Liyan Zhao

"Natural disasters expose the limits of human existence. But our things are not just the detritus of futile attempts to dominate nature. They are our part in creation. Whatever we build can be gone in a flash. But between these two poles—between chaos and beauty—there is creativity and even a stab at beauty. And the knowledge that living in nature is both work and art."


[Weather Diary]
Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:18PM. Wet, slushy snow. A day of canceled plans. M sent me a video of a house finch singing outside her window. A surprise text from D in the evening announcing he was in Mexico accompanied by a video of a chorus of birds singing in the tropical treetops.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Paddleboarder finds a string of sea salp while exploring waters off Dana Point, California. The bioluminescent creature appeared clear like glass but gooey like jelly with a visible notochord.

A tornado was spotted in Kentwood, Louisiana yesterday.

The National Weather Service was founded on this day in 1870.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:18PM. J texts me complaining about birding channels on Youtube. "I think people are too hands on with the birds," she says. I tell her about the Estonian nest cams.

*Daily weather news alerts*
A tornado captured in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.

Severe storms, heavy snow, dangerous winds to impact U.S. Thursday. The north side of the storm that will bring severe weather to the South will feature a mix of snow, ice, heavy rain and high winds. This will be the result of a strengthening area of low pressure, which will be tracked through the central and eastern U.S.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:53PM. K mentioned that at certain frequencies humans sound like birds and vice versa.

I watched Amy Halpern’s Falling Lessons in the evening at Experimental Tuesday. Vertical pans. Close-up cuts from human to dog to ferret to cat. A simple move that leveled the field.

*Daily weather news alerts*
A fatal landslide swept through Secocha in Peru's Arequipa region, tearing down houses and leaving large debris in its wake. The region has suffered torrential downpours that are expected to continue. The landslide struck during anti-government demonstrations, many of which were concentrated in southern regions including Arequipa.

Buildings completely flattened in Turkey following yesterday’s powerful earthquake. More than 5,000 people dead as rescue efforts continue.

A dust devil loomed high above Canary Island residents over the weekend.

Wildlife officials in Minnesota rescued a bear that was hibernating in a ditch and became trapped in deep snow and ice. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said that bears occasionally hibernate above ground and that the melting snow can sometimes flood bears out of culverts. This bear's culvert started to flood and the bear got stuck. DNR officials said the 375-400 pound bear was safely relocated to a state game sanctuary to continue hibernating.

The full Snow Moon as seen from Corpus Christi, Texas on Sunday.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—3:17PM. L asked if I’d seen Erik Bullot’s Langues Des Oiseaux. I had not. She said she had just encountered it and thought of me. In the trailer, a woman dons headphones and sings along to a recording of bird songs. “How can you touch the other with a high-pitched sung note or shriek?”

*Daily weather news alerts*
A building in Sanliurfa, Turkey collapses following a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in the region.

A magnitude 3.8 earthquake rattles Buffalo, New York. It was the strongest quake to hit the state in 21 years.

An arctic blast that hit the Northeast over the weekend formed icicles and snow-capped rocks at the base of Niagara Falls.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:32PM. NASA posted a picture of the full moon, called it a Snow or Wolf Moon. B told me on the phone that the full moon today also marks the Lantern festival, the fifteenth day of the first month in the Chinese lunisolar calendar. The next video in my feed, a recommendation from Instagram's algorithm, showed a starling murmuration in Sardinia.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Bubble freezing in real time in Middleville, Michigan.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—3:08PM. Photo from H of a frozen pool in New Jersey. Entombed leaves. Winter finally showed up, she says.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Wind chill record broken as cold batters the U.S. People across the northeastern United States confronted the coldest temperatures seen in decades on Saturday, as an Arctic air mass passed over the region, accompanied by powerful windes that drove wind chills to dangerous levels.

Traffic stopped on I-80 near Salt Lake City as a large herd of elk crossed the busy interstate.

Icy Lake Michigan waves near St. Joseph, Michigan.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—9:21AM. L showed me a video she took from the lake this morning. Low gray clouds that extended all the way down to the horizon. Wisps of sea smoke.

*Daily weather news alerts*
-100°F wind chill recorded on Mount Washington, New Hampshire.

*Daily bird alerts*
Dennis Casper, Milwaukee, WI—Urban Ecology Center bird walk / 23 degrees / Clear / 9 birders / Total Species: 16.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:54PM. Finally picked up J.A. Baker’s The Peregrine after countless recommendations from friends old and new. Discovering a kindred spirit and endeavor. “For ten years I have been looking upward for that cloud-biting anchor shape, that crossbow flinging through the air. The eye becomes insatiable for hawks. It clicks towards them with ecstatic fury, just as the hawk’s eye swings and dilates to the luring food-shapes of gull and pigeons.”

*Daily weather news alerts*
Americans will endure six more weeks of winter, according to the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. The groundhog revealed his answer after seeing his shadow outside his stump Thursday morning.

Arctic blast coming. Parts of the Northeast could see the coldest air since the 1980s in some cases as a dangerous polar vortex moves in this weekend.

2A high voltage power line in Canyon Creek, TX blew and ignited yesterday from the weight of ice. More than 400K were without power in Texas due to the brutal ice storm.

