If you rest, you rust.
    Helen Hayes

I've been in the emergency room (ER) a few times; a motorcycle crash, a wood chip in the eye, a ship-born virus that laid low dozens of passengers, including me, in Norway (that was interesting). Nothing really serious. I'd never been admitted to a hospital. I'd never had a broken bone.

MaxTrax Walker boot

Frankenboot: half-a-pound of steel, three-quarters of a pound of plastic, and eight pounds of Velcro.

On 2 January, 2014, that changed. A fall at home resulted in a bumpy ride in an EMS vehicle, a protracted stay in our local hospital's ER, a million dollars worth of tests, scans, blood samples, and IVs, and then an overnight stay “for monitoring” (translation: “make sure this guy gets NO sleep”). Thirty-six hours after arriving in the ER, with no conclusive cause for my fall, and (mis)diagnosed with a badly sprained left ankle, the good folks at St. Joe's discharged me and sent me home.

Ten days later, a follow-up visit with my regular doctor resulted in X-rays and a correct diagnosis of a broken fibula, the smaller of the two bones in the lower leg. Two days later those X-rays were reviewed by an orthopedic doctor. He said “things look stable”, that my fairly active life in the ten days since the break had done no obvious damage, and that a removable hard boot, to be worn for at least another four weeks (more likely six), would allow proper healing of the break.

That's pretty good news, considering what might have happened. The boot prevents bending my ankle, making it clumsy and awkward to get around, but it's more comfortable than a cast, and can be removed when I shower. And people haven't been pestering me to sign the boot. Now, I take it easy, and wait. The doctor suggested I “avoid risky behavior”, a comment that made me laugh. I promised to stay off my skis and snow shoes for a while. I also can't drive my car, which has a clutch, but I can operate my wife's car with automatic transmission.

Cooped Up

January sunrise through fog.

A January sunrise through fog. This picture was made from the safety of my front porch, no risky behavior required.

I love photographing in winter. A good, snowy winter (an oxymoron to many, I know) offers transformed landscapes with common objects turned ephemeral or glistening like diamonds. In winter we often see unique atmospherics and beautiful, soft light. Dawn comes late, dusk comes early. These short days make the golden hours easier to accommodate. Of course, the weather's often terrible, the conditions bad for both the photographer and the equipment. Our mountain valleys here in northwestern Montana suffer from long, gloomy periods of dense fog. Some winters I can count on one hand the number of sunny days between November to March. But those sunny days can be spectacular, and when they aren't a creative photographer can still be productive.

Alas, I'll be avoiding risky behavior during much of this winter.

Unlike Dunbar in Joseph Heller's Catch 22, I've no desire to cultivate boredom. There's plenty to do. I've an endless reading list. I've got a file server to rebuild with a larger RAID (hard drive storage system). I've got plenty of older photos to process, and Photoshop CC's new or changed features to master. I need to build some print storage drawers for my print studio (I can work in my shop well enough). I have frames and mats to order. I'll be featured in a gallery show in May; it's not too early to start planning, printing, and framing for that. Clearly, I've no shortage of ways to keep myself occupied.

But these are all indoor activities. I prefer to be active, and that means getting outdoors. I need frequent, and regular, behind-the-camera time. Walking in this boot is awkward at best. The sole of the boot is smooth, and curved from toe to heel; it's perhaps the worst possible surface for walking on snow or ice; a fall right now could be very bad news. This makes hiking or climbing, or even simply walking outdoors “risky behaviors” I'm supposed to avoid. What can I do? How will I not lose my mind cooped up here in the house?

Shaking Off The Rust

Nuthatch in snow

A nuthatch at the base of a large Ponderosa pine outside my kitchen window.

I hope my answer is right outside my door. I live in a rural area. At two to ten acres, the lots aren't terribly large; I can see several neighbors' houses from mine, but there's still plenty of open space. There are big pines and spruces, native grasses, berries, and shrubs. It's fine habitat for birds, deer, coyotes, foxes, and the occasional black bear. Even bobcats have been reported in the area, although I've yet to see one.

I've done a little photography near home; some of that work can be found on this Web site. When conditions seem reasonable (and safe enough), I'll do more of that in the coming weeks. I can stand, even sit, for long periods watching our array of small birds, woodpeckers, corvids, and others, waiting for a nice pose with a clean, wintry background. I won't be getting a LOT of new pictures, but with a little luck I'll get a publishable photo or two from the effort. The more important goal is to simply be outside, to prevent too much rust from forming on the ferrous parts of whatever creativity I might have. With a little effort, I'm sure I can make this work.

It's Only Temporary

For the next several weeks I won't be ranging far from home for any outdoor activites. I'll surely miss some good winter photography opportunities. But winter is long here in northwest Montana, often extending into May and occasionally beyond, much to the chagrin of normal folk. If all goes well I'll be out of this boot, have my leg back into reasonable shape, and still have a couple of wintry months to get outside with my camera.

January, 2014

The Monthly Disclaimer:I'm sorry about the big © in the middle of the pictures. I hate doing this, and dislike the mess it makes of the image. But I constantly find my pictures all over the Web, often using my bandwidth to display them. There's very little that can be done to stop this violation of my copyright, but I've found when I insert the watermark, the images are virtually never stolen.

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