between clumps of them I found the tiniest red starburst flowers perched on vase-shaped buds: the female flowers. Last year’s leaves were still under the tree, so I photographed them, too. The clues made identification easier: the mystery tree is our native Beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta). This tree’s nuts are smaller than the European hazelnut so the species is not grown commercially, but it makes a nice specimen tree just the same, with its abundance of golden catkins.






Hellebores have been blooming for a month now at the botanical garden, while fat buds on trees reach out into the delicately hued forest, and the Crepe myrtle tree’s patchwork bark seems to glow a little brighter than before.






It’s happening. And it’s more than a glimmer.





Some of these photos were made using a vintage super Takumar 50mm f1.4 prime lens, with an adapter to fit my camera. This film era lens is somewhat heavy (it has an all-metal construction) and it can be difficult to focus. It doesn’t produce the same kind of all-over tack sharpness that modern lenses have, but there’s a particular beauty to the way it renders colors and tones. I’ve mentioned it in previous posts. Here’s a quick video about the lens.

Number 2, #3 (except the daffodil shoots), #6, #9, #10, #11, #12, #20 and #21 were made with the old Takumar 50mm. All the others were made with an Olympus 60mm f2.8 macro lens.

For gardeners, the Witch hazels are Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ and Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’.

One more thing – since beginning this post another mass shooting has occurred in the U.S.ย  I stand in sympathy for the victims and their families, and this includes all the kids who are traumatized by this event. I heard an interview with a 23-year-old newspaper reporter who has already covered three mass shootings. How does she deal with that? The National Association of Social Workers put out this statement, which notes that our country leads the world in mass shootings and recommends treating gun violence as a public health crisis. Mass shootings are complex problems, not reducible to one cause or one solution, but people in power need to begin the hard work of fixing this problem.




  1. The dark background of #19 really makes it pop, Lynn. And I find #14 and #16 too pretty to resist.

    I think we started experiencing fatigue so many tragedies ago. I don’t know what any of us has left.

  2. Lovely signs of Spring.
    (I thought I detected a 50mm f1/4 ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    Sad to read of your continual ‘shootings’. I wish your gun laws were as tight as ours here in Australia. I believe ours have improved the situation, although there are always ‘black markets’ to supply those in the know.

    • Funny you recognize the lens! I do like that one. And boy, so I wish our gun laws were way, way tighter,. It’s astounding that they’re so backward, but apparently it’s all about the money that the National Rifle Assn. funnels into politicians’ campaigns. Black market availability would be better than what we have now. Have a good week, Vicki!

  3. Looks like spring might have sprung. The catkins are delicious. We might just have to find a spot for one. Perhaps?

    I can’t but help thinking our shootings go beyond a public health problem. The guy who’s supposed to be leading us says the expected words of sympathy, but then cuts funding. It’s a sad state of affairs. Hoping that there will come a day when the pendulum swings.

    • Yes, it’s a far-ranging, complex issue, I think, but the NASW take on it was interesting. It’s that changeable time of year, isn’t it? We had more hail today – smaller but more frequent squalls of it, for several hours. So much fun to watch and listen to, but I stayed inside!

      • Rain, hail, something almost looked like snow here. Squalls rolling in one after the other. LOVE this time of year. But also a great time to stay indoors where it’s warm and dry!

    • I wonder what signs of Spring there are where you live, Louis? Glad you liked this – I was hungry for it, and what a pleasure to find so many changes happening so early. Still, it will be slow, and that’s OK by me.

  4. Little by little, it is nice to see a few signs of Spring; daffodils on the cusp of blooming, crocus showing their faces, even the grass in the backyard outdueling the moss for a change. Nice selection of nature’s wake up call.

    You got to wonder how many of these massacres it’ll take before certain parties will admit it’s a problem that requires something well beyond platitudes to solve.

    • Yes, the grass is greening up, isn’t it. The last time I had a house (upstate NY) I had major moss in the back, and I actually started cultivating it – picking the grass out – the moss was so beautiful. Certain parties need to stop depending on money from certain other parties, I guess.