Skating on iced-over roads in Lake Dallas, TX.

Car window covered by sheet of ice in Atoka, TN.

*Daily bird alerts*
Alberto Marcone, Tavagnacco (UD), Italy—I wish to thank all the birders who answered me, either on the list or privately. I went to Tenney Locks this morning: this time I was sure I was in the right place! Unfortunately the trumpeter swan did not show up. I checked the location several times between 7.30 and 9am, while also exploring the area nearby (also to avoid freezing standing still): the number of Canada geese and mallards present either in the water or on the ice slowly increased, but no sign of the swan. I now see on eBird that in the early part of the day it was probably closer to Lake Monona... I doubt I will have another chance of trying before leaving on Saturday, but I again thank all who helped. Best wishes and good birding!

Mark Wallner, Pleasant Prairie, WI—Today on Groundhog day in the small Lake Michigan harbor in extreme southeastern Wisconsin a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers moved about and the drake even did a brief courtship display.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—3:58PM. Long call with L that extended into the early morning. Exchanging stories of hazardous skids on icy roads and animal communication.

B sent over photos of ice-covered trees from their backyard in Austin. An hour later, a group of cedar waxwings feeding on the roof.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Ice storm knocks out power in Texas, grounding many flights. More than 300,000 customers in the state were without electricity on Wednesday, as wintry conditions continued across the South. Thousands of flights had been canceled early Wednesday.

24-hour loop from NOAA showing the large winter storm slamming the South. The colors provide information about the different temperature and moisture characteristics of air masses.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas shared photos of ice-coated trees in North-Central Austin, warning residents that “downed power lines can be deadly, please steer clear and give power crews the room to repair lines and restore power."

Melting ice with flamethrower in Memphis, Tennessee.

*Daily bird alerts*
Tom Erdman, Oconto, WI—Was surprised this cold (-6 degrees F) morning, to find two E. Meadowlarks feeding on exposed edge of HW Y at DNR Oconto Marsh. Several Rough-legs and Red-tails hunting the marsh too.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:53PM. A tip from Lydia Davis on cultivating good writing habits: “Observe the weather, and be specific.” She goes on to include the 1970 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary’s chart of the Beaufort scale which indicates the force of the wind by numbers from 0 to 12. “The images are vivid because of their specificity and the good clear writing in the dictionary, and because the increasing strength of the wind on the scale becomes, despite the dry, factual account, dramatic.”

*Daily weather news alerts*
Ice accumulation in Justin, TX. The worst of the dangerous ice storm slamming the South is yet to come overnight and into Wednesday morning. Ice Storm Warnings and winter weather alerts stretch from Texas to West Virginia.

Sleet covers the roads in Lancaster, Texas. A crippling ice storm has turned deadly in the state as crashes mount and power outages skyrocket across the South.

Rare 17-pound meteorite discovered in Antarctica.

*Daily bird alerts*
Alberto Marcone, Tavagnacco (UD), Italy—I am an Italian birdwatcher, visiting UW at Madison for work this week. Last Sunday (my first day in Madison) I looked for the Trumpeter Swan that has been observed regularly at Tenney Park: I walked almost the whole length of the Yahara river, that seemed the only area with open water, without finding the swan (I saw many mallards and Canada geese, a few coots, and a single female common merganser). Yet the bird was recorded on eBird about at the same time I was there. I must have overlooked the area where the bird hangs out. As I may have a chance for another attempt (perhaps on Wednesday) I am asking for detailed directions about where to go. Thank you very much in advance for your help.

Patrick Ready, Madison, WI—There’s a small area of open water on Lake Mendota. So you need to cross the street by the boat locks and there is a loop driveway for boat launching. It usually is there. Unless this current cold snap froze it over.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—1:05PM. Found an old note while cleaning off my desk this morning. “Elasticity of language. Pigeon as verb. To pigeon. To starling. To crow. To bird.”

L sent me a video from the train of snow-covered tracks en route to Chicago.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Large icicles coat a home in Salt Lake City, Utah where temperatures are expected to plummet to the single digits tonight.

Thunder sleet in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A weather phenomenon called "fallstreak." Spotted across the Southeast last week from Texas to Florida to the Carolinas.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:17PM. Call with B in the morning. We talked about the syllabus for Huma Gupta’s Climate Futures, Cities Past class at MIT. An overabundance of materials to slowly sift through. B proposed Rahul Jain’s Invisible Demons as a first watch. “Whether the promise that these films will lead to collective, desired change is fully realized or not, film-worlds create “an atlas of emotion” which connect sight, site, motion, and emotion. This course asks how can such connections help conjure other ways of living through feeling?”

Watched M and M’s film on the Sundance site in the afternoon. A striking sequence of glaring circular suns over different landscapes. Weather as conduit. Left me thinking about ways to weave together seemingly disparate threads.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Scientists turned California waves pink using environmentally-safe dye to learn about coastal ocean dynamics.

The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE captured an image appearing to show a bear’s face on the surface of Mars. Researchers say the large, circular fracture pattern that forms the outline of the bear’s head “might be due to the settling of a deposit over a buried impact crater.”

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—4:04PM. Winter storm warning in effect until Sunday morning. “Total snow accumulations of 6 to 10 inches. Greatest snow amounts near the lake.”

