Welcome back to your almost-every-Tuesday-barring-natural-disaster meander about the internet, Bird Mail. I don’t promise to have the answer to life, the universe, and everything but I do have a story about the snow, some photographs, and something to read and ponder.
I hope you didn’t miss Bird Mail too much last week. Like every other Texan except Ted Cruz, I was dealing with the sustained effects of the cold weather that gave us that beautiful view of downtown from Zilker Park. There are far better places to learn about what happened, so I won’t spend any more time other than to say that Bird, Navy Bean, and our families are all safe. Some are a bit worse for wear, but everyone made it through.
It is unusual for it to snow in Austin. It is even more unusual for it to snow twice in the span of thirty-something days. For once the forecasts are right and the snow is coming and someone in this household is kid-on-Chrismas-morning-excited for it. At 0200 I wake up to Bird sitting at the window marveling at the flurries. At 0630 I am rather rudely woken up by an alarm on my holiday Monday off.
“I’m too excited I’m already dressed I’m going outside!”
I’m trying to get the words out to say, “let me put my warm clothes on, I’ll be right behind you,” but before I finish my sentence, the door slams and she’s off.
I quickly throw on my warmest clothes, dig around for my gloves, grab my Leica and run out the door. At this point I am minutes behind and am so intent on catching up I miss the initial wonder of the fresh snow and the quiet of everything.
Crunching quickly toward Zilker Park, I pause to see the steam rising where the Barton Springs water—a normally bone-chilling 68ª year-round—meets Lady Bird Lake. click With gloves on and a still-new-to-me-camera, I completely miss focus on my first shot. I line up the rangerfinder correctly this time. click
There are only a few sets of footprints headed toward the park and in the distance I see a small person calf-deep in the snow. It is at this point I realize Bird and I are two of the first people in the park today. There is beautiful sculpted, unbroken snow all around, and the kind of quiet you only get when there’s a layer of snow a few inches thick soaking up all the sound.
We trudge toward the big rock in the center of the park. Normally, it is a reliable meeting place during the Austin City Limits Music Festival, and a welcome source of shade. Today, it is hard to tell where the elevation of the rock is among all the white. click
We get to the top of the rock, and turn around just as the sun crests the edges of the buildings on the East end of downtown. The blue shadows are immediately hit with the warm orange light and I throw the lens focus to infinity. The wide route we took to the rock pays off. Not a single footprint in the frame. click
My gloves are thin and my fingertips are numb, but I keep pausing to admire how the the little crests and troughs that I never notice in the land when I walk on it on a sunny Sunday have been replaced with ripples of white, sculpted into dunes by the wind. click
I like to think that in some ways, I curate my own, tiny corner of the internet, but not in the same, overused way that a gift guide is curated to give you the “seven perfect things you didn’t know you needed to give someone that will end up being donated to Goodwill within seven months.” My corner is mostly contained by the bounds of this newsletter, and what other writings you might find on my website, and I am thoughtful about what goes there.
I spent part of last week finishing a wonderful paper-copy—the power was out and I needed to conserve battery—book about the art world. I promise it is, and is not, as pretentious as it sounds. Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Curating*: *but Were Afraid to Ask is a series of interview snippets with the curator, and historian of curation, Hans Ulrich Obrist. There is much to be learned from this master of curation and interviewing—he runs twenty-four hour long interview marathons with artists, scientists, architects, futurists, and the like—but perhaps my favorite bit of wisdom is that curation, and art itself, is a daily protest against forgetting.
That is exactly what these photographs, and this story, and this newsletter is about. Bird Mail is a collection of words and images, all digital internet ephemera that could easily be lost in the mix, that might be worth remembering. Not everything in Bird Mail will be memorable to you, dear reader, but I sure hope a link here or there is. At this point, my thinking on the Bird Mail’s place in that protest against forgetting, and a few of Obrist’s other ideas are still developing. More on that to come.
I don’t track analytics on Bird Mail. I believe your privacy is more important than my knowing when you open Bird Mail and what links you click. I measure the success of this newsletter by your replies, or when you share Bird Mail with a friend in hopes they might find something worth remembering. I would love for you to share a little piece of internet ephemera that you cannot forget. I will add them to my ever-growing list of ideas and you just might see it in Bird Mail one day soon.
This was a long one (<— that was the one-thousandth word in this issue) but thank you if you made it this far. I promise they won’t all be like this. I think. Who knows really? This one was fun to write in a different way than previous issues.
If, for whatever reason you made it this far and you don’t want to hear another word from me, you may exit this way.
Until the next Tuesday,
If you enjoyed this issue and aren’t already getting Bird Mail every other Tuesday, you can join the small, but growing, group of birders here to get more—but not too many—emails about design, bicycles, art, technology, and anything else on the internet I find worth adding to my collection. If you want to share Bird Mail with someone you know, simply forward this email to them.