the dahlia lovers

peachy dewy thing, Canon Digital Rebel

One of the best gifts I gave myself all weekend was getting up early and going to Golden Gate Park in the misty fog. I had heard rumors that the dahlias were in bloom and I was so excited I sprinted to the garden with my camera.

dahlia garden in fog, Canon Digital Rebel

When I arrived, there were already five photographers there shooting. It made me grin as we all quietly moved around them, examining each one so carefully, then click-clicking with our shutters. It was wonderfully peaceful there with these wild, colorful creatures. Every once in a while a jogger or some other new person would arrive, and we would all sigh, “They’re so beautiful, aren’t they?”

I realized I was a part of a sweet hidden community here in San Francisco that I had never distinguished before: The folks who photograph the dahlias every August. The dahlia lovers.

It made me think of all the hidden communities in the city: the people who walk their dogs on Bernal hill every morning, the people who watch the sunset at Chrissy Field each evening, the people who never miss the third Thursday art walk downtown…

We create community in so many places in our lives. And even if we don’t know these folks, it gives us connection and meaning.

Where are your hidden communities?

“If you were all alone in the universe with no one to talk to, no one with which to share the beauty of the stars, to laugh with, to touch, what would be your purpose in life? It is other life, it is love, which gives your life meaning. This is harmony.”
– Mitsugi Saotome

P.S. It was my husband Matt’s birthday yesterday. Happy Birthday Matt! Thank you for being the very best partner and friend in the whole wide world.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.



  1. jan

    i like watching the early morning tai kwon do exercisers in my local park. they are all elderly chinese and are so focused.

  2. Meenu

    the second photo of all the flowers is so beautiful! I gasped when I scrolled down the page!
    jahlove, meenu

  3. carrie

    How beautiful!!! Wow!

  4. jenny vorwaller

    oh gasp! i love these!! dahlias are being planned soon in my garden for sure. thanks for the inspiration! 😀

  5. Julia

    These photos took my breath away!!! Sooo…very beautiful! Your image of the dahlias & fog would make such a lovely photographic print…yes??? Happy belated birthday to Matt….how fabulous is it that you are married to your very best friend? Many blessings to you both. 🙂

  6. lindsey

    my favorite hidden community in los angeles so far are the people who sit on the lawn at the getty museum, soaking up the day.

  7. carrie

    the top photo is especially photo! it would make a great desktop image!

  8. carrie

    the top photo is especially beautiful! it would make a great desktop image!

  9. Jenn

    Happy Birthday to Matt! Many birthay blessings to him.
    As you know I love these dahlias. What a sweet site on a Monday.

  10. Michelle

    My hidden community…Several years ago I picked up a little book that I fell in love with by a wonderful writer named SARK. At the back of this book she featured some of her favorite people. I didn’t think much about it but years later when I re-read the book I payed more attention. As a result I traveled right on over to superherodesigns purchased a gorgeous and magical necklace then started reading the on-line journal. This lead me to Dooce and Jen Gray and she lead me to both Danielle and Allison. So now there is this group of women in the world who don’t even know me but that I check up on daily. I have come to feel as if I know all of you. I have read all about your joys and sorrows, your questions and your rantings. I feel priveldged to be a part of it in a small way. It feels good to remember we are all connected even if we never meet each other face to face. Who knows who I’ll stumble across next? And by the way, I’ve been inspired by all of your beautiful photographs, stories, and musings to start my own blog. Who knows who’ll find me?

  11. heather

    On a similar vein, the photographers are always out very early in the morning during cherry blossom season in DC. The Tidal Basin is not choked with tourists; with the water, the blossoms, and Jefferson Memorial, the whole area is peaceful. We photographers just quietly nod to each other and say good morning.

  12. Swirly

    These photographs are gorgeous. I am still in the midst of trying to create my communities in LA. It is challenging.

  13. Marilyn

    Very Happy Birthday wishes to the creator of Cabinet National Library. It’s so much easier to be a Superhero when we have a true love who’s willing to let us strap on our cape and fly. 🙂

  14. Steph

    Hi Andrea,
    I love this. I just had a similar experience in Hawaii last week. We were staying at this place in Kauai that was next to this beautiful garden full of very exotic tropical plants. I got up early one morning to photograph when the light was lovely and pale and before it got way too hot, and there, strolling quietly around all the amazing and extavagant orchids and blooming waterlilies were several other photographers. We smiled and nodded wordlessly to eachother as well – content in our shared appreciation of this amazing place before all the other tourists descended. It’s funny how one can make little temporary micro-communities even when traveling.
    Gorgeous photos as always! The foggy light is exquisite,