  5. Lovely set of photos, my friend – but first things first! The shootings are a public health crisis? Well, quite possibly, and its pretty clear that the US President (and vast numbers of others too) wants to maintain the status quo. A famous photographer (whose name I forget, but a European I think) has worked in assignments all over the world but, on asking which country he found the most foreign and different, he named the USA and, especially in view of these ongoing massacres, I can well understand that. Using that famous phrase, I have no words for this, my friend. Knowing you a little, I can feel echoes of your pain.
    I love your pictures, and your anticipation of Spring. And your pictures of the Hazel, which us so like the one in our back garden. I also like the Mallard couple, and feel that the still water greatly adds to it. And 17 is simply wonderful – ohhh!!!!!!! 11, 15 and 21 gets to me too. A

    • Having no words makes sense, especially being from a country where guns play a vastly different role than they do here. Thank you for your thoughts. I wish the Mallard photo had been less noisy, but it was really late, the sun had already set – so it’s nice to hear you like that one. You’d love the place where I took it – plenty of birds to be seen from three boardwalk platforms, including Bald eagles, hummingbirds, and everything in between. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so happy to have finally figured out what the trees with the pretty catkins were – they’re out before any others, and they’re more elegant than the alders. Re #17 – it’s nice when one’s hands are steady enough to get that kind of detail. ๐Ÿ˜‰ #11 and #21! That surprises me a bit. Thanks so much, Adrian!

  6. FANTASTIC! Your ‘wanderings & observations’ here are very well seen and executed Lynn … this is your strength … your niche’! Lovely writing, close-ups and textures … and my favorite is #4!

    • Thank you, Denise, I do love Spring, and I love looking closely for all the signs. There’s a photo of me as a two-year-old, squatting on the ground and pointing to an emerging tulip. ๐Ÿ™‚ So glad you mentioned #4 – I was happy with the way that turned out. I’ve been working more on images of decomposing vegetation this year – and working more on processing. Have a good week!

  7. Lynn, your prose is just as beautiful and evocative as your photos. Thank you for inviting us to see the emergence of spring through your eyes. All the photos are stunning but the willow branches stood out to me. You are a few weeks ahead of us here in W. PA, but the birds are beginning to sing and a snowdrop is blooming. Thank you for whetting my appetite, my friend.

    • Thanks very much for mentioning the prose, as I spent a lot of time on it. I am NOT a fast writer! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I’ve been working on more photos, so much so that I have neglected your blog, and others. I will be by soon. I’m also glad you liked those willow branches – I like the idea of screens in front of things, and they make good ones. Soon you’ll be busy in your garden – it’s a good thing your composing work centered in the winter season, right? Have a great week, Lynn!

  8. Indeed, you are seeing many signs of spring, Lynn, and you have photographed them so beautifully.
    We are still under many inches of snow and ice, so I think it will be some time before we start seeing any signs of spring here, BUT at least we are getting closer to it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Have a wonderful week ahead!

  9. Your photos and narrative were a real treat. Witch hazel is fascinating and I appreciate idiosyncratic plants and creatures – the things that exist in niches and margins.
    This whole post is very cheering – – the blossoms and elegant catkins
    The skeletonized leaf on top of the fern reminds me of pictures of aircraft that went down in the jungle years ago, very neat.
    I used to feel, when I’d see sprouts coming up through last year’s debris, that I couldn’t walk past, and needed to rake the old stuff out of the way, but I think it usually serves as protection and maybe insulation, and most plants, except perhaps hostas, do just fine, as you said, motoring through the decaying matter.

    • I like the thought that you’ve identified an appreciation for idiosyncratic flora & fauna, living on the margins…wonderful. And I’m happy to have brought a bit of cheer your way. I never would make the association you did to the skeletonized leaf on the Sword fern – that is fascinating! You’re right, we need to leave nature to her own devices – that mulch plays a critical role, and the more I look carefully, the more I can find beauty in it, not just in the shoots it nourishes. Have a good week, Robert!

  10. I love number 1; great photo to lead with. The contrast between light and dark is just wonderful. Love all the purples. โ€œ[R]eed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea) motors brisklyโ€: Motors! Great word here! (Also very nice photo.) The tangle of the old stuff in number 4 is so appealing. Nicely framed. You always get the DOF just right. I like how the young fern in number 9 is supporting the poor old dead whatever-it-is. Your catkins (number 16) do look elegant! And there, again, I like the strong tonal contrast. And, oh, the hellebores! That light! Number 20 is another pure Lynn. A lovely candelabrum. And here I like the lack of tonal contrastโ€”and that sweet spiderโ€™s thread. Very nice collection with, as always, interesting text. Oops, forgot to say I really like number 7, the lines and shallow DOF.

