Dean Ziegler’s Nature Photos: Rorschach for the Environment

When I first met Dean Ziegler, he told me he was a photographer. So I asked him, “Do you have any images of insects I could use for a blog?” Don’t ask me what my recent fascination is with bugs. Well, he said, “No, but I have plenty of flowers.” And so we began exchanging emails. 

The photos became a catalyst for considering my own experiences and the environment. What follows is a mixture, a Rorschach test of sorts based on the photos: 

Patmos Carved Shells by DZ

These shells speak to me. My parents are from Jamaica, a place surrounded by salt water, fish, sand, and shells. When I was a child, I remember going to beaches with stretches of white white sand and clear blue water where I saw multi-hued fish and seashells. 

I also remember my trip to Mykonos, an island off Greece. I went on vacation with my brother. Everyday, we went to a different beach with names like Paradise, Super Paradise, and Super Super Paradise on small boats. On one beach, I was looking at the sand one moment and in the next there was a dark-haired man riding a black stallion along the stretch of beach. Hey, it’s Mykonos; it felt like I was in the middle of a movie production.  

Shells also make me think of oil. Today, life along the Gulf and beyond is endangered. Clams and more fill shells that often end up on plates in restaurants on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The BP oil slick endangers the fishing industry and by extension the restaurant and tourist businesses. But even worse are the images of birds slimed by oil and fragile wetlands in southern Louisiana coated by oil. Sigh.

Fresh cut Sunflowers

This one is easy. Two thoughts. First, when I met Dean he told me I looked like a sunflower. Such a nice thing to say. Second, the flowers remind me of my Uncle Basil’s funeral in Jamaica. Some beautiful purplish red waxy flowers appeared the morning of the funeral. It was a sad time missing my uncle. It was also a good time because these funerals brought the extended family together from points all over the United States to Jamaica.

Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula, WA

Since I’m already talking about death, I’m ok with continuing with this theme. This photo reminds me of the dead cypresses I spotted driving on I-10 south from New Orleans on the way to Grand Isle, Louisiana. I said to my seat-mate–I was with a group–“I think the dead cypressesare beautiful.” He was aghast and said, “What about the living things?” I responded saying, “There is no life without death.” This attitude has deepened for me during my recent internship as a chaplain. I am comfortable with death, while still embracing and enjoying life.

Dean D. Ziegler, originally from Franklin, PA, resides in Harmony, PA, and is the Superintendent of the Butler District of the United Methodist Church, Western Pennsylvania Conference.

He is married to Linda, has two grown children and two grandchildren.

All Photos by Dean D. Ziegler, Copyright 2010 

Rorschach Responses by Dianne Glave

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Percy: Father, Organic Gardener

My dad had a garden in Queens, New York. It was a wild place. There were no rows. There was no rhyme or reason. Mixed in together were tomatoes, cucumbers and peas. When the vines got long, he cobbled together pieces of wood to wrap the many vines.

My family–me, my mother, and my brother–made fun of his wild vegetable garden. He laughed at us. But still we ate what he produced. Big fat tomatoes. Long huge cucumbers. So much came out of his tiny garden that he shared with family and friends. Community!

Percy at 19 (?) in Jamaica

And when the planting season was over and all the vegetables plucked from the stems and vines, he would let what remained rot back into the earth. We thought what a mess. The earth thought: Hey, I’m getting back the nutrients I parted with everytime you people ate my peas and tomatoes.

It was not until I started reading about Africans and the environment, that I realized he was gardening the African way. My dad was being organic before we knew the word organic–basically composting and replenishing the soil for the next season naturally and without chemical fertilizers.

Did he learn this method in his youth? I know he worked in a banana business with Boss, his stepfather in Jamaica. When I call home the next time, I’ll ask!

2004: Mowing His Lawn