*Daily weather news alerts*
A bear in Colorado found a wildlife camera and left behind hundreds of selfies. Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks said on Monday that "of the 580 photos captured, about 400 were bear selfies."

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:52PM. B sent me Hillary Angelo’s Harper’s piece on an old gold rush area in Nye County, Nevada. “[The valley is] so big you can see the weather: rain slashing the vaulted sky, the shadows of clouds moving across the mountains. The landscape creates a vacuum of sound, the wind sweeping all noise up into a cinematic void.”

Rewatched Leviathan in the afternoon. It’s a film that makes me feel resentful in the best ways. Teleporting into different bodies, animate and inanimate. Leveling the field. S asked, “Can’t we say alien is just another animal?”

*Daily weather news alerts*
Lenticular clouds over California’s Mount Shasta.

A security camera in Deer Park, Texas captured the moment a tornado tore through the Houston suburb.

*Daily bird alerts*
Dennis Casper, Milwaukee, WI—Urban Ecology Center bird walk / 32 degrees / Cloudy / 11 birders / Total Species: 19.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:39PM. First snow since coming back to Milwaukee. The calmness that descends right after snowfall. M sent me a picture of snow-covered branches around noon.

J showed us Luke Fowler’s Electro-Pythagoras in the evening, a delight in accumulation. Making films with a sense of play and joy, delirious abandon.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Thousands stranded in Japan as cold snap engulfs Asia. Weather authorities in Japan and the Korean peninsula have issued warnings over freezing temperatures and gales that have killed at least one person and left thousands of people stranded. Severe cold weather has caused havoc across the region in the past fortnight. At least 124 people have died in Afghanistan,and temperatures in north-eastern China fell to -53°C.

Significant damage following severe weather in Pasadena, Texas.

Tornado damage in Deer Park, Texas.

A couple in Orange, Texas forced to run from their RV and dive into a ditch with their dogs to shelter as a tornado touched down nearby.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—12:40PM. Just missed a small bird flying overhead as I took my photo of the sky...maybe a sparrow, too fleeting to identify. Dynamic sky today, overcast clouds that opened up every now and then to reveal a glimpse of blue, a flash of light.

S ended class with Nancy Holt’s Utah Sequences. A deep sense of time. An inventory of salt encrusted corpses in different stages of decay. A sudden cut to a sheep herd making their way across a road. It reminded me of an Instagram video in my morning feed showing hundreds of millipedes moving on asphalt in a swarm, moving as a single collective body.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Severe storms in the South Tuesday and Tuesday night will be capable of damaging wind gusts and several tornadoes, a few of which could be EF-2 or stronger.

Multiple trucks parked next to each other broke through the ice on Lake Pepin in Minnesota on Saturday. The sheriff's office said nobody was injured and the vehicles were able to be towed out of the lake.

A waterfall flowing backwards. The winds were gusting so strong that it forced the waterfall to reverse direction. Wind gusts in Ivins, UT were estimated at 60mph.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—12:30PM. First clear blue sky since coming back to Milwaukee. The late morning sun on the breakfast table made me pause in wonder.

We read a passage aloud with L on the Smooth and the Striated, the Smooth as a disorienting boundary-blurring field of close-looking. L showed us the films she’d posted to the class site. I was embarrassed to admit I hadn’t seen much of Peggy Ahwesh’s work, made a mental note to watch Strange Weather when I got home that night. The meandering camera blending body parts and meteorological elements, inner and outer landscapes densely folding into Laura Marx’s quantum strudel.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Drone video captured the moment a moose shed its antlers in a Canada forest. The man who captured the video called it a "once-in-a-lifetime moment."

Storm Cheneso brings flooding risk to Madagascar.

*Daily bird alerts*
Greg Seegert, Beaver Dam, WI—On Saturday, Margie Amato and I went to look for some of the good birds reported along the shoreline of L Michigan by Sheboygan. We found 2 male harlequin ducks at the end of one of the jetties between the harbor and N Pt. On one of the jetties there was an adult glaucous gull. There were 2 LT ducks between the N Pt parking lot and the gazebo on N Pt. There were also 2 black ducks in this area. We went to Manitowoc next but it was dead. On the way to Sheboygan we checked the wood duck houses along CTH B just before its terminus at Hi 33 on the edge of Beaver Dam to see if the screech owl reported a few days earlier was around. It wasn't, however, when we returned about 4 pm it was looking out of one of the houses. Yesterday, I went fishing on Breyer's Cove on Big Green L. I noticed some bird activity as I pulled into the parking lot at the boat launch. I was surprised to see 2 yellow-rumped warblers. On the way home, the screech owl was again visible in one of the wood duck houses described above.

Spence Stehno, Waukesha, WI—Oconomowoc LaBelle cemetery. Currently there is a Ross's goose in the river where the bridge crosses from Land into the LaBelle cemetery, the bird is on the West shore near a red and blue kayak. Just off of Grove Street in the Oconomowoc River.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—10:42AM. Stopped at a red light and watched the sky as a low-flying plane materialized and quickly disappeared back into the clouds.

