No, I don’t have a fairy tale to tell you, I’m sorry if I tricked you there. Just more delightful and exquisite flowers (some are delightful and some are exquisite, but not always both). It really has been more than a few weeks since I was paying so much attention to the early blooming spring blossoms!
By the way, I have been looking up more synonyms for the words “beautiful” and “flowers”. There’s only so many times you can use these words, before you feel like the most repetitive person! Honestly, though, has anyone ever described a flower as “pulchritudinous”? When I manage to work that into a sentence about a rosebud, you’ll know I have succeeded at life. I think I will have to write a post about synonyms, at some point.
For now, summer is getting started, but we only just turned the air-conditioning on (it’s humid out there, and staying about 70 at night), and there are new blooms coming into season. The magnolias continue to bloom, and I keep looking for better photo opportunities with them.
While wandering near my workplace, I found this bush of berries that were in the process of exploding into red flowers. I have absolutely no clue what they are, but I found the “berry” edges to the flowers to be fascinating. It was also handy that there was a manhole cover located in the surrounding grass, so I could stand on it. As opposed to losing my balance in the longish grass. I had spent enough time wandering in the weeds near the magnolias, over the last few days.
These little branches covered with white “buds”, made me think of how the bushes sometimes look, after snow has fallen. Of course, if we got snow in this heat, something really would be messed up. But I thought they were lovely, with the white on green, and really liked how even some of the spider webs showed up in the pictures.
I found some winners amongst the Southern magnolias. I love how you can see the little curlicues of the developing “fruit” of the magnolia. I’ve read that these flowers are pollinated by beetles, because they have no nectar to attract bees and other insects. The beetles are attracted by the scent of the magnolia flowers (as are we humans).
Aside from more climbing around in the monkey-grass, I don’t have any adventures to tell you about, from these wanderings. So sorry. I’ll let you know if I get poison ivy or something, but since I’ve never had it, ever, I still assume I’m not allergic. And I still don’t recognize it, if I see it.
I ate lunch in that tree, once. Of course, I’ve yet to have the nerve to climb higher, because I’m afraid I’ll get caught by someone official… or because the branches look a little tricky, I might fall or rip my clothes. Just what I want, to have someone call an ambulance because some crazy girl fell out of a tree, on campus.
But this time, I was waiting to visit with a friend (in a building, not in the tree), but they were running late, so I found my favorite tree branch, and took a seat. There’s even a nice spot where another branch broke off that I could hang my purse on. Which is a good thing, because this particular branch isn’t completely rounded, it’s like a tube that has a pointy ridge on top of it, making it a little more difficult to balance. I don’t need to be balancing my purse on my shoulder, when I’m trying to keep my body balanced enough to not tip off. But since it’s low to the ground and shady, it’s a lovely spot.
Over the last few weeks, I had noticed that a sort of pod was growing on the end of the magnolia tree branches, so I was curious to see if they were the early versions of the flowers or seed pods (or whatever you call them), but I really did think it was a bit early for that. So, the first few pics were taken before they began to open.
Then, on the day I was making myself comfortable in the tree, I had also wandered around to see that these funky looking “pods” were new leaves. You can see the shiny new green, just as they begin to untwist. And when they’ve unfolded, it’s hard to believe that they’ll ever grow as big as the rest of the leaves. But they will, of course.
I suppose if anyone’s familiar with the trees on Clemson’s campus, they could probably figure out where I was. And, as you can see, I was even curious about the look of the bark and where older branches used to be. Of course, my curiosity was helped by the knowledge that this tree wasn’t crawling with ants or other insects, like many trees usually are. That’ll deter me from getting close to any tree, but this one was bug-free.
P.S. And yes, after I came up with the title of this post, a certain song came to mind. It even made me laugh, when I thought of it. But if you’re singing it to yourself, right now, don’t be silly. I was all by myself in that tree. : P
A week ago, trees outside of Hunter Hall began to bloom. The “popcorn trees” are loaded with beautiful, white blossoms… and I have yet to identify what kind of trees they are. Feel free to enlighten me. You see, the flowers look like they should be from a Bradford Pear, but those trees are usually of a uniform shape, somewhat round, the type that are laid out to line a driveway. Also, pear trees smell foul, when they’re blooming (or maybe after the leaves and pollen arrive).
These trees branch out in every direction, are extremely tall (have you ever seen a pear tree as tall as these?), and don’t seem to have any smell. I’ve looked up all sorts of pictures and descriptions of trees that have early spring blooming white flowers. Perhaps they’re white cherry blossoms, but I thought those were supposed to smell really nice. But last week, we asked one of the grad students who’s doing something with landscaping, and he’s going to see if he can find out, before we do.
