in the bleak winter – a rose

This winter has been long and hard on so many – and it continues as I write.  One snow storm has followed another with barely enough time in-between to clear our roads, drives, and walkways. Bitter cold days, slashed with heartless, fierce winds pound our homes and landscapes and seep into the very marrow of our bones. Recently a thaw arrived, only to be accompanied by rain on top of many feet of snow, creating two-to-four inches on the ground of entrenched ice. Simply stepping outside our homes required forethought: what footwear, what “tools” to use such as salt to throw in front of us as we tenderly walked to our cars.

Before one of these storms, when I knew I would be house-bound for at least two days, possibly three, I stocked up on the usual staples of bread, milk, and basic food. As I was about to leave the supermarket, I spotted a long-stemmed rose bud. It was isolated from the others in the flower section as it stood in a single, cellophane wrapper. The rose bud was perfect, yet alone. Why had no one purchased this single beauty? I was thirsty for color around me and with the impending onslaught of bad weather, I realized I had to have this rose. I knew exactly what vase she would stand in and where I would place her in my cozy farmhouse.

The first day she remained a bud. The second day too. I observed her closely, scrutinizing her petals to see if they were beginning to show signs of unfolding to reveal all of her inner beauty. On the third day, she flirted with me and began to open. And, it was on this third day, while shut in the house watching rain transform into hazardous ice, that I remembered something John Daido Loori  (photographer and then-abbott of the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York) wrote in his book, Zen and Creativity. He was a masterful photographer and spoke about the times he would conduct a photographic study of just one object, or place. He would photograph it over and over in all seasons and in all spectrums of light.

The rose was awakening and I realized this is what I must do. Not what I could do,  but must do. The camera was ready and so was I. Twenty-four hours and one hundred and twenty-two images later, shooting in both color and black and white, I came to rest on these two versions: her Awakening and when she evolved into Renoir’s Rose.

Awakening © 2011 Lee Anne Morgan


Once the rose fully blossomed, a translucent light surrounded her together with that still, quiet moment in time when I knew she was at her peak.

Renoir's Rose No.1 © 2011 Lee Anne Morgan

Only one hour later, her petals wilted. Her life force, fragile beauty, and the joy she brought to me vanished. Yet, she remains in my heart and is still present on this page for anyone who reads it.

In memory of my mother, Helen, I dedicate these images.