Columbines: Enchanting and Toxic!

What caught my eye against the red-rust bricks was the softness of the purple-blue and white petals, like bits of angel wings.

The shapes made me think of cranes and swans and butterfly wings; even dragons. They had a most delicate appearance, ethereal.

As it sometimes happens, an object in death can be as beautiful as it was when alive, just different.

The spent columbine petals lay assembled in various random poses, but could not have been more artistic if they had been purposely placed. I ran for my camera.

These magical columbines came with the house I bought 13 years ago. For years, there were very few, just about hidden beneath some shrubs. It took me a few years to discover them, coming to recognize their distinctive rounded lobed leaves. I quickly came to cherish the secretive blooms.

By this year they have spread and I had more little purple flowers than ever. Some gardeners almost regard them as pests. I wholeheartedly invite them to spread across the entire yard.

Widespread Wildflowers

Wild columbines are native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa, but they have been widely cultivated as garden flowers in the United States. The five-petaled flowers come in many colors, from purple and blue, to pink and orange.

Aquilegia, their Latin name, pays tribute to the flower shapes, with spurs jutting out from the rear.

These spurs hold nectar and were thought to resemble eagle claws or beaks. Aquila is Latin for “eagle.”

Traditional uses

Columbines are said to symbolize wisdom, strength and happiness. It has served as a religious symbol of purity and has appeared in paintings with the Virgin Mary. It was also considered sacred to the goddess Venus.

Like many wildflowers, columbines have been used medicinally since the Middle Ages. All parts have been used, including the roots, flowers, leaves and seeds. The medicinal uses were many. It has served as a remedy for fevers, rhinitis, swollen lymph nodes, bloody coughs, jaundice and gall bladder ailments. The plant contains several alkaloids, triterpenoid saponins, flavonoids, and small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides.

Though columbines are considered toxic, the flowers have some astringent and antiseptic properties. The root has been used as a topical treatment for eczema. It is not recommended to consume any parts of the plant, as it contains cardiogenic toxins which can cause gastroenteritis and heart palpitations. Ingestion of large amounts of the fresh herb can cause convulsions, breathing problems and heart weakness.

Best to enjoy these storied flowers from a distance!

Just for fun, take your own Rorschach test: see what the petal shapes remind you of.

Before death

Read into it

I was at a local library branch today for an art show reception. I am proud to have three photos on display, next to some really amazing art.

I saw this scene and loved the juxtaposition.

Art vs. headlines

 

Now, here are the three photos I submitted. I did abstracts this year.

Placement in the library:

I’m sad that the first one had terrible glare on it and was pretty hard to view. In some cases, my photos seem overshadowed by huge paintings! Next year my prints will be larger and in frames.

Actual photos

Here you can view the actual images. Enjoy!

Trapped Moon

Morning Vision

I Dream of Trees

 

 

Reading the View at the Public Library

It’s a space for quiet focus, but the Seattle Central Library screams to be looked at, admired and photographed. The ultra modern building is a gem, not only for its massive collection, but for its amazing architecture inside and out. Its spaces are filled with color.

Glass walls let filtered light in, while offering abstract views of the outside world. Nine floors offer new views at every corner. I love the bold lines and contrasts of colors and textures.

Today I visited briefly to pick up a book, and snapped some quick, fun photos. The possibilities are endless, and no one minds if you stroll around with your camera. All are encouraged to take a tour.

Enjoy!

Things that Look Like Other Things

Have you ever seen something that reminded you of something else? I’ve been assembling a growing collection of such pairings and I’ll begin sharing them in a series of occasional posts.

Submitted, as Rod Serling would say, for your consideration.

Two vintage trucks seen in a collection in Sprague, Washington, brought to mind other things.

(Not my photo)

(Not my photo)

Hidden Treasures

When I went for a long walk recently, I didn’t expect to discover hidden treasures. I walked down to the High Point pond, just a few blocks from my house. My usual route takes me around the pond, where I check out who’s there.

pond
Pond, with Seattle skyline in the distance

This day there were mallards, American wigeon, a cormorant, and gulls.

But I wanted to extend my walk and explore some new areas. High Point is a huge redeveloped area, with a variety of homes and landscapes. It’s a planned community, with mixed housing for single families, low-income families, and seniors.

There are rain gardens, permeable sidewalks, community gardens and green spaces. The planners did a good job of saving many monstrous mature trees, and a few are labeled. Today I noted a Lawson cypress, which I first thought was a Western cedar, along with a grand specimen of big-leaf maple, called “Papa.”

