Nature, art, and the questioning mind

“There is no better designer than nature.”

– Alexander McQueen, fashion designer
A yellow-shafted (Northern) flicker feather

One step outside the door these days is an invitation to see the world with new eyes. Every moment of each day brings a new look, a new leaf, a new vision of life unfolding. With the shifting vision comes a remarkable palette of colors and shapes. Nature has long been an inspiration for artists of all kinds, and each day I marvel at the artistic compositions, values, shapes, and textures that are springing forth in our yard and woods and gardens.

Each discovery is a masterpiece, each object a connection to something else. The simple act of looking and seeing brings a whirlwind of questions to my thinking mind yet settles my spirit into complete and utter calm. Here, I share some of my recent discoveries and the questions they drew to mind. What questions or thoughts come to you when you see them?

Our first Columbine flower to open this year. What a design!
With those nectaries pointing skyward just inviting a hummingbird to come sip!

How did this Columbine flower design come to be? How does the nectar stay up in the tubes pointing skyward? What is the evolutionary advantage of a flower that nods? What else pollinates this flower besides hummingbirds?

Ferns beginning to unfold among the moist forest floor.

Do all ferns begin as curled up “fiddleheads” or are fiddleheads specific to only a few species? What is the role of the fine hairs on the new curled up leaves? Does the same number of fronds unfurl each year or does the number increase as the plant ages?

A snail snacks on an upside down mushroom cap.

What kind of mushroom is this? Is the snail eating it or just traveling across? How do the gills feel to the snail’s soft and slimy “skin”? What kind of snail is that? What caused this mushroom to turn upside down?

An optical illusion – this chickweed (the tiny flower in the center) has grown up through the leaf of black snakeroot, making it appear to be one plant. And just look at those water drops beading on the toothed edges of the snakeroot leaf!

Why do the water drops bead at these specific points along the margin of the leaf? How did that chickweed assert itself in such a perfectly central position through the snakeroot leaf? Are there water drops on all the snakeroot leaf margins or just some?

Inkcap mushrooms emerge daily from moist mulch. They open, “melt” into inky, slimy mats, and then fold over and disappear.

There are many mushrooms in our yard, but these only show up in our mulched beds. What is it about the mulch that supports this species of fungus? How long does it take this mushroom fruiting body to mature? Is there something special about the inkcaps that helps or hurts other plants in the bed?

This graceful native blue phlox hides its reproductive parts deep inside the flower, giving it a smooth, simple look.

This is the first time these native phlox have bloomed at Pokeberry Pines. They are located under an ornamental cherry tree. Why does the phlox hide it’s reproductive parts? What pollinates this flower? How long do these blooms last? Will all the blooms be purple or will some color variants show up?

Spicebush leafing out

How long will it be before we find spicebush swallowtail caterpillars here? 🙂

The world is filled with colors, textures, shapes, and values – art at its best. Go out in your space and find your art, and let me know what makes you wonder and ask questions and marvel at the artistic design before you.

Peace, y’all!


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