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For the third year in a row, I attended Amma’s programs in Chicago during the last week in June. Like previous years, I spent part of my time there walking the fields. The first place I visited was the hoop house. This year they were growing tomatoes in that structure.
(Click on any of the galleries to enlarge the photos.)
Next, I headed towards the echinacea field. The MA Center volunteers had done a lot of work in that area since I was there last. The rows were neat and weeded and it was no longer mixed with other plants. When I visited the field in 2017, only three flowers had fully bloomed. This year there were many of the pinkish-purple flowers.
As I investigated the echinacea field this year, I remembered the video I had seen prior to my 2016 visit. That video had been taken much later in the summer so the field was full of flowers. I was inspired by the video and resolved to someday see it in person.
When I returned to Seattle after my 2016 visit, I planted echinacea in my own garden. At some point I want to learn how to harvest the echinacea for medicinal use. Right now, I am just enjoying seeing the flowers in their various stages of development.
As I was writing this post, I remembered the microscopic photos I’ve taken of the echinacea flowers from my garden. Seeing them again heightened my already existing fascination with the plant.
Back to my visit to Amma’s Chicago Center this year. After I left the echinacea field, I walked to the orchard.
Then I headed for the fields where vegetables are grown. I have found it interesting to see how the farmlands change from year to year.
In 2016, an alfalfa farmer rented part of the property.
MA Center: Chicago grew both vegetables and flowers in nearby fields.
The photos below show what some of the MA Center farmlands looked like in 2017:
This year, 2018, even more of the property is being farmed or being prepared for future farming. I was amazed by the size of the fields and by the changes that had been made in irrigation and mulching… or perhaps “mulching substitutes” would be a more accurate way to describe it. Maybe next year I will ask for someone to show me around the fields so I can ask questions about the changes I see. Right now, all I’m doing is guessing.
I feel so grateful to be able to witness the development of these fields. I wonder how they will change between now and the summer of 2019!
Yesterday, I decided to accept the self-imposed challenge of taking microscopic pictures primarily with my non-dominant hand. Even under normal circumstances, I have trouble hooking up the adapter that connects my iPhone to my microscope. I wondered if adding a wrist splint to the mix would make the task impossible. I would, of course, stop if the endeavor caused any pain at all. It took some effort, but before long the equipment was ready for me to snap some photos.
Last summer, I took microscopic pictures of the orange Echinacea flowers in my garden. This year, my goal was to photograph flowers on all three of the Echinacea plants. Each plant has blooms that are a different color. I was able to accomplish that objective and more.
While I was taking the photos, I saw something I had never seen before. It was quite a surprise. Take a look at my first microscopic video!
I did not notice that the photos of that plant had come out pink, instead of light purple, until I created the photo gallery above last night. I wondered if that happened because of the light source I was using for the microscope. This morning, I decided to shine that light on the flower again to see if it changed the color.
When I went outside to retrieve the purple flower from the back deck, I was flabbergasted to see that it had turned pink during the night. It had not looked pink when I checked it last night.
I found another bug when I examined the second flower through the microscope. It was a different kind of insect, though, or was it a spider? It resembled a spider in the way it looked and acted but insects have six legs and spiders have eight. I only see six on this creature so I don’t know what it is. It was so small that I couldn’t see it on the plant even when I looked for it wearing my reading glasses.
Note: There is a point in the video below where the creature stops moving for a while, but it starts again.
I appreciate the iPhone camera and the beautiful photos it takes. I appreciate whoever came up with the way to connect the microscope and the iPhone camera. I appreciate the ease of the WordPress blogging platform. I appreciate how easy it is to create photograph galleries on WordPress.com blogs. I appreciate the dictation program for Office products that Microsoft released last week and the person that told me about it. I appreciate the neighbor who took the case off my iPhone so I had a chance of making this project a success. I appreciate my willingness to take on challenges in difficult situations. And, last but not least, I appreciate all of you who read my posts.