Along the way, I found these delightful pillars celebrating the Longfellow Creek watershed.

pillars1They are composed of blocks of concrete with carved and inlaid creatures representing plants, lizards, fish, birds, a fox and a dragonfly.

lizards img_20170216_103627070I love that nature is appreciated here. There are many immigrant families and children living in this community. I think it’s important to instill knowledge and appreciation of our local natural history. Nearby is also a bee garden, complete with a small building enclosing the hive and a flower and vegetable garden to nourish them.

As I turned down a street that I’d never walked or driven before, I discovered an intriguing sight: something out of a Greek ruin, or perhaps a group of standing stones from the British Isles.

img_20170216_104232494-copyA structure, similar to a pergola, but I’m not sure exactly what to call it, stands in front of a hillside that has large stones scattered about.

stones6-copyThe structure is supported by posts with carved wood that portrays such birds as owls and herons.

img_20170216_104423135img_20170216_104447162

And, even more fabulous, the concrete walk between the structure and the hillside is incised with a large winged creature reminiscent of the mysterious Nazca “geoglyphs” of Peru!

bird1

 

 

 

 

Head detail
Head detail

 

 

 

 

These things inspire ideas for my own yard!

 

1650 Gallery Exhibition

I am pleased to have two photos chosen for the 1650 Gallery exhibition “Small Towns & Rural Places,” which opens Oct. 24 in Los Angeles.

I recently explored the farmlands and small towns of eastern WA and found much photographic inspiration there. My trip seems perfectly timed for this show.

Here are the photos to be exhibited. If you’re in LA later this month, please visit the gallery!

sprague-gun-club-by-joan-miller
Sprague Gun Club

ritzville-morning-by-joan-miller
Ritzville Morning

Two Gallery Shows

I’m honored that my photo, Mystical Light, has been accepted for the 1650 Gallery exhibition, Light and Shadow. The LA gallery show opens April 23. I made this image at the architecturally fabulous Milwaukee Art Museum.

Mystical Light_by_Joan_Miller

I’m also happy to share that my  photo Desert Sunrise has been accepted for the upcoming Black Box Gallery show, Taking Pictures: 2016.  This image, viewable in the online annex gallery, was made at the historic Twentynine Palms Inn, where I stayed near Joshua Tree National Park. In addition to the park, the inn grounds and buildings are picturesque.

Joan_Miller1

Playful Art that Beckons You into the Desert

raptorThey’re scattered in the desert sand, a ways back from the road. Mostly, you’d never even notice them as you drive by. Woolly mammoths, sabertooth tigers, a serpent, dinosaurs, and a grasshopper and scorpion so large they must have escaped from a 1950s horror film.

insectsgrasshopperdino

In the Anza-Borrego Desert in southern California, you will find some 140 wild and fascinating creatures. But fear not, they are cast in metal and welcome you to approach. These fantastic larger-than-life sculptures are the creation of Ricardo Breceda. The story goes that he first made a dinosaur for his daughter. Afterward, he met up with the owner of Galleta Meadows Estates in Borrego Springs, Dennis Avery. Avery had had the idea of using hsignis land as an art gallery, so the two seemed destined to meet.

Visitors are welcomed to tour the Galleta Meadows Sky Art project and see the sculptures up close. Sculptures may not be the best way to describe them; statues or installations is probably more accurate.

eagleboars

There are no fences around the artworks. You can touch them and walk all around. They are impressive. Each has unique textures and designs to the metal covering.

two dinostwo dinos2

claw feetInstallations include real and imaginary creatures, in addition to a few human figures, a cactus and a Jeep that’s attempting to scale some rocks.

It boggles the mind to think of the inspiration and labor that went into each.

serpent frontserpent back

 

 

The road bisects a mythical serpent

Each stands silent and frozen in time. Though some seem to be crying out, perhaps their last gasp as their species died out. Others stare you down with cold, dark eyes that say, “You walk the earth now, but we too once roamed it, and now we are gone.”

dino crymammoth1Wild horses, camels and tortoises remind us that they are imperiled; their homes under constant threat of development.

horses2horsescamelcamels

So, what is the point of the Sky Art project?

I think it goes beyond simple public art. Visitors can experience a variety of emotions.

For me, there were connections to the ancient earth and extinct creatures. The stark desert landscape seems a fitting site for them, silent and seemingly otherwise endlessly empty.

tortoises

rainbowhead2tiger

tiger2mammothsdino stop

feet