Photographing the Foxtail Agave, chapter two: inspiration in The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius

Since it is possible that thou mayest depart from life this very moment, regulate every act and thought accordingly.

Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius. Kindle Edition.

Philosophical considerations

In my last post about my Foxtail Agave project, I wrote that reading “On the Shortness of Life” by Lucius Annaeus Seneca, helped me to find inspiration in “otium” to start photographing again after a hiatus. And since I have established the connection between stoic philosophical ideas and the Foxtail Agave, I started reading “The thoughts of Marcus Aurelius” after I finished Seneca’s book, to help me get inspired to post-process the images I took while on vacation.

As many of you already know, my late husband was a guitar player. He used to say that musicians should spend more time perfecting their craft and less time trying to promote themselves online. It doesn’t matter _he said_ how much you promote yourself if that which you want to promote is just average and you don’t have time to up your game. He didn’t spend a lot of energy promoting himself, but he also did not get as many gigs he would have liked. 

Lately, I have thought a lot about my husband, and the shortness of life. I have been asking myself, how should I use the time that is still have left on this earth? I don’t know how long I have, but I want use my time wisely. I certainly want to take pictures that are more meaningful to me, and to my family. And because now I have no help to do chores and my time is limited, I may have to spend less time trying to bring attention to my work. This includes the time I spend blogging, and social media posting. I think those are the biggest time sinks separating me from my photography.

Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the perfect principles of art.

Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius. Kindle Edition.

A general question for my readers: Hippocrates wrote “ life is short, art, is long”. Seneca, in contrast, affirmed that life is not short, it is long enough if we know how to use it, but most people simply waste it and conclude that it was short. There is certainly not enough time for artistic expression. What is is the biggest time sink detracting you from doing your most meaningful artistic work?

Bonus question. If you were told today that your time has come, would you be satisfied with your lot, or beg for more time? And if more time was granted to you, what would you do with it?


The FEATURED IMAGE, Foxtail Agave #3, was taken with a mirrorless 50mm prime lens at f/6.3, 1/150s and ISO 320. I do not recall if I used a tripod. It is the second image admitted to my Foxtail Agave series.


Wall Art Botanical Images

Wall Art Photography projects

Wall Art landscapes and miscellaneous


Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

39 thoughts on “Photographing the Foxtail Agave, chapter two: inspiration in The Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius

  1. This is a heartfelt post Alessandra. You’ve left us with a lot to ponder. As for photography, I totally love doing it and wouldn’t want to ruin it by turning it into a business. No pressure equals more enjoyment.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is one way os seeing it. However, I have a friend who has a photography business and she seems to enjoy that aspect more than the photography itself. She is very competitive and her main enjoyment is to pride herself of the success of her business. One of the requirements to succeed in photography is to constrain one’s work to a niche, and since she has to do that, and wants to have unique photos, we don’t go out shooting together anymore. But it’s what she enjoys, whereas most of us enjoy the artistic process, and freedom, over success.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful photograph Alessandra. Love the detail/contrast richness of it.
    The urgent things always get in the way of art. Work, land maintenance etc. I am hoping to be able to block out time for artful adventures in the coming months.
    If I had to go today, I would lament over my family, but would be at peace with it.


    1. There are really so many things that need to be done all the time. It is hard to weed out the ones that don’t really require attention. Work, house maintenance, family, those can’t really be ignored, together with eating and exercising. Yes those who go suffer less, at least after they are dead, than those who stay.


  3. I believe that you shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about what you are going to do since it eats into the time you spend doing something. A little bit of a plan is enough. Complete plans are never finished.


  4. A lovely photograph and interesting questions! The first question had me for a second until I remembered that my life is my work. If there is a conflict between doing chores or picking up the camera, then perhaps it’s because I misunderstand something. There is no wasted time and there are no wrong turns. As for death, who can say for certain how they will respond? There’s no right way to experience anything. Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. As others have commented, this is quite a thoughtful post—brought on, of course, by last year’s events. Your question about time reminded me of a sonnet by Ronsard:

    The key lines are:

    Le temps s’en va, le temps s’en va ma Dame,
    Las ! le temps non, mais nous nous en allons…

    Time slips away, time slips away, my lady—
    Alas, no, it’s not time, but we who slip away.

    That poem influenced Austin Dobson to continue the theme with a poem of his own, “The Paradox of Time”:

    “Alas, Time stays,-we go!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is an interesting summary. From reading Marcus Aurelius I gathered that the Romans already understood that the past is not something that we “have”, but something that we construct in the present. And as far as memories go, I’ve been completely swept out of a science project because my peer swears that she does not remember the fact that she and I had agreed to do it together. I remember everything, how I called her on Facebook messenger, what I said and what she said. She claims she remembers nothing. Two different pasts, or one of us is lying and it ain’t me.


  6. It’s common in creative endeavors to have a division of labor in which an agent or manager handles the business side of things so the artist or performer can spend more time creating rather than dealing with practical but non-creative things.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As I remind myself occasionally, each of us has all the time there is. The question is not how to get more time, but how to make use of what we’ve been granted.

    Years and years ago, one of my first posts at The Task at Hand was titled “The Death of Freecell.” In it, I reflected on decisions required to create content: to end hours in front of the television; to decline social media engagement; even to stop engaging in mindless games of Freecell. Now, as then, the task is both easy and difficult: to decide what it is that we want to do, and then to arrange our lives in such a way that fleshing out that decision is possible.