Cleared out my SD cards in the afternoon and found some old test footage of an underwater video filmed through a glass. An unexpected digital complement to the camera tests filming through water D and I have been doing. Thinking about iteration and evocation.

*Daily weather news alerts*
More footage of the tornado that tore through New Orleans yesterday.

*Daily bird alerts*
Dennis Casper, Milwaukee, WI—Urban Ecology Center bird walk / 34 degrees / Mostly cloudy / 10 birders / Total Species: 16.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:32PM. Dark skies all day. Saw a bunny sitting in the cold rain on my way to class tonight.

Read a passage in The Weather Experiment about John Constable and the importance of the sky and clouds in his paintings. He liked cumulus clouds for their chiaroscuro effect on the landscape: “Madam, I never saw an ugly thing in my life, but light, shade, or perspective would always make it beautiful.” Made me think of the John Cage quote: “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” Duration and close-looking.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Floods and landslides kill scores of people in Kinshasa. Dozens of people injured after heavy rain destroys houses and ruins roads in DRC’s capital.

Strong wind creating ground blizzard conditions in Lusk, Wyoming along Highway 20.

A tornado was spotted crossing a highway in New Iberia, Louisiana. Rescue efforts underway in the area.

Lower East Side, Milwaukee, WI—12:32PM. Met with P and M in the afternoon. P told me about her artist friend who goes to document Lake Michigan everyday. Many parallels with my sky photos. P said she would put us in touch. Talked with M about filmic strategies for capturing the extinct passenger pigeon—working against the perfect image, losing control, embracing failure, grasping for the an image that's no longer possible.

*Daily weather news alerts*
A tornado spotted in Fort Worth, Texas this morning.

A man found himself in the path of an apparent tornado near Grapevine, Texas.

Powerful, severe winds in Forney, Texas.

Heavy snow and wind making for near whiteout conditions on Colorado’s northeastern Plains.

*Daily bird alerts*
Jeremy Meyer, Franklin, Milwaukee, WI—Good afternoon. There are several thousand geese off both sides of Braun Rd by Foxconn. While driving, I saw at least 1 Snow Goose, in a field on the east side of Foxconn. I don't have the time to stop and look through them, but with that impressive of numbers, could be other geese mixed in as well. Good luck!

Sandy U.C. Petersen, rural Stoughton, WI—Swans are resting on the ice on the north side of Lake Kegonsa north of Stoughton. I can hear their conversation and planning. A long way to go I guess.

Lower East Side, Milwaukee, WI—12:59PM. Read about cloud classification in the morning. Studied the illustrations of cumulus clouds from Thomas Forster’s book and looked out my window to see low hanging nimbus clouds in the sky.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Tornado sweeps through New Orleans as death toll from storms reaches 3. A tornado killed a person west of New Orleans on Wednesday as violent storms continued east into Mississippi and Alabama.

*Daily bird alerts*
Werner Fritz, Cedar Grove, WI—Saw my first Northern Shrike of the winter this afternoon at Harrington Beach State Park, just south of the park entrance center. If anyone is looking for a Peregrine Falcon this winter, a single bird has been hanging in or around the WE Energies power plant nest box Port Washington for the past 4 weeks or so.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—11:37AM. Headed out to Vernon Wildlife Area with L to shoot some footage in the early evening. No wildlife sightings but we heard a few owls and a few howls that could have been human or animal.

Finished listening to an Audio Long Read episode on flood resilience. Slow water that lingers and gives life. Local water. Indigenous beliefs that water and natural entities are kin, living beings entitled to rights. Made me think of a National Geographic article about a Canadian river being granted legal personhood that I read in the summer. It mentioned that these Indigenous-led conservation tactics are part of a global rights of nature movement. If corporations are considered people, why not rivers?

*Daily weather news alerts*
Concerns of more landslides in Southern California after portion of cliff collapses onto beach. The landslide, at 10AM local time, forced the closure of the beach and comes as an atmospheric river event, a plume of moisture streaming in from the Pacific Ocean, brings heavy rain up and down the West Coast over the weekend.

*Daily bird alerts*
P. A. White, Shorewood, WI—We arrived on the scene on Saturday afternoon (10 Dec 2022) at about 2:55pm. A couple from Neenah said they'd just seen and photographed the Kittiwake, and then it had headed east towards open water. We finally gave up at about 4:30pm when it started seriously spitting a very cold rain. There were ~29 sightings posted on eBird on Saturday, none of them as yet confirmed, and several from the same individual throughout the day - clearly a hardier soul than us! The last one was posted at 3:20pm, but it said they "last saw the bird flying off toward the lake at 335 and have pics." A little space-time continuum hiccup there? Good hunting to anyone going to look for this bird today!

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—10:41AM. Light drizzle throughout the day. Stopped by Colectivo before J and I drove to Vernon Wildlife Area and noticed two more small bird feeders installed outside—one made out of an old prescription bottle. Heavy fog at Vernon, low visibility. We were all surprised when R flushed a large ring-necked pheasant out of the tall grasses.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Winter weather havoc is expected to make a cross-country run. A “major storm system” is forecast to rumble across the U.S., bringing feet of snow to the West, blizzard conditions in the Northern Plains and tornadoes across the South.