Anyway, once the trees began to bloom, I was really wishing I had my camera, and then I actually began to stalk the weather report. What if it rained before the weekend or even rained on Saturday? I would miss out on the best of the popcorn trees’ blooming, and rain would knock the flowers off, or rot them, like on the pink tulip trees.
By Thursday, while staring out the cafe windows at what appeared to be white clouds at ground level, I knew that I needed to get up earlier than usual, on a workday, and bring my camera to campus. That was the only solution, because if I missed this chance, I would be kicking myself for the next year. Also, even if it didn’t rain (and, of course, it was supposed to rain for Easter), the trees would be leafing soon. Whether the flowers stayed on for any amount of time, afterwards, didn’t matter. The cloud effect would be gone.
I dragged myself out of bed, earlier than usual, reminding myself that if I caved in and went back to sleep, I would be mad at myself. One thing made it seem better. Since I didn’t have to work until late morning, I could wear normal clothes (jeans) onto campus, and look like a real person, and then change into my work clothes right before I started work. Talk about a good deal!
Of course, my eyes were peeled for any budding trees or anything that was particularly interesting. So, the first tree to catch my eye was probably a maple, with the “spinners” (or “helicopters”) just starting to form.
Once I arrived in front of Hunter, I was glad that most of the students seemed to be in class, though before long, I didn’t really care what they were up to. Since I’ve never taken a class on photography, the question for me is to figure out how to frame the shot, so you can actually see in the photo what you see with your eye. Just looking at the branches loaded with white blossoms, it can all just run together, in a picture. And depending on where the sun is or whether the sky’s blue or grey, how do you show off white flowers?
I am not extremely tall, my zoom lens never reaches as far as I want it to, and I didn’t bring a stool along with me, so I obviously went looking for the lowest branches. : ) The morning sun had just come up over Riggs, Fernow, and the rest of the buildings between the library and I, so the lighting was perfect.
Then, I hurried across the street, and perched on the wall in front of the cafe, hoping my coworkers wouldn’t spot me and come out to talk to me. I was in camera mode, and didn’t want to answer any questions. Or any silly ones, at least. But the sun was almost too bright, from where I was seated, and the oak trees were blocking my view of the blooming trees. A little further downhill got me the shots I wanted, though not many. I think the trees look “fluffier” in real life, than in the photos.
Back on the Hunter side of the street, I found these two odd, skinny, parallel branches sticking right out of the trunk, far below the rest of the branches. I would come back to look at them again, in the afternoon. But until then, I would take some more close-ups, where I would endanger my eyesight from trying to focus so hard. My camera would have trouble, sometimes, focusing on such small objects. I would find my eyes trying so hard to focus, as well, that my contacts would not be where they were supposed to be, when I pulled back from the lens. Oy.
With all the white blooms, any developing greenery was really obvious in the trees. So, I finally realized that the odd patches of green were from mistletoe, which seemed to be attached to most of the trees in the area. Once the leaves arrive, you’ll never know it’s there.
Taking a break from the popcorn trees, I took a look at new growth on some bushes, and then concentrated for a little while on the budding dogwood trees. The flowering dogwood tree, like the poinsettia plant, is known for its “petals” that surround the actual flower, but these aren’t really petals. The red leaves of the poinsettia and the white leaves of the dogwood are bracts, not petals. The flowers of this tree are actually in a small cluster, at the center of the white leaves.
Of course, in these photos, the bracts are only just opening to show off what will eventually be the flowers. Soon, these “petals” will grow large, longer, and turn white (or sometimes, pink). But most people think of the white leaves as being flower petals. So, consider this some trivia for you.
In the middle of my dogwood flower shoot, I looked up to find the well-defined shadow of a popcorn tree on the wall of Hunter Hall. I wonder how many students have ever noticed it there, at this time of morning? At no other time of day would the sun be pointed in the right direction to make the beautiful shadow so lovely, on the wall. Who knew that Hunter could look beautiful?
I bypassed the back side of the Hunter Auditorium building, looking for some other interesting trees, but just found lots of hollies. So, I took a look at the main building and the trees from the front, across the green, recently-mowed lawn. That’s one pretty drunk-looking tree over there on the left, wouldn’t you say?
For anyone who knows their trees really well, I took a photo of the trunk of one of the trees, because I wanted to find a description of the bark, hoping to help identify the tree. Not as pretty as the blossoms, but I still like the photo.
