Saturday, December 31, 2011

Shooting Ducks

As the year began, so it ends, in darkness.

Rain all day, and then wind and waves, pushing rinds of rotten ice into shore.  Out with the old....
In a day or two the sea will freeze over again.

The morning begins with gunshots--a hunter motors out beyond the skim of ice in an aluminum skiff.  He wears desert fatigues to stand over the sea and fire at ducks. Unlucky birds! Targets as soon as their plumage brightens for mating. They're no good for eating, these "fish ducks" as they're called; those feathers are destined to be trophies, stuffed and hung on the wall. A whole industry of memory, monuments to successful aim, sophisticated scopes, his practiced trigger finger.

I'm perhaps no different, hanging out the latest shutter trapped colours, little shreds of recollection:  one place and then another: I was here, hymning to the light.

Still, shooting done my way preserves the ducks, in light as in flight, for another day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Frost Flowers on Glass

Overnight, frost sketches strange forms on the windowpanes--long dendritic tendrils, ferns, floral bursts.  These aren't technically "frost flowers"--those are three-dimensional ice sculptures that form over weeds or reeds at a lake's edge.  Still, these etchings do flower here in the sudden cold overnight, racing up the window, crowding out the view. Rare now, in this time of energy efficient triple glazed argon filled panes, they appear magical, otherworldly, effortless art.

We are staying in a winterized but not thoroughly insulated cottage near Lac Pierre, just outside of St. Alphonse de Rodriguez in Quebec.  It is warm--particularly near the wood stove--and we are cooking quite a lot, roasting game birds, making soup, roasting vegetables, so the air in the cottage is steamy.  Outside, on the day I took the photos, it was bitterly cold.  It is, at once, both the contact and the contrast between these two extremes--warm damp interior and cold dry exterior--that enable such frost patterns to grow up the insides of our windows. Warm damp air condenses on the interior of the window and freezes, forming frost crystals; each construction is, as the temperatures modulate, a sketch in progress. 

The photographs were taken from the inside, looking out at snow-covered cedars and the snowy yard.