Softly Seen, A Heart in Shadow

Rose at Boehrner Botanical Gardens in Milwaukee Wisconsin

Softly Seen, A Heart in Shadow © 2010 Bo Mackison

I don’t photograph roses very often. Maybe because I’ve had entire years of gardening consumed with frustrating rose care. In out first home — a zillion and a half years ago and before children — I thought it would be lovely to plant some of the roses my grandfather had grown. I frequently gardened with him during my childhood, but I must have missed the parts of rose care that were the hard work.

I remember the good scents part. He would call, “Hey, Bo. Take a sniff of this yeller one. What do ya think? Ain’t she a grand one!”

I remember being allowed to carefully cut long stemmed roses with very sharp cutters. I brought them to my grandmother on the special days her Garden Club ladies visited our home. She would arrange them in exquisite bouquets of welcome for the admiring rose lovers.

I don’t, however, remember the clumpy, thick white clouds of rose dust or the aphids and black spot the rose dust was supposed to eradicate. And I certainly didn’t remember winter care. My grandfather’s roses grew in Zone 7. I planted my roses in Zone 4 which meant they required pruning and mulching and wrapping and covering. And even then, there was always winter kill that took a part of each plant.

I struggled with those roses the 7 years we lived in our first home, and when we moved I swore I would have no more roses.

So I have a rather tenuous relationship with roses. I love them; I hate them.

But then we were visiting Milwaukee today and stopped at the Boerner Botanical Gardens. While we were there, I decided to take a walk through their rose gardens. (The last time I walked those rose garden paths, I held the hand of our oldest child, while Sherpa pushed our middle child, a tiny infant, in a stroller.)

I took a few photographs before the mosquitoes won and I had to retreat to the safety of the car. I didn’t record the name of this rose. I was too busy slapping at biting insects and wondering what useful purpose mosquitoes have on this earth.

But I like this rose — its soft curves, the shadows playing with the lights, and the rose’s heart. A hidden heart.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Pretty study in color and shades of color. For much the same reasons we have only one rose bush and it realized long ago it would be mostly left to its own resources.

  2. Great story and memories. I agree with the care issues, wild flowers (aka weeds) are much easier on the care sid.

    The image is wonderful. Soft curves and rich shadows.

  3. These images of yours make me so happy!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous!

  5. Bo, this is breath-taking. I’m not a fan of roses–I’ve never been able to muster to lavish love on something that has that many thorns–but this photograph just melts my heart. It looks like matte satin, it looks amazing. What a great photograph!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I’ve had a hard time photographing roses, but I loved the shadows in this beauty. It does look like satin…

  6. LOL Yeah, we’ve certainly questioned the purpose of mosquitoes on this earth too. Lovely and so soft and creamy this image is… I really like the essence of swirls.

  7. Such a dreamy image. I love the color, the DOF, the processing….everything about it. Plus, such a wonderful accompanying story. Your blog = a nice morning “treat.”

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