Listening to the Lotus

Photo of an opened lotus flower. Pink petals and the seed pod in the center is yellow.

The lotus bud of closed petals, like a cat sleeping in a rolled ball, is silent as it inhales air and sunlight, listens and learns words from other plants. When the petals begin to lower, opening, the lotus’s voice is small and unsure. Such as it is with young flowers and insects and birds and most animals. Not like young humans, who wail to be heard. When fully open the lotus’s pink petals sing, adding a delicate voice to the music around them. The lotus’s song and luminous petals invite people to gaze into it, mandala-like, and see other worlds: pink skies, cities among trees, people who can breathe underwater, tall ships sailing in the sky. Each person sees a world of their liking. The lotus embraces the hope that when each person looks away, they will see the wonder of the real world around them. The grip of the petals fades as the flower ages. The petals fall one by one. Sad for the falling. Thankful for their chance under the sun. Curious about the ground and what happens next. Above the fallen petals, the seed pod is like a small speaker. Singing a different song now. A song about new generations of musicians, about possibilities. 

Photo of a lotus seed pod. No petals are attached to it. The pod is no longer yellow and has turned to green.

Photos were taken at Grounds for Sculpture (Hamilton, New Jersey) in July 2021.
copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

2021 Readers’ Choice Book List — Naturalist Weekly

Here’s a selection of books which were submitted to Naturalist Weekly as the books that made the biggest impact on them this year. Also check out Mark’s other posts on the blog, as they’re rich with poetry and prose that celebrate nature and describe our connections.

The favorite nature books of 2021 as identified by our readers.

2021 Readers’ Choice Book List — Naturalist Weekly

Leaf Art

The enjoyment of autumn bringing relief from summer’s heat, as well as turning summer’s shades of green leaves into a wider variety of colors. A bit of play with leaves and patterns…

A pattern of angles formed by two leaves -- a brown one and a red one.
A circular pattern of two leaves -- a tan one and a green one.
Close up photo of a tan leaf with the text sunlight wrote a map of veins on my surface and now I return to the earth

sunlight wrote a map of veins on my surface and now I return to the earth

August Morning in Rehoboth Beach

Wave after wave arrives, recedes, arrives — neverending music of liquid tapping the sand — a pattern copied by my memories of growing up in Rehoboth Beach with my brother, how the wave music was more in the background than under the spotlight on center stage (which happens on family beach vacations), while us kids walked or cycled the boardwalk, went to school, worked in the bookstore, ran around the streets. Called this home. How echoes of those times live in my head and heart. This summer, my daughters are living and working in Rehoboth. Other echoes. Different experiences from mine. My pride of seeing them in this transition of different growth than they’re used to. They are more waves arriving on this beach, bringing their own distinctive music, adding to the concert.

A video from that morning walk (to watch on YouTube, click here)…

Sligo Creek

Photo of a stream, with stones on either side of the water, also with trees on both sides, some of the trees overhanging the stream.

I’m lucky to live near Sligo Creek, which flows by several neighborhoods here in Maryland. A paved path follows the stream, and it’s popular with walkers and joggers. I was especially grateful for the creek in 2020, during the lockdown due to Covid-19. The path made for walks to get fresh air and a distraction from the bad news of more and more people dying from the virus and testing positive.

I recorded videos of four waterfalls along the creek. These are lovely and small — nothing dramatic like you’d see in a hilly or mountainous landscape. The path by the creek is pretty flat.

I combined the four videos into a single one, and each waterfall runs for a minute.

If you’d rather watch the video on YouTube, it’s here.

Brood X Cicadas

Two cicadas on leaves of a shrub

The Brood X cicadas have arrived here in Maryland! I was fascinated by their last topside journey, that they live underground for 17 years before coming up.

Why that many years? I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know. One of nature’s mysteries, maybe. According to Wikipedia, Broods I – XIV are on 17-year cycles, and Broods XIX – XXIII are on 13-year cycles.

Well, it’s Brood X’s time in the sun.

I’ve been looking forward to their return. I feel more prepared this time: knowing what to expect and having a cell phone to take photos and videos. If you’d like to hear the cicadas, there’s a video at the end of this post.

