January 2010

Green and white

You know you’ve hit the aesthetic wall that is late January when you start shooting photos in your bathroom, it being too frigid outside to allow for much interesting photography. This time last year, I was suffering from snow blindness, a term I use to describe the mid-winter photographic lull you feel when you’ve grown tired of monochromatic monotony: “I find myself growing blind to the beauties of snow, which lies strewn and heaped like last week’s laundry: what seemed so lovely and picturesque in early December has outgrown its welcome by mid-January.”

Even in late January, though, moments of beauty occasionally burn through the inertia of white and gray days, and early this morning, it was this crystal-paisley tapestry that inspired me to bring my camera into the bathroom to begin with:

Close-up:  bathroom window frost-feathers

That’s my bathroom window just before 8 am, before I was ready to wake up for good; by 9 am, Jack Frost’s handiwork had melted like last night’s dreams.

Back-lit:  bathroom window frost-feathers

Frost feathers are an ephemeral phenomenon in a season that feels never-ending; that’s why we so often miss them. What normal person brings a camera into the bathroom on a frigid Saturday morning before she’s ready to wake up for good? And yet, why does Jack Frost go to the trouble of painting windowpanes with such delicate brushstrokes if nobody will notice, marvel, and find a way to remember?

Frost-feathers are always ephemeral, and feathers of any sort are more difficult to find these days than during the hot heyday of summer. I cherish the down in the long, quilted coat I wear when walking the dog on cold and windy winter days, and I’m cheered to see juncos, sparrows, and an occasional robin flush at our approach, each of them warmed by a natural down coat.

When you’ve seeded your dreams with visions of frost-feathers, you’re more likely to find this same plumy shape elsewhere. And sure enough, on this morning’s cold and windy dog-walk, there were sparrows chirping and a robin clucking as I shot this image of ornamental grass frizzled into feathers.

Ornamental grass

Off season

In late January, memories of carefree summer days seem impossibly distant. Was there ever a time when it was warm enough to play soccer in shorts at the local playground, and will frigid temperatures ever again allow a friendly game of touch-football, shirts vs. skins?

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Distant. It was 10 degrees outside when I walked Reggie this morning; as I write this, the wind is howling with wind-chills in the negative digits. Spring (much less summer) seems very distant, indeed.


On Monday we had unseasonably mild temperatures and torrential rains which melted much of the remaining snow cover, leaving puddles of snow-melt that froze overnight into intricate crystalline shapes: the sparkle of geometric shards underfoot.

Red-tailed hawk

Today was overcast: not a good day for pictures. But today was the day that one of Waban’s resident red-tailed hawks decided to perch low in a bare tree outside the neighborhood Starbucks–right in the middle of Waban Square, in other words, with its constant stream of cars and people on their way to enjoy Sunday brunch or lattes with their human compatriots. Apparently any day is a good day to perch wherever you want if you’re an impressive-looking red-tail. Who, after all, is going to tell you to move?

Had I seen this red-tailed hawk yesterday, when the skies were blue and I was carrying my larger camera, who knows what sort of image I might have shot. Instead, the only sort of raptor I took pictures of yesterday stayed very, very still while starlings made themselves at home on his outstretched wings.

Starlings on flagpole eagle

Click here for several more images of today’s Waban red-tail. Enjoy!

Insect damaged

Stockpiling photographs is like owning a time machine that can zip you back in an instant from the monochrome monotony of a freezing winter’s day to a now-distant summer when the landscape was green with leaves freshly damaged by insects now dead, dormant, or flown.

This is my contribution to today’s Photo Friday theme, Damaged.

Snow and snowdrop

Throughout this week’s meteorological mood swings–thaw then snow then sleet then thaw–I’ve been scrambling to keep ahead of my schedule, with my online classes settling into their third week while my face-to-face semester started yesterday. At Keene State this term, I’m teaching two interdisciplinary “Literature and the Environment” courses: one on the “Literature of Birds and Birding,” and the other on “Rivers and Literary Imagination.” This morning I used these classes as an excuse to go dog-walking along the Ashuelot River, figuring any birds or riparian creatures I saw would serve as grist for the pedagogical mill.

I didn’t get any photos of the muskrat I saw grooming himself on the icy flank of the river, nor did I capture any images of the chickadees I saw foraging in the pines or the downy woodpecker I repeatedly heard calling from nearby trees. I did, though, record this sign of activity from a creature who apparently has been busier than even I’ve been these days.

Beaver sign

Click here for a photo-set from today’s dog-walk along the Ashuelot River. Enjoy!

Dead aster

After weeks in the teens and twenties, the temperature today rose above freezing, initiating a slow, steady melt of old snow.

This is my quick contribution to this week’s Photo Friday theme, Slowly. This image is one of a set of photos I took several weeks ago but never blogged. I guess I’m getting around to sharing them, slowly.

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