Standing Still Before Dawn

“No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen.”

― Minor White

I visited the Big Pond in the Bosque this morning knowing full well most of the birds wouldn’t be there. The snow geese have been roosting on the far side of the North Loop and with a thick layer of cloud cover overhead I knew a sizable flock of photographers would be shoulder-to-shoulder at the Crane Pond. The last thing I wanted to do was join them.

This morning I wasn’t up for the excitement that comes with photographing birds in flight or staking my claim to a spot among scores of tripods. The wife of a dear childhood friend was just going into surgery for cancer on the east coast and after reading the gloomy forecast all I could think of was finding a place of pristine solitude. To be alone in nature while watching the clouds subtly brighten as the sun rose behind them is what I yearned for.

I rolled past the flight deck at 5:48am and upon the discovery I was the only one there a smile crept across my face, though it was completely unbidden. Looking in the rearview mirror I excitedly whispered, It’s just you and me, Whims!

Sir Whimsy Bacon, my springer spaniel mix, was softly panting in the back seat,  desperately trying to convince me to turn back via canine telepathy. Poor pooch! He’s not that fond of cars but prefers being dragged along on my escapades instead of being left home all alone missing out on all the photographic… fun.

After situating the car so I could see directly across the water, I shut off the engine, rolled down the window, and closed my eyes. After three deep frosty inhales it dawned on me  –  not a single quack or goose gurgle had been logged. I opened my eyes and scanned the horizon, reveling in the blanket of silence and marveling over how a place so filled with bird song and activity during the day could be so void of sound.

This seemed so odd.

So I donned my hat and within six paces, was standing in the pitch black with my boots silently sinking into the play-doughey shoreline.

It was so quiet I wondered if I’d lost my sense of hearing so I nudged my hat up over my ears and leaned forward, craning to hear… ?

There was no wind and no crickets on this mid-December morning. No packs of coyotes howling. Maybe this is what death is like? When seeing and hearing pass away and all you can feel are your last heartbeats. I half-wondered if I was still in bed, waiting for the alarm to go off.

Somewhere perched on a faraway bank, an owl must have read my mind and lobbed a soft hoot toward the shoreline. There was a short pause and another hoot skipped like a stone across the water – gentle assurances I was indeed still alive.

A duck quacked awake. Then another. It was like the Island of Misfit Toys was slowing waking up. And to my delight, three cranes came into focus as the muted rays crept along the water. They were all odd ducks just like me, who just wanted a good night’s sleep away from all the partiers.

Eventually I made my way back to the car, giving Sir Whimsy Bacon few ear scratches and a big sloppy kiss on the forehead before pulling out the tripod and taking a luxurious amount of time in the taking of this photograph.

My time alone in the dark on the edge of this pond was one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever experienced as an artist. It will forever be remembered as the morning time stood still long enough for me to find it, resting in the darkest and coldest moments before dawn.

Photo Credits: Still Pond by Susan J. Preston, Bosque del Apache, NM © 2019, all rights reserved
Technical: Fuji XT-2 |