“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”
The 12 days of Christmas have now come and gone, and while most folks spent them hunting for stuff to put into boxes, I instead followed my plan to get out of my box as much as possible and have to say now that the figurative stretching felt really good. Under an unusual blessing of deep snow that the more stereotypical cold Christmas Eve rains could not bring to a full surrender of a rare and true White Christmas, I found it both pleasingly challenging and somewhat frustrating to try to capture the holiday spirit. Not only the technical challenges of shooting at night when the artic blast that overstayed its welcome like a bad guest caused everything to freeze within moments, but simply finding suitable subjects was hard; likely due to the horrible economic conditions there were far fewer displays of the seasonal revelry than in years past.
But I think I managed to “make do” well enough. My first attempt was to head out for a short walk in the bitter evening air to tackle a polar bear, one of a pair that graces the front steps of a house in the front of the Woods:
The next day the big, bad, wicked winter storm arrived in earnest and travel, even on foot, was a treacherous and foolhardy idea. But I was lucky enough to snag the elusive adult Cooper’s hawk right in our own backyard:
A brief lull in the storm the next night allowed for a quick trip out to tackle one of the sights that was, in large part, the inspiration for my little project:
I ended up going back the next evening in order to catch all the lights turned on. By this time, the single-digit temperature and a wind chill that pushed that temperature down into double negative digits required serious bundling up for the short walk. It was a hoot, for it had been years since I’d ventured out resembling one of the kids on Southpark. As an adult, even when out skiing in -20° weather my winter attire was more, shall we say, fashionably streamlined. (The difference being, of course, your blood circulates a lot faster to keep you warm when you’re moving, unlike the stillness required to take photographs. This also put a new pair of Really Serious winter boots on my list.)
We awoke the next morning to be greeted by some much-welcome sunshine. The morning light was thrilling, energizing and brilliant but the wicked wind continued to blow fiercely, warning everyone to stay put. So it was only brief forrays into the backyard for me. And for the wild residents. I found my littlest wild fox squirrel friend waiting patiently for me to arrive with her foodstuffs, trying her best to bravely soak in some of the sunshine as the driving wind beat at her with drifting snow:
The starlings have returned en masse and while their lack of manners at the feeders is the bane of my existence, they are beautiful birds and so one high up in the pine tree gulping snow became my daily photo:
As hard as I try to avoid going out during the last, frenzied holiday shopping days, errands could not be postponed forever, so I took full advantage of the early darkness for some daily shoots, using the partially-opened window of the Jeep as a makeshift tripod. It is testament to why I so love my Wrangler that the engine runs so smoothly I could keep it on and therefore stay warm while shooting:
On Christmas Eve morn the frigid arctic front finally started to move on and the more normal Michigan holiday season rains finally began. The red-tailed hawk had been making daily appearances and, after having to be content with mostly stick-picking, to my surprise it glided into the trees in our backyard and actually stayed put for a while. I had to don a rain poncho and cover Matilda, but even so, by the time I finished the shoot, I was as sodden as the hawk with jeans wet nearly to my knees from standing and then jumping around in the snow. (I’ll leave it to your imagination and likely one of Bob’s blogs to picture my attempts to encourage the hawk to move on when the squirrels and I had finally had our fill of its menacing presence.)
On Christmas Day I prepared a delectable herb-crusted pork roast, Bob cleaned while I set a festive holiday table then picked up my mother, and the three of us happily ate our Selves into a very merry little stupor. After I took my mother home I stopped to take the last daily photograph on my list, as I’d planned it:
And so at last came the Morning After and The End:
Now that these self-made “12 Days” are over, I look back and am very glad I set a goal with this project. I feel as if I’ve accomplished something more with my photography, and certainly there has been learning with each day’s attempts. Learning that will be put to good use in the days ahead.