This fall, Jennifer Baker and I are teaching about 50 children at the Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers. Perhaps the most important principle we teach them is, "You are unique."
No two students develop at the same speed, so we try to lead them not to compare their progress with that of other students. The ability to control the pencil, to see shapes and reproduce highlights and shadows develop through practice.
Patience is important but understanding one's uniqueness is key.
The same is true in the wildflower kingdom. It is impossible to find two flowers that are exactly alike.
For that reason, most data in this column gives ranges for height, length of leaves, habitat, color and blooming season; however, numbers and configuration of flower petals, leaves, stamens, pistils, and so forth are uniform.
When I started this column several years ago I thought I might find about 100 different wildflowers. I started with photos of about 60.
I thought that was a lot but I began to train my eyes to look and see. The more I practiced looking and seeing the uniqueness of the many varieties, the number of species tripled.
Today we return to the granite outcrops for another wildflower.
This is a relative of the wild portulaca that infests most vegetable gardens in late summer. It is a perennial that grows in the shallow soils atop outcrops. However, it can be found on sandstone outcrops, too.
The plant is easy to identify when the following characteristics are observed: flower, leaves and stem.
First, the flower is pink but does not open until late afternoon. You may find the plant in the morning and observe the tiny bud, but the beauty of the five tiny petals is not shown until the sun has moved well across the sky.
Second, the leaves are basal, that is, on the ground rather than along the stem and branches. Like relatives in the portulaca family, the leaves are thick. In fact, those of the rock pink are described as cylindrical and horn-shaped.
Third, the stem is bare and branched with the bloom at the end. Those plants that I have photographed range from 12 to 18 inches. The branching occurs about half way up the stem. There were two to four stems per plant with three to five branches on each.
Both the stem and branches were a pinkish tan. The greenery in the sketch is rock spikemoss (Selaginella rupestris).
The Old Testament book of Job depicts Job wanting to argue with God about justice, then backs off and humbly remarks, "But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does" Job 23:13.
Yes, God is unique, that is, not limited to human rationality. That uniqueness, which is far beyond our simplistic reasoning, baffles the scholars as well as we commoners,
God has created a world full of unique creatures, including us. It is ironic that many of the wildflowers of this area are so common, yet few people take time to truly view them.
As my students practice seeing as an artist, we who live in this part of metro Atlanta can practice seeing the amazing wonders of the natural world and then take time to thank God for these gifts of beauty.
Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. Notecards are available of the wildflowers published in the Citizen. His e-mail is email@example.com or call him at 770-929-3697.