March 2009


Three umbrellas

This afternoon one of my teaching colleagues remarked on the seemingly miraculous ability of our students to shed clothing at the slightest sight of sun. He’s right. The temperature when I dressed this morning was in the 30s, so I left my house in a fleece jacket, turtleneck, jeans, socks, and shoes whereas students in my afternoon classes arrived in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.

Three umbrellas

Already, the campus quad has been claimed by Frisbee-throwers and at least one sunning student with a blanket, despite the still-soggy ground underfoot. Students just can’t wait, it seems, to enjoy sunny days lazing on the lawn, lumping their sun-worship and open-air naps under the category “studying.”

I can hardly blame them. Although I didn’t spend any time today lazing on the lawn, sunning myself, or napping in the fresh air, I was happily hurrying toward home when that colleague of mine remarked about our amazing, spontaneously shedding students. Home at last, I shed my coat, swapped shoes for sandals, and took Reggie for a long anticipated stroll in the afternoon sun. My student days are long over, but the sun is good for walking in any season, and spring shadows wait for no one.

Collared

I’d love to know the story behind the large canine pinch collar someone has put around a tree in the vicinity of Cold Spring Park. Are Newton trees so rambunctious, they need prong-collar correction? Or did some dog, on his way to Cold Spring’s newly debuted off-leash area, throw off the choke of oppression before he got there?

Whatever the explanation, this much I’m guessing: this tree’s bark is probably worse than its bite.

Mallard drake

This image (a cropped version of this original) is one of the first pictures I took with my new camera several weeks ago. J and I had walked to Cold Springs Park in Newton, we saw a pair of mallards swimming in bright sunlight at close range, and I zoomed in for an extreme closeup of his iridescent head dripping with pond water. Wonderful!

Eurasian teal

This was the kind of image I was lusting for, then, when I heard that a Eurasian teal has been spotted in Newton. If I could get as close to the teal as I had to the mallard, I thought, and if the light and my luck were just as good, I could snap a picture-perfect image. Instead, when J and I spotted a small duck dabbling with a pair of noticeably larger mallards at Cold Spring Park this afternoon, the light was all wrong for an extreme closeup. It didn’t help, either, that both the teal and mallards were feeding, so much of the time I found myself looking at a headless teal:

The headless dabbler!

If you snap enough pictures, however, eventually even a headless duck might be inspired to step out of the water to make himself ready for his closeup.

Preening

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Extreme Closeup; you can click here to see my complete photo-set of Eurasian teal images. Only after we’d begun to walk toward home did J and I learn that we’d missed seeing the wood ducks that have also been dabbling at Cold Spring Park. I guess we’ll have to try to take their closeups some other sunny day.

Construction webbing shadow, with triangle

Spring shadows seem harsher than those from any other time of the year, as if the newly bare earth and pavement have been lacerated with light. In these bleak, blasted days of cold mornings and mild afternoons, the landscape is still monochromatic, with only planted crocuses and snowdrops offering a respite of color. In a starkly black and white world, shadows seem shocking, gaping wounds on an otherwise whole world. The ground seems scarred with striations as the sun shifts from one horizon to the other: wounded and waiting for the healing cover of fresh vegetation.

Click here for the complete photo-set of “Light and Shadow” images, shot these past few days in Keene. Enjoy!

Landscape with tower

It probably sounds strange to admit it, but some of my favorite places are cemeteries. On Saturday, my friend A (not her real initial) and I met to take a sunny, almost-spring stroll at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as we’ve done before, and I fell in love all over again with the garden park that is Mount Auburn.

Tower

I’d suggested Mount Auburn as a walking destination in part because of its proximity to the Watertown Diner, where A and I could conclude our walk with afternoon pancakes as a mid-semester root beer reward. Pancakes and root beer weren’t the only things I had in mind when I suggested we go walking at Mount Auburn Cemetery this weekend, however. Although the first snowdrops and crocuses are blooming in Boston-area gardens, it’s still too early for wildflowers, so the woods are sprouting mostly mud these days. At Mount Auburn, walkers rule the paved roads and gravel paths, and planted perennials cheer the eye. Although the evergreen-shrouded Dell was still snow-covered, elsewhere in the cemetery it was easy to believe that “almost-spring” was spring indeed.

English woodbine

Although I’d had enough presence of mind to bring my binoculars on our walk, I left my new ultra-zoom camera at home, thinking A and I would be walking rather than stopping to take pictures. So imagine my chagrin when, upon parking at the foot of the tower where we’d decided to start our walk, A and I encountered a throng of photographers armed with tripods and zoom lenses.

“Did you see where he landed?” one of the photographers asked me as I got out of my car.

“Uh, who?” I asked dumbly, guessing the answer before I heard it. For years there has been at least one pair of red-tailed hawks nesting at Mount Auburn, and hawks are large, photogenic, and slow-moving enough to merit the use of a tripod. When a hawk finds a sunny perch from which to scope out the territory, he or she is likely to sit there long enough to allow photographers their fill of shots.

Red-tailed hawk

And indeed, on Saturday there were two (and by some reports three) red-tailed hawks flying around the Mount Auburn tower, which was still closed for the season. So while birders, photographers, and Saturday strollers alike bustled around the base of the tower, enjoying a sunny, hilltop view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines, one sun-worshipping redtail perched at the very top of the tower, which is open to birds year-round. If birders and photographers alike are going to ogle you, you might as well ogle back, and this is one hawk-eyed observer who had a truly bird’s-eye view.

Red-tailed hawk

I took these pictures with my old, beat-up, purse-sized digital camera, having left my new ultra-zoom at home. I can only imagine how nice a shot I could have gotten with an 18x rather than 10x optical zoom…

Sign of spring?

Shall we file this one under “Goes without saying?”

Finally, crocuses!

Some folks carefully tend their own gardens; as for me, I watch the leaves of others. After spotting the season’s first snowdrops several weeks ago, I’ve been stalking crocus buds, vowing to be on hand the moment they opened. Sure enough, yesterday’s sun was enough to push these petals toward blooming…and just as surely, today’s gray has forced them to fold. Such is the nature of spring’s ephemera: here yesterday, gone today.

Once again, the picture illustrating today’s blog-post was the inspiration for today’s Tweet, illustrating the way these two media (blogging in both micro and macro modes) can feed one another.

The time-traveler in me also wants to note that this year’s first crocuses appeared a few days before last year’s.

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