Anemone americana

I observed some early spring treasure, Hepatica Nobilis flowers, growing in a small patch along the Aunt Molly trail section of the St. Michael's Farm Preserve and then got back to thinking about life, the universe and everything.

Bhavna and went out for a late afternoon walk. While I knew that this would trigger my spring allergies, she could sense my anxiety. A recruiter had left a message earlier in the day that his client was ready to make an offer. I have been interviewing for this role since December of 2020. The role was originally a contract/consulting role. Still, the hiring manager at this New York City-based financial services firm thinks I would make a good addition to his team and offered, if I accepted, to make me a full-time employee. Bhavna could sense I was not excited. We walked and talked about why.

I observed some early spring treasure, American americana flowers, growing in a small patch along the Aunt Molly trail section of the St. Michael's Farm Preserve and then got back to thinking about life, the universe and everything.

UPDATE: I have learned that the classification of Hepatica has been in dispute. Previously, authorities identified these plants as a single species with two varieties, Hepatica nobilis var. acuta and Hepatica nobilis var obtusa. But according to the US Wildflowers database, these two plants are now species in the Anemone genus. Hepatica nobilis var. acuta is now Anemone acutiloba, and Hepatica nobilis var obtusa is now Anemone americana.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 116000 sec at f/2.8 | ISO 3200

As more people are vaccinated, conversations have shifted from worrying about infection rates and mask-wearing to excitement about returning to “normal”. But what does that mean?

Does it mean a "normal" 2-4 hour daily commute inside metal boxes (cars, buses, trains)? Does it mean going back to leaving the house before sunrise and getting back home after sunset? Do I really want to give up the 4 extra hours I learned to enjoy under lockdown to non-productive “travelling”? Why do we want to return to this 1950s era idea of “normal”?

I have not read the book, but my youngest shared the following quote from "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People" by Meik Wiking.

I propose a new mandatory course for all university students. Every student in the class is squeezed into the smallest closet possible, and they have to stand there for forty-five minutes without making eye contact with anyone. If you make eye contact, you fail. Then they are asked to move into an even smaller closet—in which they won’t all fit. If you don’t make it into the second wardrobe, you fail the course. I call it “Commuting 101.” "The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World's Happiest People (The Happiness Institute Series)"

That shouldn’t be the goal. I want to work remotely as much as possible, avoid the daily stress of a long commute, and use my precious time for other more important things.

I want a workday that allows me time to enjoy the peacefulness of the early morning. I want to sit outside1 with a hot cup of coffee and listen to a bird song. I want a workday that allows me to take a break to have lunch with my friends2 at a local restaurant. I want a workday that allows me to end my day to have time for dinner with my family or perhaps have a pint or two with my friends at the nearby tavern.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
American americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1/1250 sec at f/4.0 | ISO 3200

During the lockdown, while the weather permitted, Bhavna and I enjoyed a hike in the woods or a walk around our neighbourhood almost every other day. I saw my neighbours and could chat with them (from a distance). The old normal kept us all away from each other. I relish keeping the remote work and having an end of day backyard BBQs with my neighbours. Why wait for a weekend?

During the lockdown, I got up before work every day and had a proper relaxing breakfast while looking out the kitchen window and feeling the sun rising in the backyard. For the first time in 21 years, I noticed how the sunlight casts shadows in my kitchen; how the autumn light cast a golden glow on the maple trees—the old normal morning rush to get to work never allowed for that. Heck, to catch the express train, I had to wait to buy breakfast at work and eat at my desk.

The only time I used my car in 2020 was to pick up lunch at the food truck. If we had one car, we could reduce our expenses due to auto-repair and insurance. I would be able to chauffeur Bhavna to work every day. We could reduce our carbon footprint as well. Anyone of the newer hatchback EVs like the Tesla Model Y or Kia EV6 would be cheaper to run and has enough range to get us to Boston, Washington D.C., or Seneca Lake Ithaca, New York on a single charge.

During the lockdown, the workday ended between 5 and 6 PM. I could help make dinner. The old normal rush to get home at the end of a long workday meant I was either eating from the freezer or reheating dinner. And eating it by myself.

Hepatica nobilis flowers
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1/2000 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 3200

My mom shared a video recorded by a doctor from Ghana arriving in New York City and his surprise and first impressions. That got me wondering about Bequia, and soon, I was down a rabbit hole of videos showcasing the natural beauty and simpler life that I left behind over three decades ago. When I watch videos like this, I ask myself, 'Why the heck did I ever leave? How is this American life better than that one? Why am I still here?"

As I pondered a return to the “old normal” with those videos in my head, I had an epiphany. Perhaps my anguish is not just with working from home but with the entirety of my current life.