The cicadas are flying about, crawling on sidewalks, hanging on out tree trunks and on leaves of bushes:

Many cicadas on shrub leaves

Also, lots of the exoskeletons are left behind, and these are also on trees and shrubs. To me, there’s something alien-ish in the shedding of the shell and leaving the empty ones around. But then, I enjoy science fiction, so it’s not surprising that my mind went there.

Here are the exoskeletons:

Many cicada exoskeletons on a tree trunk, with one cicada emerging from its exoskeleton

Being a writer, I couldn’t help writing a flash fiction story from the point of view of a cicada:

Helluva Long Time of Waiting to Party
(A message from a Brood X cicada)
by Dave Williams

Hey, didja miss me? Of course you did! Wait. You say you don’t remember me? I was the little nymph who shouted, “What’s up!” as I fell from the maple tree in your yard. I thought you heard me. But maybe that was just your confused face.

Well, for the past 17 years I’ve spent in the dirt, I’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to. I gotta tell ya, it ain’t the best living conditions down there. Tight space, no sunlight, only thing to eat is sap from tree roots. It’s no paradise on Earth, believe me.

We’re talking epic Seasonal Affective Disorder and cabin fever here. Don’t let me hear you whining about being cooped up for a couple days in a snowstorm in some cabin in Colorado. That’s NOTHING compared to what we cicadas go through.

It’s MUCH better up here in the sunshine! Fresh air is so beautiful. And it’s awesome to stretch my wings and flit around. Freedom, baby! I love feeling the wind on my face!

Sure, sure, 17 years is a long stretch in the dark, but we feel lucky for it this time. All of us underground were SO glad we’re not on a 16-year cycle. You’re surprised I know about last year? News of what’s going on topside comes down to us. Slowly, but it gets there.

And last year was CRAZY! You had a pandemic and protests and wildfires and a controversial U.S. presidential election. Controversy’s everywhere! And, oh yeah, the murder hornets! Those buggers alone would’ve shaken my knees.

Speaking of shaking knees, your toilet-paper shortage last year had us laughing. What apocalyptic movie predicted that???? None of ‘em! Y’all are so entertained by Mad Max-style shooting that nobody thought to include the real fear of opening the bathroom door and seeing an empty toilet-paper roll. Haha!

Okie-dokie, I gotta get going. I’m only gonna live a handful of weeks, so I gotta make sure I get to the important stuff, if you know what I mean. Wink, wink. I’ll play a groove on my tymbals, and the ladies will come running.

You can get stressed out about vaccine shots and cholesterol and climate change and your retirement account. I could care not less! Time for me to live it up! Party like there’s no tomorrow!

Yeah, our partying is loud. What, you gonna call the cops and complain? They can’t do anything to stop us! Haha!

Sorry, not sorry!

And now for the video/audio experience…

I took this video in my neighborhood. If you’d rather view it on Youtube, it’s available here. A bird zooms by at the 2:43 mark.

story, photos, and video copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Cherry Blossoms

I live in Maryland, and I love when spring arrives. Warmer days, and colorful flowers pop up, as if wanting to show off what they can do after the Christmas lights had their time to shine. Crocus, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, azaleas. Lots of azalea bushes around here.

Most popular are the cherry blossoms, as they have their own festival in Washington, DC. Typically a two-week celebration with kite flying, parade, street fair, and more. Locals and tourists stroll around the Tidal Basin, ringed by the beautiful trees.

This year, however, the festival will be different due to Covid-19, in trying to avoid large gatherings. Artists painted 26 cherry blossom sculptures, and these have been placed around the DC area. If you’d like to go on a Blossom Hunt, there’s a handy map for the sculptures’ locations at the Art in Bloom page. Also, residents are encouraged to decorate the front of their properties, so we can embark on Petal Porch Parades. It’s a creative solution to doing things differently during Covid, as they did in New Orleans and elsewhere for Mardi Gras, turning it into “Yardi Gras.”

But if you don’t live in the area, here are some photos I took of visits to the Tidal Basin in the past. Cherry blossoms are found in other spots, yet this popular because of the concentration of the trees there.

Click on the photos to see larger versions. The last one, on the bottom right, shows petals that the wind blew off the trees and collected on the ground near a drain. The scene made for a neat way to see the petals differently. In this askew way, the petals look like pink snow or rain about to wash into underground pipes.