“Pussy Willow Catkin on Twig”

Pussy Willow Catkin on Twig, near Trout Lake, southwest Colorado (c) Mike Utley

Trout Lake, near the small town of Telluride in southwestern Colorado, is my second-favorite spot on Planet Earth, just behind Heceta Head Lighthouse on the central Oregon Coast. I’ve posted a few images of the lake itself, snugly nestled in the laps of Sheep Mountain, Vermilion Peak, Golden Horn and Pilot Knob amid pine and spruce forests, aspens and a cornucopia of wild flowers. A dirt road circumnavigates the lake, wending its way closer to the peaks and through the woods and bogs. A narrow wooden bridge, which had fallen into disrepair the last time I was there, spans a creek halfway around the lake. It was here, near the collapsed bridge, while photographing elkslip and other wild flowers one summer evening in the late 1990s, that I noticed a lone pussy willow catkin perched on a twig.

I’ve always been enamored with these diminutive delights, tiny and soft and so aptly named (honestly, the term “catkin” is sort of giggle-inducing). There were no willows where I lived on the farm so I’d never had the opportunity to photograph these little guys until now. The light was quickly fading so I set to work. The compositional goal was to isolate the twig and catkin against the background by using a wide aperture setting to blur the background into a solid mass of color in order to make the subject stand out as much as possible. I wanted to express a little story with this image, too, a vignette of the early stages of life, its uphill battle to reach maturity, and the uncertainty that awaits all of us at the end. The catkin was placed on a power-point in the lower left, with the gentle upward arc of the twig leading across the frame to…what? What lies ahead? What of that sudden drop-off at the end of the twig? In life, we may think we have a plan, a goal for the future, but in reality we’re all flying blind. At any moment, our own personal twigs may end abruptly, plummeting us into oblivion. I envisioned the tiny catkin feeling trepidation at the beginning of its journey, leaning back in fear…perhaps steeling itself to perform a Naruto run to the end of the twig and take flight into the unknown. In this brief pause on the cusp of its decision, the air was utterly still, and not a sound came from the forest. Even the ever-present mosquitoes held their collective breaths as they awaited what was coming. I like to think the catkin was preparing itself, screwing up its courage, and calming itself in the cool air and verdant green silence of the woods. And then…

…it’s up to you to decide what happened next. I haven’t returned to this place in years. I hope the catkin’s journey was a happy one, and as brief as this blossom’s lifespan may have been in the grand scheme of things, its ethereal beauty fit right at home in the green silence of the forest, among elkslip, wild irises and columbines. (Canon gear, Fuji Velvia ISO 50)

68 thoughts on ““Pussy Willow Catkin on Twig”

    1. Kindest thanks, Grace. I’m happy to hear it. This was a serendipitous discovery, this little catkin, and I think I was probably more excited than I should have been, but it was fun to photograph it, and I love the colors and textures in the image. Have a good week ahead, my friend. 🙂

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  1. What a beautiful image and a warm story to go with it. I’d like to think that fear was the last thing on its mind. It probably just stayed awhile and drifted away to where the breeze took it. Simply letting go and believing that whatever lay ahead was worth the journey. I can anticipate its fuzzy softness. Such a treat to always have a story with your magnificent photos, Mike. Great work and immense passion! 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much, Terveen. I like your view of this image a lot. There’s peace and comfort in nature, and perhaps this little catkin was simply taking its time to enjoy the scenery and the peace. I’ve always considered this image very quiet and contemplative. There’s such a stillness about it, and it’s so calming. I’m so glad to know you found this one pleasing to you. I appreciate it so much. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me when my images and words resonate with people. For someone as reclusive as I am, it feels so good to make that human connection. Thank you kindly for visiting and commenting. Much appreciated. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a bunch, Xenia. These tiny catkins are truly magical. I felt like a little kid when I saw it. That’s the joy nature can provide when we slow down and look around us. I appreciate your kindness, my friend. A sincere thanks for visiting today, and I hope your week ahead is wonderful. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much. I love sharing the background of each image I post. Nature photography was my peaceful, joyful time, when I could explore the natural world and create images that imposed order on my otherwise chaotic life. It was the balance to my melancholy poetry. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. Many thanks for your kindness, Cassa. 🙂

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    2. Thanks, Cassa. I have a Nature Photography section in the menu, with a few photo galleries. You can click on an image and it will take you to a post featuring it and an accompanying paragraph or two of background info. I have write-ups for all the images in the first two galleries, and most of those in the third gallery. I hope you enjoy them. 🙂

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  2. Mike, I loved the picture with its composition backstory, as well as your thoughts about the catkin as it prepared for its destiny. I would like to think that its journey was as special, if not more so, than its destination. Thanks for shining a light on catkins, and giving us a new appreciation of them.

