Nature comes to me for a change
Like many of us, I spend a lot of time at the computer doing research, processing photographs, writing articles, sending and answering e-mail, etc. To provide a bit of balance, I’ve arranged things so that if I turn my head 45° to the right of my monitor, I find myself looking out through a second-story window. Just five feet beyond the glass is the trunk of a good-sized Ashe juniper tree, Juniperus ashei, with its characteristic bark that peels loose and hangs down in strips. I often see squirrels bounding around on the trunk and branches of the juniper, and sometimes one of the squirrels catches sight of me and peers intently back through the window at me. And then we sit eying each other for a while; I think I have the advantage in those encounters, because I know I’m a man seeing a squirrel in a tree, but I don’t think the squirrel knows what I am, or that I’m sitting at a computer monitor with a phone, a keyboard, a cordless mouse, and a slew of external hard drives spread out before me on the desk, or even that it’s a squirrel. But then it has secrets in its life that I can only marvel at, like the way it runs down a branch so fast that I can hardly see the motion, and jumps to one neighboring branch after another without ever falling out of the tree.
But we were talking about stare-downs, and yesterday afternoon was the occasion for another one of those. It went on a lot longer than usual, starting when the squirrel was in the notch created by a large branch diverging from the juniper’s trunk. That was the usual scenario, but yesterday, after that phase, the squirrel moved off down the branch till it was twice as far away, turned around, and kept staring back for another interval that was even longer than the first. Today’s photograph comes from that second interlude. The sky was overcast (though it couldn’t manage to deliver a drop of rain), and the scene was backlit, but I put my longest lens on the camera and did what I could with the dim light and the brighter opportunity.
I’d planned to post the next picture from the Elisabet Ney Museum show today, but the squirrel intervened. Back to the other pictures soon enough.
© 2011 Steven Schwartzman