Sunday, July 29, 2012

White Lotus ( Nelumbo nucifera )

This week I had the good fortune of having a lotus flower to study and photograph. Each morning, it has opened and in the evening it has closed. Observing this flower after it has been cut from the plant seemed supernatural and magical.
While exploring the topic of the lotus, I have learned that waterlilies and lotus flowers are often interchanged in folklore and mythology.

In Chinese medicine Lian Zi are the seeds of the Lotus, which are in the category of Herbs that Stabilize and Bind, they are harvested in the Autumn and are sweet, astringent and neutral. They primarily tonify the Spleen, the Kidneys and the Essence. They are also prescribed in formulas for nourishing the Heart. 

The leaf of the Lotus is known as He Ye (Folium Nelumbinus Nuciferum) and is in the category of Herbs that Clear and Relieve Summer Heat. The properties of the leaf are bitter, slightly sweet, and neutral. They enter the channels of the Heart, the Liver and the Spleen. In formulas, they treat fever, irritability, raises Yang of the Spleen and stops bleeding. (Bensky and Gamble)

I have also learned that the lotus flowers are traditionally symbolic of wealth, serenity, expansion, purity, beauty, majesty, grace, fertility and the spiritual evolution of the heart from a materialistic world to a spiritual life. Many important deities are associated with this flower, often,  they are artistically depicted either sitting on a lotus or holding one in their hands. This flower is sacred to the Buddhist tradition and the 8 petalled lotus is symbolic of spiritual illumination.

'When the white lotus descends to this world, it changes everyone's life for the better'. Chant from the White Lotus Sect, Ming Dynasty.

 It is an aquatic perennial that lives in muddy, murky waters. When the flower petals fall away they are replaced by a flat top seed pod that is divided into many compartments and looks like a wasp's hive. Even the pods are beautiful!
The lotus flower is especially intriguing to me because I am making a perfume right now that includes pink lotus oil. I have been curious about lotus oils since I made a really delicious perfume with blue lotus last year. Pink and blue oils all have different scents. They are difficult to describe, the scents are multi-dimensional. Interestingly enough, different colors of the flowers have different spiritual significances as well. The pink lotus is symbolic of the highest deity, the great Buddha, the red lotus is symbolic of the purity of heart, compassion and love and the bodhisattva of compassion and the blue lotus is symbolic of the victory of spirit over the sense and of wisdom and knowledge.

This sweet little picture was taken on my iPhone. 

I often update my home page. For those of you who receive my posts through emails, I invite you to check in every once in a while and see my revised 'sparkly people doing sparkly things list' and new pictures. Everyone on the 'sparkly' list inspires me through their creative and environmental work. 

I would like to add that I came across this piece by George Washington Carver and would like to share it because I feel that all of the 'sparkly people' mirror the sentiment and energy of this quote. 

' More and more as we come closer and closer in touch with nature and its teachings we are able to see the Divine and are therefore fitted to interpret correctly the various languages spoken by all forms of nature about us. '

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monarchs, Moths and Magic

After such an expansive experience swimming with and photographing whale sharks, I have wondered what I would write about and photograph next....I decided to see what came to the garden first this week and I was pleasantly surprised. I was graced by a visiting Monarch butterfly and a moth on the same day!
The moth landed on my front door which seems to be a popular spot for them. This looks very similar to the one that was here earlier in the season. This time around, I placed the moth on an aqua background. What a beautiful surprise!

The butterfly bushes attract the most eager namesake. This particular one was flying around my head for about ten minutes. It stayed until one of my patients arrived for a session. I was able to get some nice pictures. I have been reading a lot about moths and butterflies this summer since they have been so close to me. 
Monarch butterflies have four stages of growth, the egg, larvae, caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly. The larvae only eat milkweed, which offers them chemicals that make them poisonous to predators. Their orange color also acts as a protection mechanism as it speaks as a warning to frogs and birds who may want to pray upon them. 

Here are two pictures of the Monarch that came for a visit. How do these delicate creatures migrate thousands of miles from here? What is it in their biology that has programed them to fly for such long distances across water to their warmer meetings places in the winter? They have been found to travel for up to 50 miles per day and at speeds reaching 12 miles per hour! As butterflies they consume the nectar of other flowers, as larvae only milkweed leaves. 

So here we are and the summer heat is upon us and everything is in full bloom. The pictures below were taken in Southampton in an open land preserve. This is a magical space that I had never visited until last night. There are so many birds there too! I was so happy that I had my camera with me to take pictures in the soft evening light. The goldfinches flying about and chirping in tandem. I have never seen so many gathered at once. 

Here are a few more photos taken at dusk. I will go back next week with a picnic basket and take more pictures of this magical place. There is a beautiful stone bench where one can sit and enjoy the scenery and set up a tripod. 

Until then.....

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Elusive Whale Shark (Rhinocodon typus)

I have just returned from ten days of swimming with whale sharks off the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico in the Gulf of Mexico. Each day we left the salty docks in the morning light and rode off shore about 10 miles until the captains and their guides spotted the fins of the whale sharks. They are congregating to feed on the eggs of several different species of fish this time of year. This is a very special occasion as the whale sharks are lone swimmers and are quite elusive. These sharks travel from as far away as Brazil and the west coast of Africa to feed in this particular location.

These filter feeders grow to be as long as 12 meters or forty feet long. They weigh up to approximately 20 tons and are the largest fish in the world.

Each whale shark has a different pattern. This is one way of identifying them. 

The picture above was taken when I was directly in front of a resting whale shark, this is the inside of it's mouth.

Being in the water with so many whale sharks is truly a surreal and magical experience. This was a once in a life time encounter.

Their future survival is currently quite delicate as their fins are used for shark fin soup. After my experience in the water with these amazing creatures,  I feel that I need to write about and bring this issue to the attention of everyone I know.

I met many mermen and mermaids who are currently  working very hard to protect sharks and educate the public about the impending perils of these beautiful animals. I was very impressed with their commitment to ocean conservation. I learned that these sharks are so elusive that even Jacques Coustaeu in his entire life in the ocean never encountered one.

On a personal note, I was deeply moved by their beauty and grace. I took many pictures and at the end of the ten days we were blessed with very clear water. Most days the water clarity was low because of the density of the eggs floating on the surface.
When a whale shark rests and becomes semi-vertical, this position is called a 'bottle' or in Spanish a 'botella.' At this time, one can make slow and meaningful contact with the whale shark.
In addition to swimming with hundreds of whale sharks, I had encounters with dolphins, mantas, golden rays, jelly fish, a very observant wahoo, and other beautiful small fish.

Hibiscus flower from Isla Mujeres.