*Daily bird alerts*
Kris Jungbluth, Port Washington, WI—The Black-legged Kittiwake is still actively flying around the harbor.

Pat Ready, Madison, WI—I joined some birding friends from Madison this morning to check out Lake Michigan for waterfowl etc. We did see the Kittiwake at Coal Dock Park in Port Washington around 9:30. It was flying back & fourth toward the west end near the fisherman for about 20 minutes. Then it was gone. Looked around some but never located it again but it probably will return. sky

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—12:28PM. Heavy snow all morning. I stayed bundled up at home, but J braved the cold and sent me a video of R at the dog park. Do dogs feel the cold as humans do?

*Daily weather news alerts*
Montana community rescues horses trapped in deep, icy pond. First responders initially tried constructing a ramp and digging a bank in the ice for the horses to climb out, but they were unsuccessful. Eventually, a tractor was used to pull all the horses out of the water.

Fleeing from hurricanes, Americans are flocking to fire, a study finds. The 10-year national study from the University of Vermont looks at how climate change and other factors have been driving American migration. As people seek refuge from hurricane zones, they are moving to regions with the greatest risk of wildfires and significant summer heat. Concerning since wildfire and rising temperatures are projected to worsen with climate change.

*Daily bird alerts*
Tom Erdman, Pensaukee, WI—Four Snowy Owls spotted at Oconto, the first of the year. A couple hundred Tundra Swans with a few Trumpeters and three Mute Swans scattered along the west shoreline south to Pensaukee and Little Suamico.

Pam Skaar, Madison, WI—About 10 or more years ago it seemed like any Scoter was a rarity on any of Madison's lakes. For the last 5 or so years, Scoters are reported in multiple locations around Madison. When talking with a local fisherman about the scoters and their location in Lake Monona, he indicated that there were invasive clams in that area. This year, there are quite a few Long-tailed Ducks along with many Scoters. Do others think this might be an unexpected benefit to birders from the invasive bivalves? sky

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—2:49PM. Late start to the day, finally caught up on some much needed sleep. Saw that L had sent me a short Guardian doc on teenage birders in the UK. “I record bird [sounds], knowing I might not see them again... For me, a screaming swift is the sound of the summer.”

I watched Jacqueline Goss’s There There Square in the afternoon on C’s recommendation, and saw on her site that she has another film, The Observers—based on the work of the crew of the Mount Washington Weather Observatory in New Hampshire, one of the oldest weather stations in the world where staff members have taken hourly readings of the wind speed and temperature since 1932. In 1938, a 236 mph wind hit the summit: a world record for wind speed recorded by a human being. Pull quote from NYT: "Ms. Goss’s film suggests a lament for a time...when perhaps it was possible to record the weather in this place and feel as if you were the last human on earth."

*Daily weather news alerts*
Large tornado swirls through Qatar desert ahead of the World Cup quarter-finals. The twister, of the “stovepipe” variety, accompanied by hailstones happened near the city of Ras Laffan, about 50 miles north of the capital of Doha. Tornadoes are rarely seen in the desert landscapes of the Middle East—perhaps an ominous sign for the games ahead.

*Daily bird alerts*
Dennis Casper, Milwaukee, WI—Urban Ecology Center bird walk / 34 degrees / Cloudy / 8 birders / Total Species: 19. sky

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—11:56AM. Met R for coffee in the morning and noticed a small bird feeder newly installed outside Colectivo. A wonderfully meandering studio chat with C and L in the afternoon. Once again The Birdpeople came up; thoughts around instability, resistance to capture and fixity; nascent ponderings on the marvelous, the agency of the other-than-human on film.

*Daily weather news alerts*
A massive flock of birds took to the sky near the National Weather Service office in Indianapolis and was so large it appeared on radar.

A rogue wave slammed into a cruise ship in the Drake Passage, causing a passenger death and several injuries.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—12:19PM. A delirious 6AM arrival back in Milwaukee. Snuck in a few hours of sleep before a studio chat with J in the early afternoon. J mentioned Michael Gitlin’s The Birdpeople, recalling her visceral anxiety at the sight of the unfertilized eggs of an extinct woodpecker being handled. A promising lead from J: giant condor-like birds spotted hanging around the Haribo building near Kenosha.

A mesmerizing film program by S in the evening. Images from Denys Colomb de Daunant’s Dream of the Wild Horses in my mind as I drifted off to sleep.

*Daily weather news alerts*
An Australian couple finds a stowaway snake as they drive along a highway in New South Wales.

Prospect Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn, NY—1:30PM. Caught up with D over breakfast in Brooklyn Heights, heard all about his recent trip. He and P stayed in a house with no electricity and heat in Bulgaria. D said he fell sick immediately. I was glad to see that he seemed fully restored by the Turkish leg of their trip. The healing powers of the seaside.

L and I hit the road in the late afternoon. The skies were already dark. Drove through the night into early morning.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Ice researchers in Antarctica capture intense wind blasting through Allan Hills.

Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY—1:51PM. B, L and I slept in until noon. We ate a slow brunch of cannellini beans, bread, and olive oil before heading to MoMA to see the Wolfgang Tillmans show. Brazen maximalism—overwhelmed by the sheer number of images. Felt myself drawn to the small and elemental photos, images that pointed skyward.