  15. stosova

    One of my favorite things to do is to ride my bike on early Sunday mornings throughout the city, usually between the hours of 6 to 9 AM. The town is almost empty: Only a few club kids on their way home, some restless joggers crossing the streets and people out there with the dogs. Everytime I meet one special person. And because it is so quiet and we get curious about each other?s agenda, we start talking. I have met a pastor preparing for Sunday Sermon explaining the history of his church. I have met a baker delivering buns complaining how now the bread factories produce “sterile” products that lack in taste. I have met the brother of G?nther Litfin, the first victim of the GDR regime who got shot at the Berlin Wall. J?rgen Litfin memorizes his brother in an old GDR watchtower that he turned into a museum. All these people doing their business at a time everyone else enjoys a day off and sleeps. Just like me, I feel, they want to have an uninterrupted moment with their city. Most recently I bumped into Mr. 6 who was installing a piece of written on wood on a scaffold to a construction site. Mr. 6 has been painting the number 6 and other bizarre things on basically everthing he finds outside for the past ten years. Every morning he gets up, takes his bike with the paint buckets on and conquers his environment. The construction site has become his favorite installation. Due to lack of funding it has been abandoned since a few months and some street artists left their traces. But it is him who really takes care of it, like it was a garden where he plucks the weed and cuts the grass. He brings back stuff from his morning round and tapes it to the other paraphernalias. I meet him every now and than and it always makes me happy to see him decorate his world that I can share.
    I think to feel connected some people need to have less whirlwind going on on the streets to recognize each other. If you are reduced to a few the reduction itself becomes a common ground you can start connecting from. In order for my hidden community to show the rest of the gang actually has to hide!
    (My city, of course, is Berlin…:))

  16. Jane

    I am still rather new to my city so I don’t have a community as yet. However, as a graduate research student, I work in a specialist library everyday. Research is a very isolating experience because on somedays, I spend the whole day not talking to a single human being. But somehow, unknowingly, I feel that I have become part of the community there. Everyone knows my favourite PC and let’s me have it tacitly, for example. We nod, we smile and silently encourage each other as we go on in our individual pursuits. If I dont turn up on one day, I know that I will be silently missed. (My library is in London)

  17. natala

    my hidden communties…
    my bus
    and the people on it
    i love them, and i don’t think they could ever know
    how much normalcy and joy they bring to my day.

  18. josephine

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these pictures with us. It was a long time since I saw anything this pretty.
    ps. My secret community is the one of my early morning bus ride to school. We never speak, but on cold winter mornings we exchange knowing, bleary-eyed glances before nodding off…

  19. Leslie

    Beautiful pictures…..I can almost “hear” the fog and can hear the shutters clicking in the silent fog. How pretty. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Carolyn

    My hidden community is the people I see every day at school. I go to school really early in the morning and I see the same group of students and maintenance staff everyday, even though over 30,000 students go to my university.

  21. amy

    What a great idea — hidden communities! My hidden community is the wine tasting for $1 every Saturday at BevMo. It’s always the same group of people that show up & by now we’re friends with the manager that runs it.
    I’m envious of your dalhias!

  22. Lisa

    I just returned from one of my favorite hidden communities: String Cheese Incident Summer Camp at Horning’s Hideout near Portland, Oregon. This was my 3rd year attending and this event attracts the most amazing people who just want to dance, to play, to enjoy nature, to camp, to create. SCI is such a fun band and I am saddened that this might have been their last year at this location, but keep an eye out for future festivals or concerts–they rock!

  23. donab

    I often photograph the dahlias in the evening in my own garden. I didn’t even know there was a dahlia garden in Golden Gate – I’ll have to visit soon.
    I have a community on a vanpool that goes to my office, a strange, thrown-together group of people who would never associate otherwise. I used to take a commuter-line bus to university and there was definitely a secret community among the riders. This last January I was riding my bike often along the ocean cliffs of Santa Cruz before work, and began to recognize the other early morning exercisers, as well as those who just came to greet the ocean in the morning. Sitting in their cars facing the water, drinking coffee, listening to the radio. Communing before commuting.

  24. Lisa

    I love the thoughts on communities that you left us with … I found myself thinking about it all last night. And then, by chance, I rented Am?lie and watched it for the first time … if you haven’t seen this movie, you must. I was thinking about the nature of communities and human connection the whole way through. It was really beautiful.

  25. Jennifer

    I gasped when I saw the photos on this post, and I’m so glad you wrote about communities. I think we all have some sort of something, and I think it’s really fun to hear about the communities that other people create. I love the idea of taking off on a bike ride or a walk at like 7 in the morning…I’m totally a morning person, and that’s really part of the reason why I bought my bike recently.

  26. Ali

    Lovely, lovely photos and great quote too.

  27. jenn

    I’ve been thinking about this hidden community post and I think my hidden communities are for sure the internet. I’ve made some close connections to people I’ve never met but treasure these connections deeply.
    I also think one of my hidden connections is my gym. I just joined an all women’s gym about two months ago and it’s great to see the same women each week working on similar goals.
    Just three weeks ago I started going to Erie’s local Thursday Farmer’s Market. I’ve gone each Thrusday since and these people are becoming my new favorite community. I so look forward to going each week and seeing the new produce and everyone’s excitement about summer.
    I had never really thought about having my own little communities, but I guess I do.

  28. bluepoppy

    There might have been other photographers there but no one could have captured the shots as you did— so lovely.

  29. taliana

    You know, I’d never thought of it that way before. I live in a big city, and am always talking about how I don’t feel like I’m a part of a community because it’s all so big and we don’t talk to each other. But I’m just not looking at it in the right way, and it is up to me to go and meet those people in these mini communities that I’m a part of. You have a knack of making me stop and think. Thank you for that.

  30. blu

    can i ask how you took the peachy dewy thing photo?

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