When I take photos of flowers (my favorite subject) I am observing the portraits of living things. While far from being human, my botanical subjects emerge, change and fade into a rapid life-cycle far speedier than my own, and I appreciate their tender days of childhood, their proud and robust teenage moments, the confidence and reproductive qualities as adults and parents, and the dignified way in which they fade away, sometimes stubbornly, standing tall and trying to keep their form and color before contributing organic matter back into the soil.
As I approach these years myself, I find these proud aging flowers empowering, and possessing their own straggly beauty.
I found one such subject yesterday in the garden. This once glorious purple coneflower reminded me of an aging ballerina. Her pink tutu corona once danced and twirled in the primavera of summer currents, dazzling her audience of Monarchs, swallowtails, bees, skippers and moths. She and her purple dance troupe spun in the sun and smiled to the heavens. Cue the applause.
And now, August is her autumn as she readies for her last bow. Her costume of petals has shriveled and shredded from too many spins, and her beautiful, proud head of pollen, now sporting tips of grey, is still erect and remains quite stunning. But she no longer holds the attention of her audience of fickle flutterers. Their patronage has turned to the perky, pirouetting phlox (how’s that for alliteration?) that takes command on garden stage. They’re the new pollinators on the block, the Latin binomial shining vividly on the garden marquis.
And that is how it should be for all of us. We step aside to watch our children grow. We contribute to a community, do our thing, bask in the deserved glories we earned and yield to give others a turn in the spotlight.
In the garden, everyone has their moment to shine and make a contribution to nature. My ballerina friend will retreat with grace, making the Earth better for her presence…and presents she bestowed. Bravo! Encore!