With the students still in class, I didn’t have to worry about anyone judging me as I walked along the wall, in front of Sirrine, trying to get a better look at the dogwood trees up there, but didn’t get many good ones. Still, doesn’t everyone like walking along walls, when they’re maybe not supposed to? It’s related to the joy of balancing along a curb, instead of using the sidewalk.
And lastly, when I was headed back to the parking lot to get my backpack (you don’t think I carried it all over the place with me?), I stopped at my favorite tree on the back side of Hunter Hall. I don’t know what kind this one is, either. I just think the shape is fantastic, and it’s pretty sturdy, though I don’t think an adult should sit on any of those branches, any time soon. Even the little new branches that stick out like whacked-out porcupine quills.
Didn’t think I could talk that much about trees and flowers, did you? Neither did I. I had a lot of fun on this trip. Now, I was curious to see what the lighting would be like in the afternoon, whether it was cloudy or clear. I’m still figuring out the best times of day for photographing both buildings and nature, so it’s an ever-continuing learning process.
P.S. When I arrived back at work, this week, the green was coming in around the white flowers. And despite a slightly stuffy nose, I sniffed and smelled something not quite right. I have a sneaky suspicion that these may be pear trees, after all, though they’re the funkiest shaped ones I’ve ever seen. Not positive yet, but if the smell gets worse, I’ll be sure. I suppose it could be worse. They could be durian trees. : )
After the first half of my oddly caffeinated trip to Kentucky, I visited some of my relatives before heading back home again. I had to see one of my littlest cousins, because it’s been over a year since I saw him. He’s now walking and jumping strong, though he’s still a bit shy of strangers. He took time getting used to us, while I helped my aunt put blueberries in freezer bags.
My aunt and uncle love to garden, so we made sure to take a walk through and see what they’ve been growing this year. Broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, and many other things are great, but they’re not as photogenic as sunflowers and gladiolas.
Why is it that we remember certain flowers best, because they were part of someone’s wedding? Even if you weren’t at that wedding, memories will become attached to the blooms that arrive on anniversaries. The garden had a whole row or two of gladiolas, which were part of the bouquet from my grandma’s wedding. Gladiolas are quite tall, so we think they were held in a kind of sheaf towards the crook of her arm.
Right from the start, I wandered through the greenery, doing my best to not step on anything that was supposed to be alive, and navigating paths that smelled of different types of mulch. The sun was so brilliant that my micro-zoom on my Nikon camera was great fun to use. I love being able to take pictures without using a flash.
Several rows of corn were growing, though the ears weren’t very large yet. Now that I’m back in the U.S., I’m really looking forward to summer corn, dripping with butter and salt. My family would live on it, if we could. Fresh corn on the cob. Yum.
Upon finding the honeysuckle bush, I only took pictures, rather than tasting any. The look and smell of the bush make it obvious that it’s honeysuckle. But still, if you live in the south, especially in South Carolina, there’s some added caution from knowing of the existence of yellow jasmine, which is NOT safe to taste. And honeysuckle flowers do turn yellowish. I told myself I was being silly, but still didn’t try any. Some other time.
The neighbors had a nest of swallows on their porch, so I was given permission to go up on the porch to take a closer picture. But it really wasn’t very close, because they all looked like they were glaring at me, and I didn’t really want to be dive-bombed. Judging by the pile of bird poo under their nest, who knows what they might be capable of doing to me?
Around that same porch were lots of moonflowers, just beginning to open, though they wouldn’t open fully until nighttime. I think I’ve heard of flowers that do that, but not often. I was assured that if you watch closely enough, you can see them begin to untwist. None did so on my watch, though.
On our walk back to the house, I paused to examine several types of flowers, including those that grow wild in the fields. When was the last time that I saw Queen Anne’s Lace and thistles? I don’t know if they have Queen Anne’s Lace in Australia, but I’ve missed it.
When I spoke of wedding bouquets, wildflowers can be covered in this topic, as well. When my aunt and uncle got married, their bouquet was made of Queen Anne’s Lace and wild chicory. I wish I could’ve taken some pictures of both, but the chicory wasn’t blooming there in Kentucky. I’m pretty sure I saw some on the drive home, though.
I have yet to find my blogging niche, or rather, perhaps it’s because I’m not looking for a niche to settle into. In the last year, I’ve become aware that some people blog primarily about photos, motherhood, writing, books, or travel. Of course, there are many other topics that you can write about. But when I started, I didn’t intend to stick with any one subject. Does that mean I’m part of a random niche? Niche of randomness?
