Tuesday, July 9, 2013

strolling about

My friend Rex McDaniel is something of a flâneur. He works part time with me at Ijams Nature Center and when we lock the doors of the Visitor Center at 5 o’clock, more often than not, Rex grabs his camera and goes for a stroll.

The vocation comes from the French masculine noun flâneur and basically means a “stroller,” Henry David Thoreau seemed to prefer “saunterer,” while poet Walt Whitman leaned toward “loafer,” yet all go back to the French verb flâner, which means “to stroll.”

In this case, the stroll is not made quickly from point A to point B, it’s not hurried, but rather to walk with the senses open to experience just what life presents, to experience beauty.

The concept itself, that of being a flâneur, goes back to French poet, essayist Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). Noted for a blended style of writing, part prose, part poetry, his most famous work "Les Fleurs du mal" (The Flowers of Evil) expressed the changing nature of beauty in then modern, 19th century industrializing Paris. For Baudelaire, a flâneur strolled to see and be seen, a bit of a dandy, who found the overall beauty in chaotic Paris.

I am something of a flâneur myself but like Rex, a saunterer more in the vain of Thoureau, with the object of NOT being seen, of blending in, for peaceful exploration. And as practiced by Rex and me, the stroll is made with a camera, yet the goal is the same: to find the beauty in nature in and around the third largest city in Tennessee.

The beauty is there, as stated by Ralph Waldo Emerson himself, “To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same fields, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.”

Rex McDaniel
I love getting e-mails from Rex. They generally arrive with the subject line: A picture for you. I know before I clink it, something beautiful awaits. A few days ago, I received the above wonderful photo of two zebra swallowtails mating, symbolizing new life, or life goes on, or beauty survives, as indeed, it always does.

Zebra swallowtails are the State Insect of Tennessee, although widespread, they are not that common, and most often associated with streambanks and pawpaws, their host plant.

Venture here Seven Islands to see other photos that Rex the flâneur found that day.  

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