This thistle so reminds me of my youth. Then, there were guys in Brooklyn who you knew were rough guys. We called them “rocks.” I never messed with them, they wearing black leather jackets, adorned with sizable metal studs, their hair was heavily greased, and they always hung in groups. To this day, I don’t know how tough they were, but then, it made no sense testing out that unanswered question.
In Israel, this HolyLand Thistle plant totally reminds me of those ‘Fonzy’ characters back in Canarsie, Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst and Flatbush Brooklyn. This 6 foot to 7 foot tall Thistle was covered with severe, saber sharp thorns. No creature I can think of would want to brush up against it. When you first come upon this plant, you stop and wonder, you foolishly hope that this Thistle cannot pick itself up and charge toward you. At least you are thankful that it is anchored in place.
I wondered too why a HolyLand wild flowering plant was so armed with near-deadly knife-like thorns. Why?
It was not in bloom then, and I regretted that I did not see it in flower.
I was working that long neglected field in Israel, the HolyLand. Mishmarot, a one-time Kibbutz north of Tel-Aviv, and 10 minutes east of the Mediterranean Sea. I knew that in the coming years, homes would be built right here, but for now, it was a moderately ‘disturbed’ field, and wildflowers had nearly reclaimed it.
My daughter’s house, where I was staying, was just a 5 minutes walk away, enabling me to get to this field early, well before the very hot Middle Eastern sun would be overhead. When I began working the edge of the field, what did I see?
There, resting on a dried flowerstalk, was a fresh, colorful Melitaea Phoebe butterfly. I’ve seen many of them before, nearly all when they were worn, with substantial scale (color) loss. This one had recently eclosed and retained all of its scales. Would it tolerate my slow, robotic, slow approach. I shoot Macro- requiring that I carefully descend to rest on the kneepad on my left knee, and slower than slowly bring my lens up to shoot.
I did my best, and thankfully this fritillary of the Middle East remained in place! What a Thrill! How energized I was, knowing that the 35- or so exposures that I got would probably include a good image!
This is the genre of thinking that I do when I’m photographing butterflies in Israel, the HolyLand. This Copper butterfly, so beautiful of wing, is the same that the ancient conquerers saw when they traveled to Israel those thousands of years ago. Aaron saw them, Jesus saw them, King David saw them and Jabotinsky saw them. Mishmarot, some 10 minutes from the Mediterranean Sea.
This is the kind of thinking that excites me as I get down to see such a tiny butterfly closely, and realize, those who we revere and celebrate saw what I see!
Whenever a Monarch butterfly crosses my path, or flies into our garden, I go. Go to see it, almost go to greet it! As hundreds of thousands of you have, I have planted milkweed plants in my garden, knowing that even if some of you have limited space, you’ve set in milkweed in planting pots. When those Monarchs come, no matter what month it is, it is uplifting. Uplifting is healthy and much needed.
On my trip to Mission, Texas, a handful of miles from the Mexican border, those hundreds of Monarch-like butterflies, Queens and Soldiers, lit me up! I was as excited to see my 200th Queen as I was when we arrived in Mission. Monarchs, Queens and Soldiers are all Danaus butterflies, whose hostplants are Milkweeds.
When I travel to Israel my Danaus-love continues with this butterfly, the Plain Tiger. Found in the Middle East, it is the most elusive of the Danaus, difficult to approach and skittish when the camera appears.
It all goes back to Brooklyn, New York, when Monarchs showed up in the ’empty lots’ not empty at all, but just months or a handful of years before they were developed and . . . disappeared.
My Fuji slide film (Velvia 50)? I love it, even as its price continues to climb. My eyes are so attended to the hundreds of hours that I spend in the bush. When I get my images back from Parsons, Kansas, the rich color pleases me, for it is 100% true to the real-time butterflies that I see.
Yes, tomorrow is my birthday, and it will be a quiet one. On the eve of B-day, I’ve decided to share an image taken in the HolyLand, at Mishmarot, Israel, north of Tel Aviv and 15 minutes from Caeseria, and the Mediterranean Sea.
This Plain Tiger butterfly (Danaus chrysippus chrysippus) is closely related to North America’s Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus). This Israeli one is much more difficult to approach than our Monarch. Scoring the image was not easy, and closer approach was not to happen.
I often wonder how you entertain my frequent sharing of HolyLand butterflies? Me? I think of Who? and How? Th-y saw them back then, and truth be told, I am moved by that. But with my Birthday hours away, I am going to hope that . . .