When I last posted echinacea photos I had flowers only on one plant and none of those blooms were fully open. I decided to try to take pictures this morning even though I’m still wearing a splint. It worked!
I couldn’t resist photographing the Lazy Susan flowers as well!
Last summer, I purchased my first echinacea plants. I’ve particularly enjoyed watching this one grow. It gets more sun than the other two and the difference is remarkable. One attribute that I find fascinating is that it has blossoms in so many stages of development at the same time. I am also enjoying the fact that the plant has at least four times the number of flowers-in-the-making than it did last year.
None of these flowers are fully developed yet. I look forward to showing you what it becomes. I also am anticipating looking at the flowers under the microscope. The shots I took last year were spectacular.
Last year was the first time I attended Amma’s Chicago area programs. I had heard about the Center there for years and was excited to see it for myself. The site had once been a Seventh Day Adventist college. When I drove onto the property, I found myself on a tree-lined street of homes, homes that had once been faculty housing. I burst into tears. I have been to many of Amma’s ashrams and centers but this felt like being in a town, a town dedicated to Amma’s ideals of compassion and service.
Many of the original buildings had been remodeled and a new program hall had been built. The property was very large and a good deal of it was farm land. There was a large echinacea field as well as fields devoted to growing herbs and vegetables. I had such a good experience that year. Attending the Chicago programs is now a top priority for me.
This year, I arrived at MA Center-Chicago on June 20. I knew I was close when, in the distance, I saw the big blue water tower emblazoned with Amma’s logo. When I turned into the property and drove past those first houses, I felt as if I had come home.
Amma wouldn’t arrive at the program for another hour, so after saying hi to my son and daughter, Sreejit and Chaitanya, I headed to the fields. One of the first things I saw was a butterfly. That greeting became even more significant to me when it turned out to be the only butterfly I saw that day.
Prior to going to Chicago last year, I had seen a short aerial video of the Center’s echinacea field.
Seeing that field in person was a major goal for last year’s visit and I was eager to see it again this year. I walked and walked but couldn’t find it anywhere. I felt confused. It had been such a large field; they couldn’t have transplanted it, could they?
I did find the hoop house. There were so many more plants in it than last year.
I eventually gave up trying to find the echinacea field and returned to the program hall. When I asked someone about it later, I discovered the field was further away than I had thought. After attending Amma’s meditation, I headed outside again. Before long, I was able to find it. Last year I had been fascinated seeing the many stages of growth, from buds to full flower. The programs were held earlier in June this year and I only saw three open flowers in the whole field. A lot of nettles and milkweed grew along with the echinacea. Those plants draw bees, butterflies and other insects to the field.
These beautiful flowers also were growing in the echinacea field. If you know what they are, please tell me!
From there, I strolled to a field of herbs.
And then walked to the vegetable field. I really liked the signs they had created to show what was growing in the row.
This fall, MA Center- Chicago is opening a GreenFriends Montessori School. It will focus on nature-based learning and peace education. As I gazed at this field I imagined the children helping to plant and care for the vegetables.
Beyond the vegetable field, there was an orchard. This photo shows only half of it. The trees had grown a lot since I had seen them last.
After visiting the fields, I began to walk back to the program hall. On my way, I saw a bird trying to pull a worm from the ground. (Or at least I think that was what it was doing!) Then another bird flew over my head a few times. I felt like it was “dive bombing” me. Moments later, I saw a bird house that was similar to the ones I have at home. It was only four or five feet off the ground. As I walked by it, a baby bird was looking out of the opening. I think there was another baby behind it. It must have been the mother or father bird that had been flying at me, concerned I was going to hurt the babies.
As I sat in the program hall that day, ideas for designing a cluster of trees, shrubs and ground covers for our Greenbelt Restoration site in Seattle started coming into my mind. I thought about it throughout the day. My dreams during the night were incessant, and were all about the Greenbelt. The next morning, I located the children’s program room and drew my ideas on paper. I looked forward to returning to Seattle and doing the research necessary to determine whether or not my plan was viable.
