Turning Japanese

HAIKU AHEAD – PROCEED WITH CAUTION:

Surviving winter

Hot tea is needful, I think

Also many books

Four summers ago, I wrote about Taking Tea with Tornadoes describing my experience with the art of Japanese tea ceremonies during severe low pressure fronts; it has been quite a while since I’ve explored the Land of the Rising Sun. Please allow me to apologize in advance for my take on this venerable, ancient culture. “Sumimasen” すみません

I have the heart of a wanderer…and the expense account for ramen noodles on a good day. So, I have to adventure vicariously–taking a trip on the Orient Express for me means getting on board with digital media.

Allow me to recommend a few curiosities I’ve discovered along the way.

Continue reading Turning Japanese

I.E.D.s in the Family Tree

I used to scream bloody murder when I was a child. I would shriek so loud, so long, that eventually I would go hoarse. I even developed nodes–tightened knots on my vocal chords. When I finally figured out screaming wasn’t helping me I stopped. This allowed my vocal chords to relax and I discovered I had a deeper register. (As a result, I sing somewhere between contralto and tenor with a hiccup in my falsetto.)

What I couldn’t have told you, even if you had asked, was why. Why did I devolve into a nightmare child shuddering in hysterics? I couldn’t tell you then, but I might be able to tell you now.

But first, a little back story…

Continue reading I.E.D.s in the Family Tree

Orchids Ablooming

I attend the Meijer Garden’s Orchid show every year, if I can. This year I was exceptionally lucky in more ways than one–in having child care and in running into the nicest couple who helped me take even better pictures (with much less swearing at my camera) than usual.

To Vicki and Lou, many thanks! You may take credit for any of the flower images that follow!

Orchid Paph. Henryam

It is hard to narrow down my choices to just a few special interest pictures. I took over 350 shots and did stop to tweak a few digitally. (Which sounds much worse than it actually is.)

You’ll notice that there is a yellowish cast to many of the photos. I blame the lighting that is intended to enhance the floral display, but plays havoc with getting a true color capture.

BCD Gilded Tower ‘Mystic Maze’

Sometimes it is hard to capture an image for more reasons than lighting. (Operator incompetence springs to mind, for example.) So cropping is the next best thing to actually getting a good shot the first time.

BCD Gilded Tower ‘Mystic Maze’ (crop)

I was struggling mightily with my Canon EOS (I can only assume EOS stands for Exceptionally Obstinant System) when Lou offered a few hints. And then, when I still couldn’t manage to get my camera to ‘point and shoot’ for me, he fiddled with about a half-dozen settings until he figured out the problem. Honestly, I can’t tell you what he changed, but it was like he put the fear of Kodak into the thing, because it stopped hiccuping afterward. Yay Lou!

CH Wolteriana

I tend to prefer a nice crisp image. I liked centered shots, but sometimes, the size or arrangement of the flowers made this nigh impossible.

How do you center on a flowering bush, for example? I chose to close crop the surroundings so that you could ‘feel the profusion’ of the yellow flowering orchid with about the longest name I’ve ever seen.

Dendrob. C hercoglossum monilform x Lamyaiae x Fredericksianum

The next image, I only snapped one photo. Fortunately, I got most of the massive bloom in focus. But shooting from a distance and trying to avoid all the other glamorous contenders makes photographing them a challenge.

Cymbidium Dorothy Stoctsill

I particularly liked the name of the next flower–though I took about 8 shots, none really captured the drama of the beauty which was a cross of a Victorian Bride and a Speciosum.

I aimed for the mystery implied by the name, instead, my picture is more of a question unanswered. It was like photographing a herd of children–each face looking in a different direction.

Den. Victorian Bride x Speciosum

How can you not love the pinkness of the Vanda Princess Mikasa? There should totally be a Japanese Anime character in a frilly pink frock to go with this.

Vanda Princess Mikasa

The next flower I had to finesse the shot from an angle, because taken head-on, you got a lot of background noise in the way of giant tags dangling from other flowers. You could try to move the pesky things, but then you ran the risk of damaging someone’s priceless petals. I am many things, but a bud abuser is not one of them.

Paph Micranthum Var Ebureum 2

How many pictures is too many? I suspect you will judge for yourself. Perhaps you glide past them in quick processional to get them over with? (As if you see things like this every day!) Maybe you do.

I, however, get a two hours span once a year. That means every single flower deserves its moment in the digital sun.

Paph. Fairrieanum

The orchid show runs through Sunday, January 26, so I am racing to get these online in time to lure you down the garden path to orchid indulgences.

How can you not when such tongue-twisting temptations abound? A quick search on the internet will tell you some of their secrets.

The unpronounceable Phragmipedium Kovachii below, for example, is particularly tricky to produce. It can take 8 years of growth from seed before this shy flower blooms. That does tend to increase one’s appreciation knowing how rare these pink petals are.

Phragmipedium Kovachii…

Sometimes it can be hard for a particular lovely to stand out in a crowd.

So many winners…so little time.