    Asked about a ‘time sink’ in the past, my reflexive answer would have been ‘work.’ Today, a more nuanced response seems more accurate. I certainly wish I had the money and time for more travel, but over the years I’ve made an odd discovery. When I’m not working — usually because of weather or other external conditions — my sense of creativity actually declines. I’ve finally decided it’s because of a pair of gifts my work provides: solitude, and time for thought. Action and reflection belong together; if either of those is given short shrift, quality declines.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ps: six years ago, I left a comment on another person’s blog that made me laugh even at the time. It seemed so true to me that I went back and saved it, and have shared it with others from time to time. This is the very end of that comment, and it still seems true:

      “I’m down to about twenty years now, give or take, and getting in shape, preserving the good health I have, and not wasting time on the stupid, the boring, or the irrelevant is right up there on top of my list. If I manage to avoid stupid, boring, and irrelevant, I’ll have plenty of time for what’s important.”


    2. You’re right that creating constantly requires many tough choices. My late husband used every free minute he had to practice and as he aged he needed more practice time. I have been pretty bad at letting my mind just escape into social media but henceforth I’ll watch myself. Time is flying and sometimes two weeks will go by without me working in my photography. My real job also provides me with a lot of solitude and time to think. It also gives structure to my days.


  8. I love the photograph. Perfect detail and the black and white certainly helps with that. Color can be distracting. I’m looking forward to new Spring as it feels like 1000 years since I have taken macro photos. I actually have not picked up my real camera since 2020. I believe the last photo I posted on Instagram was the last photo I took. My lovely garter snakes are always a joy to photograph. I believe they are as interested in me as I am in them. I catch them watching me while I tend to my gardens. I guess I’m like Netflix to them. I’m hoping I can find my way back to photographing again. I lost my center gravity somewhere along the way. Without that it leaves me lost in a haze. Not sure how I got distracted. Probably many things that came to a head. I’ll probably just have to force myself to pick up my camera and hope it leads to where I left off. Without looking back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is interesting to think about the things we really like to do and somehow get out of habit and years pass until we do it again. I have a list of my own. Thanks for your observations on my photograph. Yes the snakes are probably interested in you. Not many animals stop to stare at them. Most will just run.


  9. Interesting questions to think about. Not sure I have answers for myself. I’ve become more jaded because of social media so I’ve been dialing back a lot. It’s impacted my desires to create as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How social media really affects us as people and artists in general is an experiment in progress. It’s new, so we don’t really know. Years from now, there will be a lot of data but most of us who served as Guinea pigs will be already gone.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I really like this mix of b/w photography and philosophical musings. I am a philosophy graduate myself and I’ve been working in teaching and research for part of my life.
    For me, the biggest time and energy sink is the dysfunctional coping – trying to stay away from things that are uncomfortable or hurtful by taking refuge in something. I guess I’m slowly getting better at this and learning how not to run away.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like philosophy and it was my second choice for a career when I had the chance to chose (in Brazil in my time you could write down two careers when taking the national test for admittance to the federal universities), but I did make enough points for Biology and thought it might be easier to get a job in the Natural Sciences. But I would have had a lot of fun with the alternative, as I like reading the philosophers and thinking about life. It is very hard to stay with the tings that are uncomfortable or hurtful and even where I am now, with my brain trying to make sense of a life partners’ death, I need some brief escapes out of the pain and discomfort. We all need whatever is that allows us to take a brief refuge before coming back to the “battlefield” (I know life is not a war but I’ve lived in the USA for too long that this kind of language becomes first though). Photography is one such refuge for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. We each deal with our mortality, and those of our loved ones, in our own way of course. Having just passed three quarters of a century I know that I no longer have all the time in the world but at this point what makes the most sense is to enjoy the time we do have. It still is appropriate to pursue accomplishments but doing so more for the enjoyment make sense to me. I am taking more pleasure in the daily tasks and concentrate on the bigger ones so, should I leave this life first, my wife has less to take upon herself. Naturally, not having to deal with my partner/wife dying makes this easier to deal with but I think it can work. And it is also easier while in good health which sadly was not an option for Jeffrey.

    On a more pleasing topic, this shot is lovely and quite well created, Alessandra.


    1. Thank you. I agree that enjoying the time we have is what makes sense. We don’t know how much time we have. Anyone can depart anytime. Of course there are known likelihood’s, but also there are unknown probabilities. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Insightful thoughts to consider.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful photo and a very challenging question. Unfortunately, no easy answers, but it sounds like you’re on the right track. I hear you about making the most of your time. I feel in a similar spot. In many respects, it’s forcing me to think about how I use my writing time. I’m trying to make the most of it.


  13. What a beautiful photo Alessandra. Your late husband was a smart man. I hope your post makes a lot of people think hard about life. Living in a life of chronic pain, I no longer can enjoy life like I used too. The only thing I truly enjoy (other than family) is my website and now it’s getting hard to do the cooking for that. You are in my prayers Alessandra!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful photo and a compelling post. I think what detracts me the most from artistic work is fear. Fear that it won’t be good enough so I go off and do something else and tell myself I am doing all I can. But, of course, I’m not. I’m not facing the fear that I just have to get work out and forget about it and what people think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “ Art and fear”. Most of us suffer from that in silence, some of us mostly unconsciously. I’ve gotten better about it in the past few years and almost cured from it after I watched my husband die. Time does not wait and I can hear the pilot saying “buckle up and prepare for landing”. On another note, you’ve got nothing to worry about, your work is beautiful.


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