As I am writing this post, I am struck by how little time I spent near Amma in Chicago. I met Amma in summer of 1989. In the early years, I spent hour after hour sitting close, mesmerized. At some point, I started doing seva (volunteer work) throughout the year, and during the programs. That era lasted more than 20 years. Now I find that I still want to be with Amma, but I want it to be in a way that I can be immersed in nature at the same time. I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” I am allowing my life to unfold. I feel close to Amma whether I am sitting next to her, being held in her arms, or walking in the fields taking in the glory of nature.
Some of my favorite experiences in this year’s Chicago program occurred because Eknath was there. I don’t remember when I first saw Eknath at Amma’s programs but it must have been 10-15 years ago. I still think of him as a boy but he is probably his 30’s by now. Eknath is autistic. I was once told that when he first met Amma he couldn’t talk. That changed long ago. He often blurts out statements that make everyone, including Amma, laugh. One time he told Amma she should have a boyfriend. Another time, he went to her during darshan (darshan is the time she blesses people by giving hugs) and told her he wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Amma called someone from the Western Cafe and told them to make him a sandwich and bring it back to her.
Another memory I have of him occurred in the Amritapuri (India) auditorium. One day as I was walking to the auditorium, I heard a gut wrenching wail. Some instinctual part of me knew that it was Eknath and that someone had told him he had to leave India and return to the U.S. He cried with a profound level of despair that couldn’t help but affect those around him.
He is probably best known for going up to people and pulling up both sides of his mouth with his index fingers and telling them to smile. He emanates joy. He usually has earphones on, listening to Amma bhajans. Sometimes he sings along. When Amma and the swamis are singing, he gets so excited that he starts jumping and jumping and jumping. Occasionally, the swamis keep their songs going much longer than they would normally. His joy is infectious.
Eknath was doing all of those things during the second or third evening program in Chicago. Someone handed him a microphone and asked him to sing. He sang “What a Wonderful World.” (Lyrics) I doubt I was the only one in the room that was crying.
Here is a video of Louis Armstrong singing that song.
Eknath was then asked to sing another song. This time he chose “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” but he changed it to “Amma Claus is Coming to Town.” (Lyrics) Needless to say, hearing those lyrics applied to Amma was hilarious.
I am thankful that Eknath is in this world
Every day with Amma is packed with experiences. In addition, this year I’ve had the chance to be with my son and daughter during the programs. That normally happens only when I’m in India. Life is good.
Nature is full of patterns. These are photos of an echinacea flower.
I have been fascinated by Echinacea flowers since I was introduced to them last year. I know that bees and butterflies love them too. In the last two weeks I have planted three Echinacea plants in or near my front yard vegetable garden.
The bees are already visiting the Echinacea. Next year, I hope the butterflies will come as well. I was so excited when I saw one yellow butterfly in my garden earlier this year. That was the first one I’d seen in years.
This afternoon, I decided to look at two of the orange flowers under the microscope. Most of the photos below are of one of the smaller, and younger, flowers. It was similar to the flower that you can see at the bottom center of the photograph at the top of this post.
I think the microscopic photographs are like works of art. This is my favorite of the shots I took today.
The next group of photos show what the flower looked like when I cut the center part of it in half. I found the white photo particularly fascinating. (Click on it if you want to see a clearer view.) The intricacies of nature never cease to amaze me.
This last group of photos shows three views of one of the bigger and older Echinacea flowers.
Every time I look at my Echinacea flowers, I think of the Echinacea field at Amma’s Center in Chicago (M.A. Center Chicago) that I saw earlier this summer. I will end this post with an aerial video that was taken of that field last year.
This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is to share a photo of something rare. I believe that the microscopic nature photos I have been sharing on my blog are rare. This is one I took yesterday of the center of an Echinacea flower.