Updated: Jan 26, 2022
While hiking with an acquaintance recently, I stopped, mid-stride, to take a picture of a flower. To my surprise, my companion asked, "Why are you taking a picture of that? It's just a hibiscus."
To be sure, hibiscus have become ubiquitous, at least in my neighborhood, and they are, to some degree, rather utilitarian. They are, after all, easy to grow, hardy, tolerant of the central Florida sun, and they flower continuously, even during the winter. But don’t let their toughness cloud your judgment. Every hibiscus, from the giant perennial blooms down to the small and often over-looked, hibiscus moscheutos, or swamp mallow, is absolutely singular and worth admiration. In fact, there’s a good chance there’s one looking for attention in your garden or neighborhood right now.
To fully appreciate the stunning beauty and complexity of this hardy and colorful bloom, however, requires us to slow down, to stop and look closer. It was through macro photography that I first learned to examine each flower element, allowing me to fully admire the velvety tips of the hibiscus’ stigmas, the pollen coated anthers. Even the sepals, the green leaves that hold the bloom to the stem deserve attention. And those petals, deep, jewel colors blazing in the sun. Perhaps the silky folds of the petals remind you of a dress you once wore to a special occasion, or the gentle curve of the flower’s base may suggest the perfect silhouette of your beloved.
Whatever the image conjures in your mind, by looking closer you will find more to love. I don’t believe there is such a thing as “just” a flower, just a seed, just a decaying leaf. Each specimen is perfect in some way, and each is also a call for us to stop, take a breath, and enjoy each fascinating aspect of Nature. From our interactions with Nature, we may be called to look closer at ourselves, at our lives. Step boldly into your heart and remember that Mother Nature, like our personal nature, is created from joy.
Macrophotography has changed my life, for through the work, the time spent in nature, I have found the ability to do as William Blake encouraged us: “To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower.”