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    1. Thanks, Bruce. I totally agree with the journey/destination concept. I have a feeling I was the only human to ever interact with this little catkin, and to be a part of its journey seems like a pretty cool deal to me. 🙂 I’m always surprised by the immediacy of the memories I have for each of my nature photos. I’m spirited back to the moment when I was there, in the zone, experiencing the scenes and breathing in all of nature. “Photographic memory,” of a sort, you could call it. 😀 I had so much fun with photography. I miss it. But I have the images and the memories, and sharing them here helps me relive those wonderful moments when everything was good with the world and all that mattered was the moment. Thanks for stopping by today. Much appreciated. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Gary. I had fun writing this one. Looking back on these images always puts me in a good place, you know? Recalling the cool evening air and the scent of the forest and how delicate this little catkin is, well, it’s like therapy for me. Feels good. Many thanks for your kind words and for stopping by to visit. I truly appreciate it. 🙂

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  3. rajkkhoja

    Beautiful photography for nature lover. So nice written the story. I like. Amazing words written in.
    Wonderful shining a light on catkins, and giving us a new appreciation of. Very nice your thoughts about of catkin.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks, dear friend! I’m delighted to know you found this photo appealing. To me, it’s such a calm, quiet image, filled with beauty and hope. I’m happy to share it here with you and others. Thank you so much for your kind words, my friend. I hope you’re doing well today. 🙂

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  4. Wow Mike!!! What an awesome post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading!!! The detail and personal touch adds such a special feel. You are talented in so many different ways, my friend! Always a treat to read you and be read by you 🤍🤗.

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    1. Thanks a bunch, Grace. Your comments always make my day and I’m truly grateful for that. I’m so glad you found this one to your liking. All of my nature images bring back such amazing memories–all positive, tranquil and hopeful–and serve as a counterbalance to my melancholy poetry. I really enjoy elaborating on the images in the accompanying paragraphs. Thanks for your kind words,, my friend! 🙂

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      1. Awww you’re always welcome!!! That’s so neat about your nature pictures and where they take you. I know that feeling well 😊. Yesss, your words and images always flow so perfectly 🤍🤍🤗🤗

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  5. Beautiful word images as well as a delightful image. I could see the idea of the catkin lining up for a dive in the image composition before reading your intent, so well done! However, I saw the catkin as a rather sassy brave thing, ready to plunge into life with no holds barred and bloom to its fullest.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sheri. I like your take on this–the “rather sassy brave thing, ready to plunge into life with no holds barred and bloom to its fullest.” That’s the spirit! 🙂 I’ve always enjoyed how different people see different things in the same image. It says a lot about our personalities and our views on life. I’m so pleased to know you liked this one. Much appreciated. 🙂

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    1. Many thanks, Kirsten. I was so pleased at how the distant foliage blurred into a solid wash of color in this image. It really makes the catkin and twig pop. And I have to confess, the term “catkin” cracks me up–for some strange reason my mind keeps saying “Macaulay Catkin,” even though I know that’s not his name! (I’m so weird.) 😀 I appreciate your kindness so much, my friend! 🙂

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  6. Dearest Mike,
    Happy Birthday my friend. Another year around the sun and lucky us, you were born to share your beautiful gifts and heart to the world and all of us.
    I do love the beauty in your picture and words. Have a blessed and wonderful day to our incredible photographer and poet. Your light is magical! 💗

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You, my friend, are too kind! I appreciate the birthday wishes. Years ago, I devised a strategy to determine my “real age” or perhaps my “level of maturity” when it comes to birthdays. I simply add the digits of my age together and that’s my real age or maturity level. So as of January 23, I’m officially 14 (5 + 9)! Next year, I’ll turn 6 (6 + 0). I’m aging backwards! Hey, I should patent this strategy and rake in the simoleons, eh? 😀 Thanks for the nice comment about the above photo. I like the serenity of this image. The simple composition and the dark greens are so calming. I can almost hear the magical strings of a koto playing in the background. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by today, Cindy. You’re always welcome here. Much appreciated. 🙂

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      1. Not at ll. Well deserved Mik! I do love your math and idea of aging backgroud. Yes to that! 👏Patent if for sure indeed. 🤣.
        You’re so welcome and it is very rich and calming for sure. A perfect birthday gift. It’s a lovely day and you’re most welcome my friend! 💗

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  7. Another gorgeous post, Mike. The catkin does seem poised to accept, in all its glory, what the day will bring. The growing things in our world have much to teach us about thriving in the moment in beauty and grace. An exquisite photo, my friend. And did I read that it’s your birthday and you’re 14? Lol. Happy Birthday, my friend.I hope you did something wonderful for yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Diana, for such a nice comment. I really like this image. It’s so green, still and silent. And yep, a recent birthday occurred. I may not actually be 14, but man, sometimes it seems like I act like it! 😀 It’s all good, though. Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. It’s always a delight to see you here. 🙂

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  8. Very nicely photographed and beautiful description, dear Mike, as always. I agree with all that you wrote 🙂And.. Happy Birthday too😍 Wish you all the best my friend. Just came to know about your birthday from Cindy’s comment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Saima. I’m so happy you liked this photo. And thanks for the birthday wishes, too. Another year older, another year weirder, I suppose, eh? 😀 Oh well. Many thanks for visiting, my friend. I’m always happy to see you in the comments section. 🙂

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      1. Hey, Jeff! Thanks for your kindness, my friend, and no worries–I knew what you meant. 🙂 I hope you’re doing well and enjoying the depths of winter (I remember winter in Oregon–I actually loved all the rain). 🙂

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  9. Beautiful image and lovely essay to go with it. The water table is high here so willow and birch abound. I agree that the term catkin is giggle-worthy, and there is something undeniably warm and fuzzy about them.

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    1. Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. I love willows. I once (well, twice, actually) lived in a small town with a river flowing through it, and the scent of willows was ever-present. What a wonderful natural perfume! I appreciate your stopping by. Thanks again! 🙂

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