27 December 2012

Solstice count

Early morning light on the formations
So it's been a few weeks. This semester (I will spend my life dividing the year into semesters, which, when you think about it, is Not Normal) was the most hectic yet since we loaded up the covered wagon and moved to this prairie outpost. Sometimes it's difficult to know where, if anywhere, the fixed points of our orbits are.
The constancy of change is nowhere clearer than in the drylands and flatscapes of the prairies. We have shifted our annual Christmas Bird Count focus to Badlands National Park and surrounding areas, and this is a lovely and somber region indeed at the winter solstice. The light slants low; it blazes up and dies down quickly, like a small fire on bone-dry wood.
It was a day for deep, peaceful silences, cracking ice, a light so brilliant that everything seemed illuminated from within. It was not a day for flocks of birds. This is South Dakota. In winter. Birds aren't stupid. Most of them headed out over a month ago, late this year. Everything that could hide or hibernate did so, leaving us to the colors of winter grasses, tall formations, and ice. The bighorn sheep joined us all day, moving down to marginally warmer grazing.
In short, it was prairie magic.
Bright light and deep shadows
Two-track leading to formation. Eventually. Not in a straight line.
Vintage survivor facing the sunrise.
Low formation
Curve of the frozen river
Truck, Interior, SD
Smiling playground...thing....Interior, SD
One-legged cowboy
The zombie apocalypse will at least have semi-live entertainment in Interior
I am still not sure what is going on with this formation 

Bicycle wheel
Mule deer on the move
Major ears on these things
Silent tracks
Bighorn being cool
Deep mud cracks and ice. It has been a fiercely dry year.
House, Interior
Jail, Interior 

It is just like us to oversleep and miss the coyote calling contest by a week. That was no doubt a highlight of the social season.

Junior. Seems late in the year for one this small....
Patriarch at the side of the road
Wary watchfulness
Sweep of the river. We saw a short-eared owl flying across this in its own sweeps, but it never got close enough for a good picture.

Conata Road in gold light
Sunset behind the Black Hills

Here's hoping everyone found time during the holidays to tap into that same deep peace and silence.