Scott Weindensaul became a lifelong friend moments after we met about 9 years
ago in Marietta, Ohio at the formative meeting of the never-to-exist "Dead
Alpaca Society." The meeting was hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest' s
founding publishers Bill and Elsa Thompson (who gained a wonderful
daughter-in-law and now two grandchildren in the deal--it's a long story--don't
In any case, Scott was then quite a writer. He has written about as
many books as I have good images. Recently, he outdid himself with the
publication of Living On the Wind; Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds.
(North Point Press, NY). The book was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for
non-fiction writing, but they screwed up and gave the award to some else!
I just finished reading the book (in segments, on the StairMaster each
afternoon, and all that I can say is "WOW!"
Here are just two examples of Scott's amazing talent:
From the preface: "This book covers a lot of ground. Over
the course of more than six years, I traveled virtually the length of the
hemisphere, logging nearly seventy thousand miles by jet, car, bush plane,
sailing ketch, tundra buggy, dugout canoe, horseback, and one foot--yet
traveling fewer miles than a single small sandpiper would in its short
lifetime, propelled only by muscle and the instinct to migrate."
From the afterword : "..... I open my eyes and he's right in
front of me, in a low willow thicket that was half-flattened by the winter
ice floes. He is no bigger than my thumb, all black except for the
colorful patches on his wings, flanks and tail- the same pink-orange color, it
occurs to me, as the meat of the native brook trout that still live in the small
headwater streams hereabouts, the same color as a monarch butterfly's wings, and
the wild turk's-cap lilies that bloom her in summer. That symmetry feels
proper, somehow, almost preordained.
The redstart is unaware of me; sitting motionless, I am
simply another misshapen log to his eyes. He flits restlessly through
the willows, fanning his tail, flicking his wings, zipping out to snatch midges
from the air, his bill making a dry little snap! each time he
does. Every thirty seconds or so, he stops, points his head skyward, and
sings; I am so close I can see his small, pointed tongue and the tiny
black feathers of his throat trembling. I can see the minute bristles
around his mouth, the way his body feathers are layered like shingles, the
nostrils that pierce the needle of his beak, the way the sun reflects a
white-hot speck in his obsidian eyes, the way the shafts of the black feathers
mingle with the orange where they meet.
What I cannot see, no matter how closely I look, is what drives
this small creature, barely heavier than air, to make the journeys that it must
make. I may have seen this same redstart in an acacia forest in Jamaica,
among the ruins of a Maya city in Belize, or in a half-dozen other places in the
tropics. I can only imagine what has happened to it in its life- what
near-brushes with predators it has escaped, what storms have tried to rake it
from the sky, what females have taken it as a make, what dynasties of redstarts
it has founded. What thousands of miles have passed beneath its stubby
wings, which seem so ill suited to the task but which have carried it back here
again, to this mountain, this stream, this willow thicket. Its secrets are
locked in that tiny packet of brain and muscle and instinct, a few feet away but
separated from me by an immense, uncrossable distance. It knows, and I do
not. And there seems to a proper symmetry in that, too."
Goose pimples covered my body when I read the first
passage, again when I read the last, and dozens of other times in
between. What can I say about a young man whose writing is so wonderfully
inspired and wonderfully inspiring that it makes me want to throw my keyboard
into the lake?
MORE ON SENDING FILM TO THE LAB
In the last Bulletin I wrote: "Each batch of rolls (same film, same push) it
placed in a sealed Fed-X PAK (Free for the taking - don't tell them that I sent
you)." One subscriber wrote saying that it was wrong for me to
give such advice. She continued, "It's sort of stealing; if you live
an honest life all the time, you will be rewarded. If not,
........" She was of course correct and I thank her for pointing out
the error of my ways. Today, when I sent film to the lab, I grabbed some
supermarket plastic bags and taped a label written on scrap paper to the
baggie. And I felt good about it.
AMAZING IMAGE BY CHARLIE BUSH
Charlie Bush of Massachusetts recently attended a Bosque IPT
with me. He is an expert on digital photography and used the Nikon D-1
almost exclusively. He edited his images during our down time and on
several evenings he graced two of my groups with excellent digital
presentations. As a teacher, the digital approach added a new
wrinkle--easy-as-pie critiquing of the day's images.
After the tour, Charlie wrote: "I want to thank you for the excellent
workshop. I learned more in those three days than I would have in a year."
He was kind enough to attach the image below and added, "I made
this shot when you left the flight deck that last morning. How do you like
it?" I had left because I had concluded
that with the sun coming up in a clear eastern sky there were no more
good photographic opportunities. I responded by congratulating
him his creative vision, his artistic eye, and his flawless
execution. The image was instantly placed on my "All-Time Top-Ten Bird
Photographs" list, and may very well be my favorite Bosque image of all
time. And it's not even mine......
If you'd like to comment on the image, please e-mail Charlie
STILL THREE OPENINGS ON THE FIRST CALIFORNIA
Due to seemingly un-ending numbers of cancellations, there are now THREE
openings on the January 11-16, 2001 IPT. See the web site for details.
ANOTHER CHANCE TO ORDER THE "BEAUTIFUL BIRDS"
Thanks to all of you who ordered my "Beautiful Birds" 2001 calendar, either
for themselves or for gifts. We still have 132 calendars left, so any last
minute orders would be greatly appreciated.
Best and great picture making to all,
Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART