Death of a Staghorn

We celebrate Birth and Life.

We avert our eyes from Death and Dying.

We see life in Kodachrome.

We see Death in monochrome.


 After the recent freeze,

I went into the garden on a mission to study death and dying

in the plant life there.

I made many photographs of what I saw.

I want to share the death of the Staghorn here.


After the frost,

The Staghorn anchor leaves changed from tender green

to silver and gold in the sun.


The Staghorn was but an ephemera on the continuum

from stardust to stardust.

Her death a minuscule marker for those who came

before and those who will come after.


When we banish the Fear Lizard

and view death through our spirit lens,

we see the nuance of color in death as in life.


This image is as I saw it.  I converted the raw file and resized it.

In death, too,

There is noise. There is darkness.  There is light.  

There is color.


In the end, when the leaves are shrunken, gnarled, twisted and dried

their essence is visible in their structure.

As I observed them through the lens

I was surprised and astounded by the transformation.

When they were green and broad and healthy,

 the veins in their leaves were visible against the sun.

But they were only green leaves with a faint silver cover.

As I watched them die,

I understood the complex transience of life

And the incredible beauty of death.



For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind

and to melt into the sun?

~Khalil Gibran

40 Comments on “Death of a Staghorn

  1. Sigh. This reminds me that I’ve often thought, while working with older people and people near the ends of their lives, that we seem to become more fo ourselves – to display our essence more readily – the older we get. Thank you, you’re doing really wonderful work these days.


    • Thank you, Patti. I am happy you enjoyed my Longhorns. I find many answers in my garden. The vastness of the universe is right there just beyond our everyday vision. My last mission in life is to discover as much of that vast and ageless universe as I can manage in the days that I have left to me. I appreciate your stopping by to visit. And I cherish your appreciation of my efforts here.


  2. George, for me this is your most powerful post. The pictures are good – your pictures are always good! But here, the power comes from what you are writing about and how you write about it. You are only too right about our perception of death, and in our modern societies we are certainly not as well in touch with it as our forebears were, and as other cultures around the world still are.

    I used to be a geologist years ago, and that has left me with an ongoing and constant perception of just how vast and long-lived many features of the universe are – and of just how small and short-lived we and all other organisms on Earth are, and your words are right in there alongside these feelings. I particularly like “The Staghorn was but an ephemera on the continuum from stardust to stardust. Her death a minuscule marker for those who came before and those who will come after.”.

    My friend, your posts are a delight – I know of nothing else like them.

    Take good care of yourself.



    • Your words stayed with me, Adrian. It makes me happy to know that you understood. The vastness of it all is the wonder of it all. You are always so kind to stop and tell me your thoughts about whatever I post. That’s important to me, and it’s the reason I do this. I am not a photographer. I use the lens to find what I want to say. When I am able doing that in a photograph, I feel that I have found a way to express my thoughts.

      I am pleased that you enjoy my posts, Adrian. 🙂

      Thank you for being such a good friend.


  3. You knocked my socks off with this post, George, by the beautiful photographs and the beautiful words….


    • Thank you, WL. I’m really happy that you liked my Staghorn story. Coming right over. Be there in a minute! :-)… If the creek don’t rise…


    • I’m glad you found it interesting. I did too. I have lived close to plants for all of my life without appreciating the lovely changes in them as they die. I only saw it through the lens. And it was exciting for me. Thanks for stopping by on your vacation! 🙂


  4. Great observations George and what a wonderful quote to end the post on (I had not heard it before). 🙂
    Oh … and the photos are wonderful as always – showcasing beauty in death.


    • Thank you, Jared. I was fascinated by the changes in the leaves and realized that there was clear there that I had never seen before in dying plants. My book came today! I finally got it from the USPS. They carried it back and forth for a week while I chased it around to sign the delivery! It’s absolutely beautiful. I love your poetry as much as I love the sketches. Thank you so very much. It is a special gift. Really special. And beautiful.


