This month we start a new year of sharing our creativity and goodness with each other. Today I took a nature walk in the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida, hoping to see the world in a new way and make some new images with my camera.
When I spotted a newly unfurling fern, I thought, “What a perfect way to say Happy New Year.” The fern is as ancient as the dinosaurs*, yet today this new frond showed me the delicate shapes of new life: the unfurling spiral. In New Zealand I learned that the spiral of a new fern, the “koru,” is a symbol of eternity — as it combines the very old and the newest forms of life.
Today, my new year’s wish for you is to hold fast to the wisdom of the past generations, while you use your energy to create bold new connections, relationships and improvements. You can do it!
Most modern ferns are descended from the ferns that coexisted with the dinosaurs 40-50 million years ago. The first ferns appeared on Earth 360 million years ago.
One of the best things about travel to a faraway land is learning about the symbols that derive from the natural environment there. When I visited New Zealand, I learned that the spiral shape celebrated in art and jewelry refers to the spirals found in the fern as it unfurls. Ferns are ubiquitous in the rainforests of New Zealand, and the ancient plants come in many varieties. As a new fern grows, you can see a delicate spiral unfurling as each leaf and stem grows. This spiral represents new beginnings.
On the other side of the globe, we learned about a different interpretation of the spiral shape. In Turkey, the spiral shape represents the Meander River, which curves back and forth and seems to go on forever. When visiting Ephesus in Turkey, we were told the spiral shape in repetition, or the Greek Key design, represents infinity.
In yet another trip, we were surprised to find the Greek Key design in the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Surely the ancient people from all these places were not comparing notes! It seems to me that the ancient people in all these distant spots on the globe had put together an observation of the intriguing shapes in Nature and thinking that joined Nature, Art and Philosophy. I choose to embrace both meanings in the spiral found in Nature: new beginnings and eternity. Both concepts bring me optimism, peace and happiness.
Photographing flowers at the New York Botanical Garden with my daughter Erin, I was treated to eye dazzling displays of pink and green, especially in the peony garden. But the rock garden offered some different visual treats. One of them was this delicious juxtaposition of velvety crimson and a frosty green. I loved the way the frosty green ferns framed the spherical peony blossom.
Many nature photographers prefer to shoot on cloudy days, when the dynamic range is not too wide for the camera to capture, and sharp shadows don’t create issues. In other words, the experienced photographer can be assured of capturing detail in both the highlights and the shadows. But sunlight very early and very late in the day creates other nice opportunities. For example, in this photograph in Six Mile Cypress Swamp in Fort Myers, Forida, the shadows made good leading lines, as did the sunlight coming in from the upper right corner. All those lines converge in the low center of the frame. The blue sky made a vivid reflection in the still water, and the yellow sunlight in the background adds some warmth.
This time of year when we experience fewer bright sunny days, we appreciate what sunshine can do for our mood. I certainly feel more energetic and upbeat on a sunny day. How about you?