What if I could work remotely 100% of the time? Would I still live in New Jersey? What if I rented out my home in New Jersey and moved somewhere else? What if I had a home on Bequia with high-speed broadband? What if I could work remotely from Bequia and earn enough to cover living expenses and enough leftovers for savings? What if I could design a new life for me and Bhavna, one without the stress of the “hustle”?

Hepatica flower
Anemone americana. | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm | 1220 sec at f/11 | ISO 3200

Ultimately, this job offers is the only one I have received since my contract ended in December. We are rapidly burning through all the extra money we save by doing nothing in 2020. Part of me is panicked that we could be dipping into retirement savings if I pass on this opportunity. Then what? And if I take the job, then I'll be back to slogging two hours to New York City.

I was not too fond of the old normal, and I don’t want to return to it. I asked for three days to consider the offer. I need to give them an answer today.

spicebush flowers
Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin) | Monday 5 April, 2021 | FujiFilm X-T2 | XF27mmF2.8 | 16400 sec at f/5.6 | ISO 3200

  1. We have a small backyard deck, but I want a small paver-stone patio to put some chairs and tables. 
  2. Co-workers can be friends too, but it takes me a while before I feel I can be vulnerable around them. 

Isolation Photo Project, Day 2

Monday's weather put me in a gloomy funk. Today the sun appeared again, but the air was cold. I read a blog post by Mary Anne Borge about her walk on the Rockhopper Trail in West Amwell. Mary Anne encountered birds and plants and wildflowers. She mentioned that the warmer weather may have brought on some early budding and flowering. Normally the native wildflowers will appear in mid to late April in the Mid Atlantic.

With a bit of FOMO, I felt the urge to be outside in nature. My goal was to hopefully capture photos of round-lobed Hepatica or rue-anemone.

My first stop was at the Rock Brook along Hollow Road. I have encountered numerous specimens of native wildflowers here but today, the flowers I found only Ficaria Verna and invasive plant from Asia and West Africa.

Ficaria verna commonly known as lesser celandine or pilewort is an invasive species from Asia and West Africa | 24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/5.6 | ISO 400

It was sloshy along the trail in the Sourland Nature Preserve on East Mountain Road. I didn’t find as many plant specimens as Mary Anne, but I wasn't in the mood for bushwacking. Perhaps it's too early for Rue Anemone. I found no hepatica. I had no problem finding Spring Beauty.

Claytonia (spring beauty) | 24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/4.0 | ISO 200

There were other couples out hiking, and I encountered one family with four boys blowing of anxious energy. After ninety minutes walking around, I circled back to the trailhead. I was determined to find something. A few yards in I spotted singular bloodroot among the dried leaves.

Harusaki is early spring in Japanese.

rocks | 24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/4.0 | ISO 200
In the distance | 24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/6.4 | ISO 500
24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/8.0 | ISO 1000
24 March, 2020 | FujiFilm X-T2 | Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR | f/2.8 | ISO 200

This is my entry for Jeff's isolation project.

Submitted as part of the 100DaysToOffload project.

Round-lobed Hepatica

Bhavana and I went for another hike this afternoon in the Somerset County Sourland Mountain Preserve. The hike, a Wildflower Walk, was organised by the Sourland Conservancy Stewards. The hike was led by Jared Rosenbaum of Wild Ridge Plants, LLC. Jared is a naturalist advisor to the Sourland Conservancy’s Sourland Stewards program. We had met Jared's wife Rachel Makow. Rachel led a wild edibles walk through the Rock Mil Preserve two years ago, and we were a part of that.

Kiran and Shaan were supposed to come with us, but Shaan forgot he had a birthday party and bailed. Kiran had the sniffles, which she thinks is from allergies, so she stayed home.

The air was crisp and refreshing, but we soon warmed up as we stumbled along the rock-laden pathways. We traversed the rocky landscape while Jared shared his knowledge of the season’s first wildflower blooms. I don't remember the names of all the flowers Jared showed us, but this one was my favourite. I kept calling the trout lily, a yellow wildflower, the striped salmon. The group laughed every time I got it wrong.

I spotted the round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica Nobilis var. obtusa) while walking, looking down as I moved along. It was one of two poking out from beneath the dry leaf bed. The ornate and mottled leaves are visible year-round. The furry-stemmed flowers arise in the earliest spring; fur on the stems and new leaves protects against April cold fronts. Solitary bees pollinate the hepatica, and forest ants disperse the seeds.

Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana)
Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) · Saturday 25 April 2015 · Nikon D5100 · 90 mm f/2.8

The variegated and mottled leaves are visible year-round. The furry-stemmed flowers arise in the earliest spring; fur on the stems and new leaves protects against April cold fronts. Solitary bees pollinate them, and forest ants disperse seeds.

I rented the same Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD Macro that I used for the vernal pool walk. I lit the flower with my Nikon SB-600 and a Rogue Flashbender.

Do ants disperse them? I never knew that ants were involved in the life cycle of flowers! You can find the entire photo set on my Flickr.