Dani Porter Born | "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

"Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."

May 18, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

dandelion mistdandelion mist


"Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it."


That is one of my favorite lines from a poem by Mary Oliver. Poets, like photographers, have a unique way of seeing the world. When I'm feeling disconnected or out of sorts, the most certain way for me to return to my true self is to go outside... breathe... focus on my senses... pay attention to right now. 


I recently presented with two of my teaching colleagues at a nature preschool conference. We used the Mary Oliver quote as the title of our presentation because that is exactly what young children do when they are out in nature. It's what we do as teachers and parents when we are guiding our children. It's how we all learn to function in the world and to grow. As teachers, we shared our work to highlight how important the small moments are, how much richness and depth there is in those moments, and how easily we would miss some pretty incredible learning if we were not truly paying attention.


In my photography, I try to capture the astonishing.  I love dandelions. Of course to many people they are unsightly and annoying weeds. They spring up in places you don't want them. They are hard (or impossible) to control. They are wild. They don't fit into a manicured turf yard. Perhaps those are among the reasons I like them. I admire their tenacity. I appreciate examples of rebellion and persistence. 


Dandelions are useful. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves are high in vitamins A, B, C, and D, as well as potassium and iron. They can be eaten in salads or sautéed. The flowers are delicious lightly battered and fried. The roots can be used as a coffee substitute. I love dandelion jelly, with it's light honey-like flavor. Dandelions have also been used medicinally for thousands of years for liver and kidney problems, inflammation, as a diuretic, for stomach problems, and to stimulate appetite.


The etymology of the word dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, which means lion's tooth. If you look closely at dandelion leaves they are very jagged, like sharp teeth. I think the flowers look like a lion's mane. Another word for dandelions in our house is dandy flowers, my daughter's name for them.


When I look closely at a dandelion, I am astonished at what I see. In the photo above, a dandelion has gone to seed and is covered in a very fine mist. You can see the hundreds of seeds, the intricate design of the seeds positioned around the center, the round droplets echoing the shape of the seed head. I also see stars, a starburst, a planet, layered beauty, hard lines, and soft edges. I can feel the motion of the wind and the ephemeral beauty of this moment. One slight movement and the droplets will fall, the image will change.


Pay attention to the moment and enjoy it.


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