For the last few years, a friend of mine has posted photos on FB in an album called “Life is Fun!”. A year ago, I had reached a point where the title of that photo album was capable of annoying me, because I didn’t think life was very fun, at all. I was definitely not looking on the bright side. But as I hunted for a new job, and my opportunity to go to Australia appeared, things began to look different. I mean, come on, what could be more fun than going to Australia?
Then, I began to write my blog, with several things in mind that I mentioned on my “About Me” page. I wanted to write about what I was seeing and doing, so that I didn’t have to write fifty million letters to friends, explaining the same things over and over again. Also, I wanted to gain an interest in writing, again, because somewhere along the way, I’d lost it. I missed writing, but couldn’t seem to figure out where to begin.
And there I was, even before I’d gotten on the airplane, looking for things to write about. Looking for something to hold people’s interest. Trying to find the next adventure. Suddenly, life wasn’t just looking fun, it was looking interesting, exciting, and many other adjectives that I won’t go into. I began to recall how this past viewpoint of mine, that life is an adventure, and if nothing else, life is always interesting. That’s why my friends have always looked forward to my letters about weekends spent at conferences in Pennsylvania, or at Seabrook Island in South Carolina. Or a long, long journal-style letter about my two weeks in Ireland or my month in Indonesia. Because I saw those as an adventure, what’s more, I wanted to share it!
I’m not complaining about being single (really!), but it’s true that there’s an additional pleasure to being able to share an experience with someone, be they spouse, parent, or good friend. Because later on, you’ll be able to go back and say “Do you remember this?”, and they’ll laugh hysterically, remembering exactly what you mean, with no extra details necessary. This is a wonderful thing, the concept of sharing. I’ve always wanted to share my experiences on a larger scale, though, and not just the big, crazy trips to foreign countries, but those hilarious incidents that occur on a routine trip to the grocery store.
It’s also about sharing a laugh with someone. Most people don’t like being laughed at, but they don’t mind laughing with someone. It’s why I’ve never liked it when someone mocks or makes fun of someone, right to their face. I am not suggesting that I’m perfect, never saying something critical of someone. But I will rarely say something publicly that will come across as if I’m making a mock of them. Pranks aren’t my style, because so often, someone’s feelings get hurt, which you don’t notice, if you’re laughing hysterically over someone’s downfall. Likewise, the show Punk’d is not on my to-be-watched list.
Sorry, I’m getting off track. I guess my point is that this last year of blogging has helped me achieve my goals of keeping people informed of my activities and reigniting my need to write, but it gave me something else that I hadn’t expected. I’ve remembered once more that life IS fun, and my friend was never wrong about saying so. And from a blogging standpoint, because there’s always something interesting to see or learn, you only have to look for it. If you can’t find it, you probably aren’t looking hard enough.
There will be days when you’re too tired to think of something, or no matter where you look, everything looks dull. But when you’re writing a blog, it’s like you always have your “interesting camera” on, in your brain, looking for the next story. And as much as I like to take pictures, and share those, it’s always about the story. My blog usually involves words, because I want to explain the story, so you can catch all of the details, entirely. A “Wordless Wednesday” post can be fun and sometimes challenging (also good for a break from writing, for a day), but the real challenge is drawing on the memories or the happenings of the day. And can I get my readers interested in a post about… the weather? Dolls? Flowers?
I started this particular post, intending to tell you about my trip to the local Botanical Gardens, here in Clemson. Since I like to start with a paragraph on a slightly off-kilter subject, and then connect the dots in an unusual way, the niche subject was related. Because over the last year, I’ve regularly made use of my best story fodder… children. If you’re a mother or a nanny, then you talk about what you know and see daily. It doesn’t hurt that the adorable faces of children are an easy draw to viewers (ok, maybe not as good as baby kittens, but you see my point). Now that I’m not working as a nanny, at least temporarily, I don’t have any beautiful kids to show off, or hilarious tales of their little mishaps.
Instead, I must make myself continue to write about what I’m seeing and doing, and if my stats numbers drop, so be it. But I remind myself that the people that keep returning, they may like my photographs, but surely they can’t be skimming over what I write. Because the writing is the main point, even if I stop taking pictures (don’t worry, I won’t). So, back to the Botanical Gardens, it occurred to me that I’ve started to take more pictures of the natural world, of flowers and trees, if only to show my Aussie friends what they look like over here. I don’t suppose they’ll ever be as interesting as kids, but it may improve my photography skills.
