Today my intent was to download images of the beautiful flowering plants that that I saw during last week's visit to the Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida - but I got distracted (as always) by so many things that needed to be done: catching up on work email, mowing the lawn - all of those things that catch up with you in a less than pleasant way when ignoring them for awhile.
So this evening, when I sat back down to look at the images, I stopped at the one above. So much is going on! Color, light, shadows. It's not all that good of a photograph, but I couldn't stop looking at it - and dissecting it. Ah yes, misguided but focused once again - but please bear with me.
As an aside: head over to NPR to listen to two pieces covering last week's coral meeting that the lab attended - here (Talk of the Nation, 11 July 2008) and here (Morning Edition, 11 July 2008). I've spent much of the day digesting some of what went on - and need to read the recently published article in Science (Carpenter et al. 2008. One-third of reef-building corals face elevated extinction risk from climate change and local impacts. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1159196). Here's the abstract:
The conservation status of 845 zooxanthellate reef-building coral species have been assessed using IUCN Red List Criteria. Of the 704 species that could be assigned conservation status, 32.8% are in categories with elevated risk of extinction. Declines in abundance are associated with bleaching and diseases driven by elevated sea surface temperatures, with extinction risk further exacerbated by local-scale anthropogenic disturbances. The proportion of corals threatened with extinction has increased dramatically in recent decades and exceeds most terrestrial groups. The Caribbean has the largest proportion of corals in high extinction risk categories while the Coral Triangle (western Pacific) has the highest proportion of species in all categories of elevated extinction risk. Our results emphasize the widespread plight of coral reefs and the urgent need to enact conservation measures.
It's undeniable that reefs are degrading at a rapid rate. But an interesting question raised by a colleague was: How long should a coral colony live? That is, are many of these colonies old - and as part of their natural decline, are they becoming more susceptible to disease and environmental stressors? I by no means think this is clearly what is going on - but it was an interesting question raised by my colleague, and one that I need to ask a real coral biologist. I am definitely not one. But the question did make me realize how much more I need to learn. At this site, I saw this written at a National Geographic site with respect to coral lifespan:
Average lifespan in the wild: Polyp, 2 years to hundreds of years; colony, 5 years to several centuries
I know there is information out there dating corals and their skeletons. I've obviously deficient in my knowledge of their lifespan. But they are not immortal, that is not news -- so I'll stop rambling for now about something I know very little about.
But - back to the banana leaves. They are so beautiful. I've photographed my own recently - along with a luna moth - but the varieties were more diverse in Flamingo Gardens, and the contrast between the leaves and the shadows and the shapes were just wonderful. I then became obsessed with grayscale images of the leaves above.
The image is dark. Probably too dark to be any good - but look at the folds and creases in the leaves! Remarkable. Here I have a 4 GB card filled with images of flowers - and I can't leave this one image.
I had to look closer.
But there was just so much to look at.
Yet different enough.
Yes, I know that I am ignoring the images of the comic spoonbill, the flowering gingers - the bamboo and the sacred fig tree. I will come back to those, one day - when I am not as enamored with the leaves from banana trees.
I am also ignoring the packing that I need to do - to wrap up, actually. And the pile of papers and mail on my kitchen counter. I am also ignoring that I need to replace my lawn mower, but I do believe the time has come.
Perhaps I am hiding in these banana leaves.
I think that this might be my favorite image. Maybe. Yes. For sure.
And then there is Ted Kooser (the US Poet Laurete from 2004-2006) who introduced me this evening (via his site American Life in Poetry) to a Hawaiian Poet, Joseph Stanton (you can read a bit about him here).
Until tonight. I was not familiar with Stanton's poetry. Nor was I familiar with Pablo Nerudo's poem "United Fruit Company" poem (here is a translation) - I need to come back to this poem, and learn more about the 'Banana Republics' that Neruda writes about. But for tonight, there is a poem about banana trees. And my own images of banana leaves - ones that I have not, even yet, grown tired of.
Banana Trees by Joseph Stanton
They are tall herbs, really, not trees,
though they can shoot up thirty feet
if all goes well for them. Cut in cross
section they look like gigantic onions,
multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts.
Their leaves are made to be broken by the wind,
if wind there be, but the crosswise tears
they are built to expect do them no harm.
Around the steady staff of the leafstalk
the broken fronds flap in the breeze
like brief forgotten flags, but these
tattered, green, photosynthetic machines
know how to grasp with their broken fingers
the gold coins of light that give open air
its shine. In hot, dry weather the fingers
fold down to touch on each side—
a kind of prayer to clasp what damp they can
against the too much light.