      • Glad to hear that George. Thank you for your kind words.
        I think your book was the last to arrive – or let’s say, last to be delivered 😉


  5. A beautiful and inspiring post, George. We have much to learn from your Staghorn, and from this account of her splendid death. I am warmed by the caramel light shining through the dead leaf of that first image. Mesmerized by the veins, and golden tip, and crackly silver cloak of the second. And there is something deeply moving to me about the series of drooping fronds, so graceful in their passing. But the two final photographs, the next to last one in particular, utterly grip me. How vivid and rich the Staghorn death!


    • Thank you, Lemony. I am very happy that you enjoyrd them. You describe my reaction to what I saw when I actually looked. I am amazed at the life and death that moves constantly through the garden. I can think of no better place to understand the order of life and death. These leaves suffered a sudden insult that resulted in a rapid death with different manifestations. When the leaves die a “natural” death, they turn a nice yellow and slowly change to brown. These leaves rapidly developed concentrations of color that I have never before seen in Staghorn leaves. The colors here are true. I did not alter them. It was an amazing experience for me, and I am happy that I could share it with you!


    • I’m glad you liked it. Seeing the Staghorn die confirmed my conviction about life and death. If you look at dying through the right lens, you can see the beauty of it. Thanks, RoSy! I hope you aren’t getting more freezing weather!


    The photographs are really wonderful, of course. It must have gotten colder down there than I realized. As somebody else pointed out, I hope Mr. Anole survived too! I think that fern might actually come back…much less glorious, though.


    • I don’t think one of them will return. The other one might. I didn’t realize that it was going to freeze either! Once it happened, there was nothing to be done about it so I set about giving it a fitting memorial here… Chuckle… Thanks, Linda!


    • Ha-ha! I’ve known a lot of old people, but not many who admitted that it was time to go. Chuckle… As long as I can cling onto my camera and my coffee, I’ll hang on too, I reckon! Thanks for stopping by, Cardinal!


  7. I hope this plant’s demise will not all be in vain and that it’s remains will be recycled back into the plants still living after the visit by the grim reaper Jack Frost. I haven’t posted much on my blog lately, and it was lovely to see your smiling face making an appearance recently, Mr Anole wouldn’t stand a chance against Mr Dragon. Having said that I hope Mr Anole survived Jack Frost!


    • Hi, Jackie! I never officially recycled dead foliage since the old house where my husband installed a concrete box from our concrete plant to hold all of the clippings from the plants. It produced the very best humus mix for the plants! Now, I scatter some of the dead foliage underneath the palms where they can return to a humus state. That’s where the Staghorm will lie. Thanks, Jackie!


    • I’m glad you like it! Although I stopped getting notices of posts, I see that you are still in Dubai. I un-followed and re-followed so that should work. WP is a fickle mistress. Thanks for stopping by. I never forget Longhorns and Camels since I met you on my own Longhorn post in what seems a long time ago now. Good to see you! 🙂


  8. George… you have out done yourself… this is a brilliant written and photographed documentation of death in nature… the photos are just brilliantly beautiful of a sad ending and the words are a true report of the death… brilliant post…


    • Thank you so much, Rob! Your words are important to me because you live in the natural world and understand life and death there. You share that world with us in beautiful images and a narrative that informs us. I saw what I never saw before in a “bunch of dead leaves” that I would have thrown out without a thought. I only took up the camera lens in my old age, but it has provided a view of a world that I never dreamed existed. And, that lens has changed my life. Now, I am old and curious and determined to see everything I can see for as long as I can hold that camera! 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Sam! I discovered a whole new world in the fern leaves as I looked through my camera lens. They emerged from just some dead leaves into what I posted here. Remarkable how little we see with the naked eye!


    • I’m glad you like the pictures. I continue to be amazed by what I can see through the camera lens. My appreciation of life would have been enhanced throughout my own life if I had only known the “other eye” of the camera lens. I was struck by the real beauty of death as I looked at the Staghorn Fern leaves through new eyes. Thank you for your encouragement, Shimon.



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