Dinner with J and M. We distressed over the turmoil in Iran and China before M put on a nature doc on the endangered Sichuan takin.

*Daily weather news alerts*
Lightning flashes inside the erupting Stromboli Volcano's ash plume in Italy off the coast of Sicily. Stromboli is considered one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has continuously erupted since 1932. Scientists believe volcanic lightning is created by static electricity that results from particles within the ash plume rubbing against each other.

Sunset Park, Brooklyn, NY—12:24PM. L and I got into Brooklyn around 4AM. A few hours of sleep before we headed out to meet H for lunch. It drizzled all day and I was glad to have packed an extra umbrella.

*Daily weather news alerts*
The National Weather Service issued a Dust Storm Warning for areas of Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas as the system moved through.

A buck in Colorado crashed through a window and landed in a Colorado Springs basement office. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Travis Sauder noted that in mating season, bucks sharpen their antlers on trees and spar violently with rival bucks. Perhaps the buck saw its reflection in the basement window, mistaking it for another.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—12:45PM. Read a 99pi article on Bermuda rooftops designed to withstand hurricanes and collect fresh rainwater, and how they’re now being imported into other storm-prone areas. Listened to more of Rising: Chapter 2 on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana —stories of people who stay behind, who hold on fiercely to the place they’ve lived in their entire lives.

*Daily weather news alerts*
A tractor trailer flipped over the side of a freeway guardrail and crashed down on top of wreckage from an earlier collision in rainy conditions in Santa Clarita, California.

Blebs of liquid rock spew from Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

*Daily bird alerts*
Tracy Chi, Milwaukee County, WI—There is a female Red-breasted Merganser in distress at the boat launch at McKinley Marina. She has something blue (scrunchy??) badly stuck around base of bill, bottom 1/3 of bill is broke & hanging, & she is frantically preening her left side (suspect something is wrong there also).

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—3:44PM. Downloaded an audiobook version of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, which E had recommended. Chapter one talked about the disappearance of the black tupelo tree: “I see them and know that the erosion of species, of land, and, if we are not careful, of the very words we use to name the plants and animals that are disappearing is not a political lever or a fever dream. I see them and remember that those who live on the margins of our society are the most vulnerable, and that the story of species vanishing is repeating itself in nearly every borderland...And if we do not call them by their names we will lose not only the trees themselves but also all trace of their having ever been.”

*Daily weather news alerts*
A winter weather phenomenon called sea smoke on Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota

Key West residents celebrated the end of the 2022 season by setting Hurricane flags on fire.

*Daily bird alerts*
Dennis Casper, Milwaukee, WI—Urban Ecology Center bird walk / 20 degrees / Mostly sunny / 6 birders / Total Species: 15.

Riverwest, Milwaukee, WI—3:32PM. A lovely email from C this morning recommending the Wisconsin Birding Network listserv for up-to-date bird leads. He calls them “the Oracles.”

*Daily weather news alerts*
Tropical Storm Martin intensifies as post-tropical storm but poses no threat to land. Martin formed in the North Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday morning. The National Hurricane Center said the storm is located about 550 miles east-northeast of Bermuda, moving east at 12 mph, and is expected to weaken over the next few days.

New extreme weather pattern emerging: A wintry West and record-warm East. Stormy weather is predicted for the middle of the nation, with severe thunderstorms and tornadoes possible later this week.

SpaceX launched the world’s most powerful rocket at 9:41AM using more than 5 million pounds of thrust to rise above thick blanket of morning fog.

*Daily bird alerts*
Hakim Barrett, Sauk County, WI—Blackbird migration has been pretty steady this fall at Long Lake near Lone Rock. I've been seeing flocks of up to 50. I can hope for even more to show up as we get into November. Good birding!

John Kivikoski, Rural Iowa County, WI—I’ve been seeing a few thousand a day for the past couple of weeks in south-central Iowa County, mostly COMMON GRACKLES with a few RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS in the mix. Tonight I took a cell phone video of a group of a couple thousand in one flock. I had just submitted an eBird checklist with 1,500 Grackles and then the next flock flew over, so I’d say I had 4,000+ tonight. The acorn crop is decent this year, and there’s plenty of corn and soybean stubble to pick through, so until we get some harsh weather, I expect them to stick around.

Judy Ettenhofer, Spring Green, WI—I've been seeing them at least by the hundreds, if not more, over our house in Spring Green too. A bunch paused briefly in our tall white pines, then took off again. Quite the sight in the sky.

Crisp blue sky that turned a bit milky by the late afternoon. Something resembling a thin fog covered the entire sky. The radio host on the local NPR station mentioned a chance of rain this weekend but even he didn't seem to believe it.

Saw that Kate Bush was topping music charts again and took a deep dive on YouTube. Watched her music video for Cloudbusting, inspired by Wilhelm Reich's devices that he claimed could produce rain by manipulating "orgone energy" present in the atmosphere. He believed orgone was a universal life force, coalescing to form organisms, clouds, galaxies. sky

Soft groups of clouds neatly distributed across the sky.

