A Season Of Plenty


It was a cold, cold day in January a year ago. It was snowing, the wind was like a knife as it struck you in the face and the temperature was dropping by the moment. So of course the only thing to do was grab your camera, put on all of your long underwear, every single pair, and go outside and take pictures.

But of what you might ask. Anything even remotely sentient was somewhere warm. Even the scenic always photographical trees were hiding under a mantle of warm snow and had faded from view, camouflaged and vaguely promising to reemerge again when the temperature registered on the thermometer once more, perhaps in the Spring.

But even with conditions like this there are those that must venture forth and do a job of work if they want to get fed. This bird, obviously some species that laughs at the cold and stares certain death in the eye from hypothermia or whatever it is called that freezes normal birds to death, was punched in and working its shift.

Busily harvesting tiny little seeds from a leftover seed pod it cracks them open with an audible pop, or at least it would be audible if there weren’t those gale force winds screaming past. There is just enough locked up energy in those minute seeds to power this small creature through another day of subzero winter conditions. It must eat a lot of those seeds as it appears to be in fine shape, almost portly as it were. For it, this is a season of plenty.

So on a cold blustery winter day when all normal people would be inside, except for wildlife photographers, Nature provides for its own. I’m sure this feathery adventurer has a place to go when it’s done eating. Perhaps a nice warm condo with in-floor heat, or maybe a clubhouse where it can wedge itself in amongst all the other birds of its type and share that body heat not to mention groove on that cool, make that warm, jazz playing in the background. Let’s not worry about it. If it can find something to eat in this weather, you know it has a backup plan.

Thoughts On The Total Suckability of 23 Degrees Below Zero

23Below1860Hawk  Yellowstone                                                    click to enlarge


As I casually throw the leg from a 18th century Mechanical Game table that Riesener created for the use of Queen Marie Antoinette at the Château of Versailles into the fire, I was amused to think back on the last time I was in Yellowstone National Park when the temperature had dropped to -23 below zero. The crackling and curling of the 229 year old veneered oak with its inlay of holly, black stained holly, amaranth, berberis, stained sycamore, and green lacquered wood, reminded me of the sound of the exploding branches of the nearby trees. The remaining sap in them congealing and expanding until it could no longer be contained within the branches and trunks. The color created by the melting of the gilt–bronze mounts carried me back to times when the golden sun shown on the fair meadows that lined the Yellowstone river. A sight I was unlikely to see again until summer. It was a bittersweet memory.

Although the table of the consort of the Sun King would be missed with its glowing surface that reflected the gilded mirror hanging above it. That mirror too, that had been so carefully removed from the men’s room off the main gallery of the palace, was next on the list, nevermore to be seen except in memory. Its loss was preferable to freezing one’s fuon bwey bweys off here in the great hall at the Institute’s main building, where the temperature had dropped into the mind chilling low 60’s.

Through an oversight or out of just plain meanness, our purveyor of propane gas, the fuel of choice at the Institute, had rejected the cases of heirloom chickens we had sent as payment for last winter’s fuel supply and demanded cash instead before they would send their delivery truck up the mountain to bring us our much-needed fuel. Hence the need to begin the burning of our household effects as a caution to prevent the deadly effects of hypothermia.

Luckily for us the fireplace in the great room is large enough to receive even the largest armoire without having to dismantle it. It seems a shame to take an axe to this gorgeous furniture. Things are going downhill fairly rapidly as the table Frank Lloyd Wright created for the Greene and Greene house is next on the list. Unfortunately we had borrowed this table from the foundation overseeing the Greene and Greene property for some photographic purposes and they’re sure to be upset and quite cross with us for using it for its BTU value. I doubt they will lend us anything again.

One of the biggest disappointments about this entire affair is the fact that we have half the national forest cut up and stacked in cords over behind the commissary in neat long rows in preparation for just this type of emergency. Unfortunately, we can not get the staff or even the interns to go out in this weather and deliver that wood to the main building. They flatly refuse to go out and have cut the telephone lines from their quarters to the main building. It’s also unfortunate that I can not make anyone here go and get this much-needed fuel either as everyone is afraid of freezing solid if they leave what little warmth we have.

All of this leads us back to the topic at hand “The Suckability of 23 Degrees Below Zero”. As I sit here in my ermine-lined dressing jacket I reflect back on this image of an unknown hawk on a forlorn branch near the Yellowstone river. HIs body language says it all. This cold sucks. Excuse me, but they’re getting ready to throw a stunning golden hued Ormolu clock which has no BTU value whatsoever on the fire. I have to stop them as that is just wanton destruction for its own sake.  After all we’re not savages here.