But it’s worth it to single out the bloom, or blooms, that catch your eye. Even if you have to crawl around getting the perfect angle.

Phalaenopsis Lioulin Purple Violet definitely shines in a close-up.

How the displays are set up can make a huge difference. One of my favorite arrangements was actually incredibly hard to shoot–due to the small size of the dangling flowers and the driftwood base that was their platform. It was phenomenally crafted, but annoying to photograph.

Windswept in Time took many awards

Petals so fragile and delicate could be easily overlooked:

Vanda Lamellata reminded me a bit of these star-shaped flowers that grew on the hill behind our house in springtime. You could never pick them, for they would close up and die immediately. You could only admire them in situ. A quick search of the internet suggests they might have been Trout Lilies.

In fact, if I hadn’t run into Lou and Vicki, I might have missed the tiny sparkler that was easily overshadowed by its surroundings.

Not to be missed, but incredibly hard to spot, the Bulb Gracillimum

Other arrangements were difficult to capture because of the number of branches or direction of growth. Such was the case with the Oncidium Cheirophorum.

It was a beautiful plant–but with blooms so far apart as to appear a bit drunken and in danger of falling over–unless you cropped the focus to one spray of blossoms.

Oncidium Cheirophorum

Such as here:

Oncidium Cheirophorum (Cropped)

It just goes to show, you don’t always see the whole picture no matter how well a subject is photographed!

I’ve always loved looking at the world through a lens. I don’t know why. I just do. Maybe it is because I can crop out the messy bits that just don’t fit; I can focus on what I find beautiful and take it home with me.

Howeara Lava Burst “Puanani” AM/AOS – the name is quite a mouthful, but it was a tiny blip on the corner of a display.

I’ll throw in a few more favorites before toddling off to bed. I can’t show them all, you’d never stand for that sort of nonsense, but I’ve tried to capture the essence of the show.

The unusual:

Bulbophyllum Picturatum.

The congregate:

Phragmipedium Amitabha ‘Tika’

The confused blooms that seem made up of many colors and patterns:

Zigo Hybrid

Some I could not put a name to–either because my snapshot was blurry or the flower was an orphan without parentage delineated.

Unnamed, unknown, and unsung.
“Phal Uknown (Yellow with Markings)”
Phal Unknown ‘Yellow Peach’

There are vendors providing all sorts of sales regarding orchid paraphernalia, but one stood out as an artistic eyeful:

Keramika – A novel way to display your orchid in one-of-a-kind, hand-thrown pot by Yuliya Kononova.

You might not be able to buy these pieces just yet, but you can find and follow Yulia Kononova on Facebook.

As for my favorite this year? I couldn’t name just one to tower over the rest…but the yellow explosion called Vanda – Fuchs Gold x Pralor at the header of my page was a top contender.

Here is another shot of the same plant. Just gorgeous!

Also rans:

Tsubotaara Melinda Marie

Another nameless favorite–it just photographed so well–is this purple and white number:

Nothing beautiful lasts forever, but you can hold onto memories captured in image for long enough to make them more real, more permanent.

For some, the Orchid Show is a small world, easily forgotten:

Orchid art installation: “It’s a Small World.”

And for others, it is a beauty only captured in dreams…butterfly dreams.

May we all be “Butterfly Dreaming” soon!

You don’t have to love orchids in order to enjoy the show. Go to the Meijer Gardens to people watch. It’s equally fascinating, and I’ve never run into a single grumpy person while I’m there.

Some people will even let you take a picture of their hair just because it is so pretty.

So come on down. The orchids are waiting.

And you just don’t want to miss these fleeting beauties.

Calanthe Vestita – whose name translates to “Beautifully Dressed Flower”

A Tale of Fire and Ice…and Snowmen

One wintery day I made a snowman, so very round and tall…
The next day when I saw him, he was not the same at all…


(Line ripped from one of my favorite books to read to my son: Snowmen at Night.
Buy it. Read it. You won’t regret it.)

Continue reading A Tale of Fire and Ice…and Snowmen

Hiding from the Moon on a Very Dark Night

In case anyone needs to hear this, you are going to make mistakes as a parent. Some of them will be colossal. Just try not to let that be your standard operating procedure. Learn from my mistakes…


*

Continue reading Hiding from the Moon on a Very Dark Night

When Life Hands You Bitter Melon…

Thanksgiving was one of the roughest weeks I have had this year. Technically, it was rougher on the kid than on me. But misery rolls downhill, like Jack and Jill, leaving you with a busted head and an empty pail.

Continue reading When Life Hands You Bitter Melon…

In Honor…

I want to tell you about some incredible people I met at the Veteran’s Administration office building in Wyoming, MI a few weeks ago. Two nice gentleman had set up a table and were hoping to reach out to the community to invite members to join the Kent County Veterans Honor Guard through Operation Honor Guard U.S.

To be honest, I wasn’t drawn to the table by a strong desire to re-connect with my military past. No. There were other motivating factors…

You had me at ‘CAKE,’ Ron!
Continue reading In Honor…