Came across the ecosex manifesto. "We are aquaphiles, teraphiles, pyrophiles and aerophiles. We shamelessly hug trees, massage the Earth with our feet and talk erotically to plants. We are skinny dippers, sun worshippers and stargazers. We caress rocks, are pleasured by waterfalls and admire the Earth's curves often. We make love with the Earth through our senses. We celebrate our E-spots. We are very dirty."

Watched a short film in the evening called The Nest that reminded me a lot of Stephen Gill's The Pillar (a favorite I come back to time and again). Thinking about the single frame, letting landscape hold space and time. sky

Clear sky with a few small wisps of clouds scattered about.

Bit of an insomniac these days. Listened to the chapter in Rising about Oakwood trying to fall asleep last night. A lot of things I had experienced in person during my visits but also heart-rending descriptions of the aftermath of Sandy and the demoliton of the houses.

Reports of more rainstorms in Kentucky, chances of more flash flooding in the coming days.

Starting to do some research into the water systems around Milwaukee and came across an interesting NYT piece about Chicago’s changing relationship to Lake Michigan. sky

Larger, denser clouds today compared to the past few days. Consistent heat in the three digits.

Read a 99pi article on Bermuda rooftops designed to withstand hurricanes and collect fresh rainwater, and how they’re now being imported into other storm-prone areas. Listened to more of Rising—a section on Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana which loosely inspired Beasts of the Southern Wild. Stories of people who stay behind, who hold on fiercely to the place they’ve lived in their whole lives. Reminders of the families who chose to stay in Bayou Oaks after three consecutive floods in In Too Deep: Class and Motherhood in a Flooded Community.

Practiced parallel parking with dad in the evening, getting ready for driving in New York and the unknown streets of Milwaukee. sky

Scattered clouds, still no rain in sight. Waited until sunset to get a nice photo of the sky but the color wasn’t as vibrant as the day before.

Listened to an episode of 99 pi on water today. Descriptions of disembodiment in water, losing one’s body to melt into a collective body.

Downloaded an audiobook version of Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, which E had recommended. Chapter one talks about the disappearance of the black tupelo tree.

“I see them and know that the erosion of species, of land, and, if we are not careful, of the very words we use to name the plants and animals that are disappearing is not a political lever or a fever dream. I see them and remember that those who live on the margins of our society are the most vulnerable, and that the story of species vanishing is repeating itself in nearly every borderland…And if we do not call them by their names we will lose not only the trees themselves but also all trace of their having ever been.”

“…learn the names now, and you will at least be able to preserve what is being threatened in our collective memory, if not in the physical world.” sky

Almost cloudless skies in the afternoon. The day felt brighter than usual but it may have been due to a mix of me being cooped up inside for two days and the excitement of picking up the new car today.

Drove down to San Marcos to finalize the paperwork on the car. Feels surreal finally having a car of my own after so many years. A whole new world of possibilities open to me, but also the new burden of upkeep costs and responsibilities.

Sent an article that popped up in my newsfeed about New York transforming back into an “aquapolis” to N. Wildlife returning to New York waters and more people being drawn to the shoreline.


Mostly clear skies today, a nice, neat pair of clouds when I went out to take a snapshot in the afternoon. Still cooped up resting, but it was nice to step outside for a brief moment and feel the heat of the sun.

Couldn’t use my eyes much all day, caught up on podcasts I haven’t heard in a long time. Highlight was an Audio Long Read episode on wild rice and the rights of nature.

News alert about deadly flash flooding in Kentucky yesterday. sky

Day of surgery today, spent all afternoon and evening with an ice pack over my eyes. Asked B to take a picture of the sky, curious to see how it looks. He said it was quite cloudy and mentioned that he included a bit of the trees in the photo. He suggested that I frame more of the context in my documentation of the sky. sky

A few small clouds in the sky. Another hot dry day, high of 102, with no end in sight. Another news alert today about heatwave along the Eastern seaboard.

B said he was worried about the lawn, and I mentioned watching something about lawn alternatives in the wake of the drought on the West coast. sky

Flight home to Austin this morning. Clear skies overhead, a few low clouds close to the horizon. Temperatures in the three digits in Austin. Saw a news alert that the Pacific Northwest is also getting record temperatures in the three digits.

Reports of flashing flooding in St. Louis. Concerns over growing threat of serious drought just days before and then record rainfall. Scientists warn that as climate continues to warm, flash floods will be more dangerous and destructive. sky

Rainy with heavy clouds for most of the day. Much cooler than the past few days. The sun finally emerged around 6p and the summer heat returned.

Went to the Sculpture Center and PS1 with K. Watched a long video piece that made me think of representing modes of production on screen. Saw a piece that was a collection of water samples taken from all around New York City. Found a sample from Great Kills in Staten Island, close to Oakwood.

A vibrant Deana Lawson show at PS1, a blend of staged and chanced life. Intentional omissions and confusions.

Stopped by D’s to look at footage from our last shoot together. Some beautiful results from D’s tests shooting through a glass container of water.

Late night packing for 6am flight tomorrow. Sleep will have to wait. sky

Unbearably hot day with faint wisps of clouds in the sky. Seemed like the air conditioning was off everywhere I went. M said it reminded her of Europe and I thought of summers in China, getting by with nothing but a fan.

