For the past four months, this photo has been the wallpaper on my computer. I took it along with many amazing flower photos I shared earlier this spring, both here and on Instagram. This image greets me every morning and is the last thing I see when I shut down the computer in the evening. Its ephemeral beauty keeps speaking to me at deeper levels, and as summer winds down I thought I might share some of that journey with you.

The detail at the center of the flower frequently catches my attention. There are literally dozens of perfectly formed oval yellow anthers, each perched atop their gently arched filaments. They surround the center stigma with its fourteen branching fingers, reaching out to capture pollen from another flower. I tried once to count the anthers and there are almost 100 in just the portion of the outer ring that I can see. Such extravagance!

Then there are the broad white petals surrounding this extravagant center. They flare forth perfectly, elegantly curving away while still framing the flower’s heart. I wonder if they serve in part to reflect and radiate the ephemeral fragrance farther in hopes of capturing more pollinators’ attention. The slimmer pink back petals safely surrounded the flower before it furled forth. Now they reach outward, stretching as wide as they can to give the flower all the space it needs to fully expand.

It appears, from this photo, that there are three layers of pearly white petals, each eight petals around. The thinner pink petals also might be in groups of eight; it’s hard to tell. This means there are almost fifty petals on this one flower, along with a couple hundred anthers perched atop their filaments.

Wilting Cacti Flowers

Yet all this extravagant beauty is at its prime for only a day. It blooms sometime during the night, and by midday it begins to wilt and fade in the harsh heat of the summer sun. I think of the lilies of the field, which Jesus describes as being “alive today and tomorrow are thrown into the oven” (Matthew 6:28–30).

The beauty is amazing—and so fleeting. That beauty is all around us, every day, taking an infinite multitude of forms. It’s not just flowers, either. Think about how each snowflake is unique, then melts within moments. We need an uncountable number of them to form a single snowball. As autumn approaches, I think of New England hillsides painted in bright colors as innumerable leaves release chlorophyll and let other shades shine forth.

With all this ephemeral and abundant beauty, how can we not give extravagant thanks to our Creator, every day, for the gift of life and the opportunity to witness such bounty?

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