Staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic knocked me off my constructive and creative track with wildlife and nature photography. I found myself absorbed with cooking, cleaning, gardening and pondering the uncertainties of when restrictions will be lifted. Seriously, how long can this go on? All of us have had the rhythms of our daily lives disrupted, yes?
I knew that if I could get myself to pick up a camera and begin exploring nature in my own backyard, so to speak, that I would begin to feel like myself again. I ventured out to the newly reopened Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh (masked and careful), and indeed the magic reappeared. My vision and my technical skills are intact! Here is the first image I captured.
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.
Le Petit Trianon was a small but elegant palace in the gardens of Versailles, which Louis XVI gave to his teenage Austrian bride Marie Antoinette. The young queen Marie welcomed a private refuge from the abundance of formal ceremony of the court at the grand palace, and she was able to relax in a more rustic setting alongside her “hameau” or little farm.
This ornate metal banister in Le Petit Trianon caught my eye, and I am intrigued by the symbols in the design. First, I see the monogram of Marie Antoinette (“MA”), and next I see some chickens, perhaps a reference to her farm. I would be interested to hear from a scholar about the types of leaves that are represented here, laurel leaves?