Met up with A and E in the afternoon, poor E on crutches, and M and C later on for dinner. Bittersweet last days in New York, seeing everyone for what feels like the last time in a long time. But two year isn’t so long, is it? sky

Clear skies at the beach with B. A noticeable shift in temperature coming back to Sunset Park at night.

B and I took half a tab of acid each which hit us at some point on the ferry ride to Rockaway. Was completely entranced by the water ripples coming off the back of the boat, layers of water moving over other water only to merge into one water again. Thought of Roni Horn’s descriptions of water in Another Water. sky

Mostly clear skies with a medium breeze. Blazing hot sun that was hard to bear without a little shade.

Finished listening to the Audio Long Read episode on flood resilience. Slow water that lingers and gives life, local water. Indigenous beliefs that water and natural entities are living beings entitled to rights. Makes me think of a National Geographic article I read about a Canadian river being granted legal personhood. These Indigenous-led conservation tactics are part of a global rights of nature movement. If corporations are people, why not rivers?

“We need to see that as humans we are not above the water or the animals. We are part of a whole. When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves, too.” sky

Bright afternoon sun with dense patches of clouds. A real vertical depth to the sky. The clouds sat in delineated layers high into the atmosphere. Some unsettling sounds of thunder in the mid afternoon.

Finally watched Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life today. A lesson in camera work and editing. Fluid camera movements, wide-angle close-ups, upward angles, quick cuts between moving shots. Slippage between different spans of time. Glory in the indifference of nature.

Saw a terrifying video of a sinkhole in the Bronx that emerged during the rain storm a few days ago. Natural disasters and crumbling infrastructure. Thoughts of pothole-ridden Fox Lane on Staten Island. sky

Slowly shifting cloud formations that the sun peeked through turned into clear skies by the early evening. Hot day but the kind of dry heat I love.

Watched a short by Lucretia Martel that began with a long time-lapse of a pastoral Argentinian landscape. Thought of geologic time, different scales of time and perspectives, and how to represent these on film. Time-lapse could be a good device to play with, maybe a jarring juxtaposition, quick cuts between time-lapse and slow-motion.

Went to the last house class with C at night, bittersweet and touching. We talked about the oral histories of the dance, the gatekeepers, and the passing on of the culture. He advised me to think of my body as an instrument in the music, to take my time with everything, to not be afraid of being late. Dance lessons and life lessons. Embodiment, service, and patience. sky

Mostly clear skies with wisps of clouds hanging about. A cooling breeze. Watched Fire of Love with A. Wasn’t a fan of the stylistic flourishes but absolutely astounding footage from the two volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft. So steadfast and absolutely in their joint pursuit of the volcanoes they love. The pursuit of scientific knowledge but also some unnameable feeling beyond the rational.

It’s something of the same compulsion that drives storm chasers I think. A compulsion I’m feeling more and more as I dive deeper into this work. An itch to travel, to document natural forces so much greater than oneself. Stepping away from humanity to get closer to humanity. sky

Cloudy, overcast day. Extremely humid, worse than yesterday. The air felt like hot molasses. Body heavy and sluggish, but managed to make the trip to Staten Island to pick up my trail camera. The local geese had wandered all the way out to the post office, the farthest I've seen them. I’ve grown quite fond of them over the weeks. Felt a twinge of sadness leaving them for the last time.

Read about cloud classification on the bus ride there and back. Studied the illustrations of cumulus clouds from Thomas Forster’s book and looked up to see low hanging nimbus clouds outside the bus windows. Later received a blog link from A that showed the illustrations in color. sky

Cloudy, balmy day. Classic summertime New York humidity. The air temperature 82° but the "feels like" temperature had to be at least 10° higher.

16mm workshop with S tonight. First time at Mono No Aware. Warm and generous space, wished I'd visited earlier. Shot on my Bolex for the first time and realized I need a wider lens for it. I told S that I was moving to Milwaukee soon for an experimental film program, and he mentioned that the school has great facilities for 16mm and a lot of mutual contacts. Left feeling lifted in spirit and better about leaving the city for now.

N sent me Instagram videos of the rainstorm yesterday. The stairs of a city park looked like an immense waterfall. Much more torrential than the rain I experienced between Sunset Park and Lincoln Center. sky

Surprised by sudden rain in the early afternoon. Overcast skies for the rest of the day. The overwhelming humidity of the morning broke instantly. A jarring shift in atmospheric sensation that felt a bit like teleportation.

Met I to watch a Taiwanese film her godfather directed. Not much to note plot-wise but appreciated the aquatic shots and sounds. The bright orange color of the main character’s fish shop uniform popped against the environment. Orange:blue, orange:water, orange:wet, orange:melodrama, orange:loneliness—a synesthesic complementary color theory. sky

Mostly clear skies with a few clumps of clouds scattered about. Thought about going to Staten Island to pick up the trail cam but decided to wait for potential rain this weekend. Impromptu gallery visit and long chat with A after.

Read a passage in The Weather Experiment about John Constable and the importance of the sky and clouds in his paintings. He especially liked cumulus clouds for their chiaroscuro effect on the landscape. Many parallels to film where light is everything. “Madam, I never saw an ugly thing in my life, but light, shade, or perspective would always make it beautiful.”

Makes me think of the famous John Cage quote, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

Duration and close-looking. sky