Before and After in the Smokies

A less-seen view of the mountain laurel flower, with leaf.

It would be fatuous to say that nature is always changing, were it not for the fact that when I am paying more attention to nature, I'm struck by how quick and continuous this process of rise and fall, ebb and flow, bloom and shrivel, really is. And I pay the most attention to nature when I am on a seashore or at camp, so to speak, in the highlands.

I'm curious about what these particular highlands are like in the weeks before I arrive, and in the weeks after -- to say nothing of all the months when I have never been here. The beautiful mountain laurel has exquisite little five-lobed flowers, white with dark pink dots inside, a jiggly dark pink circle like a frilly bullseye in the corolla, while 'sprung' stamens wait for an insect to release their pollen, and knobs like buttresses decorate the outer underside. But there are now only a few of these flowers on the clusters that the mountain laurel puts out, mid-June evidently being late in its blooming season, and May being the optimal time. So I can show a pristine flower and leaf of the mountain laurel, but a photo of the entire shrub looks like the 'after' picture of a flowering moment that has passed:

And there are the before and afters that come just hours apart, as with this rosebay rhododendron, which of the two (native) species to grow in the Smokies is the one that is found at the lower elevations. There are also the unripe blueberries -- hundreds of them on the same bush. But I can't show the pictures because the Internet connection is so slow that I shall have to bring this post to an abrupt halt. To be continued later, perhaps at the nearest Starbucks....