    • Witch hazel is a little tough to photograph in a way, because it’s all scribbles, no form, but I really liked the dried leaves on that tree, and the colors together. Glad you liked it, too. I thought of you with #4. Hey, do you want to see the trash bin, with all the poorly focused photos with bad DOF? I tend to want to shoot wide open and sometimes forget it’s not going to result in good focus across the shot. Duh! (Fresh from the “Think first, Shoot later” school….) Contrast is great sometimes, not other times, it all depends, doesn’t it? I’m glad you liked #7, too, it’s from the park near home that I’ve been going to more than any other; I’m getting to know those willows. It’s fun to do different things with them. We went together the other day and there was a Hummingbird right next to that tree, just beautiful. Thanks, Linda!

  11. I confess it: lovely as the catkins and willows and witch hazel are, it was the pair of mallards that caught my heart. In the midst of so much pattern, the simplicity and serenity is striking. It certainly seems that you’ve caught the nictitating membrane of the male, too: that third eyelid that allows sight, but keeps the eye protected and moist.

    I especially like the dogwood stem. I brought back some dogwood twigs from a Minnesota ditch in 2011. They’re still red, and still in a vase. One day, I’ll take the time to use my can of compressed air to dust them off.

    • Yup, I think both Mallards were relaxed enough to have just that nictitating membrane working, with a quick “real look” every now and then to be sure they were safe. The image is fuzzy with noise but I did what I could with it and posted it anyway, because it adds that extra something. It’s nice when you photograph nature outdoors and mostly “as is”, to find some clean abstracts like that dogwood stem. I bet they look great in the vase.

  12. Lynn, I love your shots of spring. Each and every one. Most of all because they are all distinctively you. Surprising, with a twist, new angles, a joy to watch and inspiring. You don’t see what everyone else sees.

    We feel sorry about the mass shooting Florida. Terrible news, the reports are heartbreaking and the leader of the country intolerable.
    Sending you love and fairy dust,
    The Fab Four of Cley

  13. So beautiful your pictures, all of them! The catkins in detail are fantastic, nr. 7 and 8, the willowstripes, so nice! Nr. 10,15, 20 – wunderful ๐Ÿ™‚ Spring seems to be a bit further than here. Crocuses are out, but we have frost at night (23 Fahrenheit). Till our vegetation is as far as yours, there will be some time to go – sigh ๐Ÿ˜‰ But there are signs and the birds started singing their springtimesongs again, yeah ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Well, we’ve had the same temperatures here the last few days, and now we have a dusting of snow. Most plants that come out this early can deal with it. Sometimes I don’t know if I can! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed the photos!

      • Haha, you are probably right. Nature is more flexible than we are ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I thought the weather in your area is heading straight forward to springtime. Next week should be even colder here….brrr…

  14. Itโ€™s a feeling of new and turning the page…love the greens ๐Ÿค“โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ’ซ as an outsider I donโ€™t understand gun ownership…Iโ€™ve seen some social media posts of ppl cutting up their guns…I imagine a different world…sending healing vibes…itโ€™s tragic ๐Ÿ˜Œ and complex…itโ€™s a dissertation ๐Ÿค“ hugs dear Lynn ~ hugs Hedy

      • Oops this phone thing for response is difficult too ๐Ÿค“๐Ÿ˜œ itโ€™s a dissertation for sure…I had a dream all the ppl melted their guns โ˜บ๏ธ๐Ÿ’ซ probably my pacifist upbringing…guns have never been a part of my life…Iโ€™m grateful for that…sending joyful vibes to all those students and teachers who are intelligent to know guns do not belong in schools.

  15. As I am not presently in the Northwest I am surprised how much glimmer of spring you have been able to find. This series of images hold all those expectations and desires for spring that most of us who have experienced it, long for. Beautiful photos.

    • And today, snow! We’ve had a serious cold spell, and I’ve become soft – I should get out and see what I can find, but the 25 degree F weather makes me want to stay in. Thanks Otto!

  16. Beautiful signs of spring! Especially love the witch hazel and the skeleton leaves. I use an old Olympus zuiko film lens for my macro shots with an adaptor on my digital camera. Somewhat clunky combination as you say, and I have to use on full manual, but the results are always worth it. What you loose in sharpness you gain in rendition of colour and texture. There’s nothing like it!

  17. Healing indeed, and badly needed after all these school shootings. I saw your mention of reed canary grass~is that as bad an invasive there as it is here? Much as I’m opposed to the use of herbicides, even I feel the urge to reach for a sprayer when I see that darned grass!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s