“To make my days deserving of preservation, I have to give myself ample time for reflection and repose. . . . It feels as if such entries add an extra layer to living.”     — Wendy Lustbader, The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Old

Rain on the glass at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Rain on the glass at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

These short winter days slip by so quickly, especially if it’s rainy, dark, and gloomy.  Thank goodness this blog gives me the impetus to find something in my days to share with you, my readers.  Sometimes it’s just the excuse I need to see what’s happening at the Volunteer Park Conservatory, which is a heaven-sent destination on a rainy winter day.  The warm humid interior is a comforting contrast to the cold outdoors.  Even if I do have to wait for the fog to clear from my camera lenses!

My eyes were soothed by patterns and graceful, curving lines on this particular visit.  Here are a few photos:

Branching pattern with brilliant blue stem

Branching pattern with brilliant blue stem

Ferns with subtle purples and greens

Ferns with subtle purples and greens

Graceful leaves, almost translucent against the glass windows

Graceful leaves, almost translucent against the glass windows

Delicate beaded edges grace these cascading leaves

Delicate beaded edges grace these cascading leaves

Hanging pitcher plant

Hanging pitcher plant





Some of you requested more (and better) photographs of the embroidered sea shells that decorate my jars of sea shells from Hawaii.  I searched for and found the pattern I used, from This is . . . “The Magic of the Sea” by Annie Designs, copyright 1980.  I haven’t done counted cross-stitch embroidery in a very long time, so it was fun to resurrect these old embroideries for you.  Thank you for your interest in them!

Cross-stitched embroidered sea shell jar cover

Cross-stitched sea shell jar cover

Embroidered strawberry shell with cross-stitch pattern

Embroidered cone shell with cross-stitch pattern

Beauty Beyond Function

April 20, 2012

Camellia: symmetry + structure + pattern = beauty

Fallen camellias

” . . . the book of nature is at least in part written in the language of mathematics.  The behavior of physical reality is governed by many rules; some of these rules may lead to specific kinds of pattern, patterns that many species evolve to admire.  Thus these laws may have something to do with universal ideas of beauty.”
— David Rothenberg, Survival of the Beautiful:  Art, Science, and Evolution

New branches, like a row of Vs, grow on this maple tree

When I look for potential photographs, my eyes seek out patterns and composition.  Winter is a great time to look at the branching patterns of trees because their shapes are exposed and still free of foliage.

Cascading pattern of new branches with buds

Repeating branching pattern

These new branches stand like a row of prehistoric palm trees

An infinite variety of patterns in nature

It is truly my pleasure to write these blog posts, but there are times when the backlog of ideas for new posts has been depleted, and I wonder if I’ll find anything worthwhile to share ever again.  It amazes me as much as anyone that I’ve posted almost every day since April of 2009.

At first, I wanted to document in photos and words the little seasonal changes I observed over the course of a year in my ordinary life in Seattle.  Then, writing my blog became a habit of sorts.  I still walk through my life on alert, always on the lookout for possible ideas for blog posts.  Sometimes I start with a poem or quote I’ve discovered in my reading, and then try to find an image to illustrate that idea.  Sometimes I start with an image, a photograph I want to share but have to find some words to go with it.  I don’t try to write long essays or post too many photos in one blog post.  Rather, each day focuses on the pleasures of one small idea or image.

I am most comfortable when I have a small backlog of ideas, but I try not to get too stressed if my well is running dry.  Right now, for example, I’m thinking ahead to late February/early March when I will be out of town for a week.  Can I prepare enough posts in advance to have something ready to publish each day of my absence?  I worry about this, but then something happens and invariably all turns out okay.

Like the neighborhood walk I took yesterday with my camera.  I didn’t know what would strike my eye, but it turns out I was almost overwhelmed with lovely images.  Suddenly, nature seems to be stirring out of its winter dormancy, and I’m seeing all sorts of things going on.  I took photo after photo, and after uploading them, I’ve mentally sorted them into themes for a week’s worth of blog posts!

It’s funny how I can walk the same streets day after day and not see anything special.  And then a new day, and it’s like I’ve got some kind of special glasses on that allow me to see with fresh eyes.  I’m still learning that I have to trust the ebb and flow of my creative life.  And that the Universe will provide if I am open to it.

I’ll end with three photos from my recent neighborhood walk — images that I like but can’t figure out how to incorporate into a full blog post.  Enjoy!

Thorns on the bark of these trees

I like the pattern of these buds standing all in a row.

New growth cutting through old leaf

Changing colors of Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Toothed edges of these leaves are turning red

“Pattern is the crystallization of beauty.”
— Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty

The leaves are just starting to turn color.  My eye was caught by the pattern of red edging on these hanging Virginia creeper leaves.  It’s interesting how they turn color from the outside in.

Watercolor sketch of Virginia creeper


Design Elements in Ivy

October 1, 2011

“Beauty is the transformation of the world into pattern.”
— Soetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman:  A Japanese Insight into Beauty

Strands of ivy along a wall

Parallel vines

Graceful line of the ivy vine

There is a lot of beauty in the pattern of repeating leaves and graceful lines of ivy growing on a wall.  I also like the darker green of the leaves, which looks like it has been applied with a paintbrush!

New Leaves

April 16, 2011

“No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘T us enough for us now that the leaves are green.”
     — James Russell Lowell

I love watching the new leaves sprouting up on the trees.  The patterns of young leaves and still-visible branches are very pleasing to the eye.

New leaves, blue sky

Purple and green, sprightly leaves

New leaves in the morning light

Fresh green leaves

Leaf Abstractions

January 4, 2010

I am so fortunate that when winter gardens seem uninspiring I can go to a special place like the Volunteer Park Conservatory, where green plants thrive in jungle-like profusion and flowers bloom.  The unusual patterns of coloration on the fronts and backs of leaves caught my eye on this visit.  I was inspired to try to capture these patterns in my photographs.

Fern leaves

A delicate fern leaf

The underside of this unusual leaf looked like a painting of seed pods

Beautiful symmetry

Wavy edge

This leaf looked like a butterfly wing

Graceful scallops edge this leaf

This reminds me of a dancer's skirt

Jack Frost

November 16, 2009


Frost on the windshield of my Pathfinder


Frost patterns like feathers


Morning frost on my windshield

Jack Frost
by Helen Bayley Davis

Someone painted pictures on my
     Windowpane last night —
Willow trees with trailing boughs
     And flowers, frosty white,

And lovely crystal butterflies;
     But when the morning sun
Touched them with its golden beams,
     They vanished one by one!

It’s cold enough these mornings for frost on the car windshield.  The icy patterns are exquisitely beautiful.  I remember Jack Frost visiting our old farmhouse in Minnesota.  When I was growing up, the upstairs was unheated, so our bedroom windows were often decorated with frost.