So, there are days when I feel like apologizing for taking MORE pictures of flowers, or MORE pictures of food. But you write (or take pictures) of what you know and see. And what’s more wickedly humorous than to make people hungry? I assure you, some of my food pictures have made me hungry enough to go back to a certain restaurant, a second time in one week. Also, I’m suffering from a lack of potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce, so any food I eat while going through withdrawal must be forgiven. Bogey’s, how I miss you.
I don’t think I have a serious endpoint to my discussion of blogging, but if my own blog and WordPress were a person, I think I would hug them for bringing me back to a more cheerful viewpoint on life and writing. My blog will not be ending any time soon, because as my regular readers will have noticed, my blog has never been JUST about my adventures in Australia. It’s about my adventures in books, movies, and everything else that I come across.
Sometimes I think that the word “adventure” might not be the right one, because I can get so sunk in my rut that I don’t go out looking for new things to do and new places to see. But every step out of your door should be an adventure, Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins once suggested, and I would happily get swept away into something unexpected.
Over the next few months, I hope to not just show you the inside of stores and what I’m eating, but to get back to my discussion of books. I have two book posts that I’ve been dawdling on. I’ll be leaving on a road trip, about a week from now, that will take me up north to Maryland and Pennsylvania, back down to the beach in South Carolina (Seabrook, here we come!), and then BACK up to PA to visit a few more people. Then, I’ll return home for some rest and job hunting.
If I get my act together, I’ll try and show you some of the natural wonders in this area, though the funny thing about living in the Upstate of South Carolina is that if you drive an hour north or south, you enter a different state, so some of “our” natural wonders actually belong to North Carolina or Georgia. I want to visit Issaqueena Falls (tallest waterfall in the southeastern U.S.) and Turtleback Falls (anyone for sliding down waterfalls?). I have high hopes of going to visit the Biltmore Estate, in NC, in the next month or two, and I haven’t been there since I was in high school (when we went three years in a row).
But back to sharing about the local sights, our local Botanical Gardens are quite large and very beautiful. Some people will recognize the trellised walkway from some family photos of ours (posted on FB), taken two years ago. Likewise, the Caboose Garden, where we also posed for that photo shoot. When we were little, we liked climbing on the caboose, just as much as we liked running down to the duck pond, to toss bits of bread to the ducks.
On this particular outing, my goal was to take as many pictures of flowers as possible, but I especially was looking for some azaleas, since I missed out on the widespread blooming of these beautiful, colorful flowers. Also, I had noticed that the magnolia trees were in bloom, but if I wanted to capture any pictures of the magnolia blossoms (which smell amazing, by the way), I needed to find a branch that was close enough to the ground for me to see. Thankfully, this wasn’t too difficult to do, as magnolia trees often have low-growing branches, and it was such a brilliantly sunny day that none of my flower photos needed any “enhancing”.
Also, that’s one of the reasons they’re the best climbing trees in the area. Pine trees are too full of sap, but oak trees have branches that are too high to reach. I’m not sure if you can get an idea of the height of that magnolia tree from my pictures, but let me assure, they can be colossal. And you can climb from the bottom to the top of the tree, with only a little swaying of the tree top, once you’re up there. No, I didn’t do it today, but I’ve done it when I was in my early twenties.
I found my pink azaleas (if you’ve never seen them before, they’re a little bit like the shape of the lilies, and bright pink) and my magnolia closeups, so I was a happy camper. In my attempt to get a close shot of the water lilies, I discovered a male Mallard duck reclining in the shade. He was watching me so closely, as I took his picture, therefore I kept my distance (didn’t want my day remembered as the one where a duck attacked me). I found the water fountain by the pond to be an odd addition to the scenery, but the new benches by the waterfront were great for any family that wanted to take a day to visit the ducks. Also, when we were younger, we would come and stare at the giant “goldfish” that always seemed to be sunbathing in the water.
Truly, I hope you have enjoyed the flowers, and I hope that you’ll keep coming back as I continue my search for the next adventure, or share what was “just plain int’resting” to me. Maybe you’ll find these things just as engrossing as I do!
P.S. If anyone’s wondering why I want my blog to be more about the writing, and yet I post my pictures in a very large format, it’s because that’s how I prefer to look at them. There are many blogs that I don’t even take the time to look at, because I have to click on more links to see the picture, of the small size of the picture doesn’t give you a really good idea of the content. Basically, I follow my own personal preference for large photos (when they’re my own pics), because in the end… if I’m satisfied with what I’ve written and how my blog looks, that’s what matters. There’s a reason I named my blog what I did.