The Wisdom of Flowers

the wisdom of flowers

“The world is full of painful stories. Sometimes it seems as though there aren’t any other kind and yet I found myself thinking how beautiful that glint of water was through the trees.”― Octavia Butler

For me, it has been flowers that have caught my eye and given me pause from the world’s painful stories this summer. Poet and potter M.C. Richards reminds me that “the world is always bigger than one’s own focus.” My world became bigger in each individual bloom.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Looking at the collage below, which of these blooms would be the “stereotypical” flower for you? If you could pick only one image to represent all flowers, which would it be?

Even among a single type— dahlias, for instance— there is great variety, as my friend Annamary taught me in her garden. Compare the “labyrinth” dahlias in the upper left corner to the “ball” dahlia in the center of the bottom row. They don’t even look like relatives. Or the rose in the upper right corner that came from the grocery store, and the rose on the bottom row, far right, a variety called “Kiss Me” that I found blooming in a local rose garden. And what about Hydrangea, Coreopsis, Joe Pye weed, and Sedum? Even taken all together, they are only an iota of the story of flowers.

“We need help developing the capacity to be able to listen to the very different stories of others with compassion; to have conversations across lines of real and perceived difference that help and heal, rather than hamper and hurt; and to exercise the will to come back for more, with increasing capacity for empathy and a deepening desire for others to heal and thrive in the world.”—Rhonda Magee

Can the Hydrangea understand the plight of the Sedum? Can the Zinnia have empathy for the Coreopsis? How would Joe Pye weed—a weed, after all—receive the story of the noble, Shakespearean Rose? And would the Rose offer compassion in return?

To express oneself in art is to explore and even dissolve the edges of the ordinary; to penetrate resistance and tumble into mystery itself and be carried by it. It feels like a personal journey, but I believe it is the revelation of something deeply needed—in fact, something that belongs to all of us.”—Ruth King

May we each find our way to what is deeply needed and belongs to us all.

First row, from left to right: “Labyrinth” Dahlias; Hydrangea; Rose (sorry, I don’t know the variety). Second row: Coreopsis, Joe Pye weed, Zinnia. Third row: Sedum before bloom, “Ball” Dahlia, “Kiss Me” Rose.

If you want to spend more time with the blooms, you can go to the header image and click the arrow on right or left to scroll through the images in full screen size.


A photo essay on hiking in Tortolita Mountain Park in suburban Tucson, Arizona, during an abundant wildflower season. Click the image below to enter the story.

©2019 Lucy Mathews Heegaard Arizona wildflowers hiking in Tucson

Jules of Nature

“Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”— William Wordsworth

Wisconsin nature photographer J. Marion Brown has been taking pictures since her kids were born, but became passionate about nature photography in the 1990s when she began camping with her family on the wooded property where they ultimately built a home, after years of testing it out first in tents. With her trusty Canon in hand, she has honed the practice of paying attention to a fine art (literally) as she catches glorious moments in nature the rest of us miss. Read More

Summer in the Marsh

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on trees, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

What began as an impulse last fall to go into the marsh to photograph the graceful movement of the withering cattails turned into an eight month project that now spans four seasons. I have appreciated the beauty of this marsh for years, but until I started to pay closer attention, I didn’t realize how many of its nuances and changes through the seasons that I had been missing. And I am sure there are countless more I have yet to catch, even now. Read More

Peace in the Storm

“There is peace even in the storm.” — Vincent van Gogh

A summer hailstorm kicked up yesterday afternoon, coming on quickly and with unexpected ferocity. As the hail grew larger, it fell faster, battering everything it touched. I don’t know why, but as I watched the storm, the tragic shootings earlier this month at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston came to mind.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” —Mother Teresa

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Spring Comes Slowly

‘Tis a month before the month of May, and the Spring comes slowly up this way. — Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Spring in the marsh is about patience and attention to details. While elsewhere, the crocus, daffodils, tulips, and crabapples are in colorful profusion, spring has a much more austere arrival in the marsh.

Over the last month, I made four treks into the same wetlands I filmed this past fall and winter. I’ve always appreciated the beauty of the marsh, but have never paid as close attention to its chronology of changing seasons until I began this project. Looking for signs of new growth in early April felt like a needle-in-a-haystack search. I was sure that spring would mean the cattails would be bursting forth in green, or at least showing some bare signs of emerging from the ground anew. Silly me. Ironically, I found that this time of year, when everything is blooming outside the wetlands, the marsh cattails and grasses are actually more brittle and decayed than any other season I’ve witnessed yet.

I don’t know why I expected spring to burst forth from the center outwards, but I did. What I saw instead was that new growth seemed to be working its way in to the marsh from the fringes, from the treetops down and from the edges inward. Once again, Mother Nature showed me that what she can conjure up is far better than what I can imagine.

 Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored. ― Oscar Wilde


Filmed between April 12th and May 9th of this year in the marsh behind The Marsh health and wellness center in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Musical track, Hire Purchase [CC BY-NC-ND 3.0], written and performed by Irish guitarist, Cian Nugent, was made available through Sounds of marsh birds recorded by dobroide and nicStage and shared at