Lions in Winter
The light is fading, it’s snowing over the Sangre de Cristo mountains to our south and west. The sun has dropped behind those snow clouds and its cold, 10 degrees fahrenheit and slowly dropping with a soft breeze, ok a breeze with that temperature is anything but soft. I’m out here looking for three cats that our neighbor had described over the phone as 3 or 4 times the size of a house cat, solid tan color but with a dark band down the back and over the tail, and yes, the tail was quite long. I suspect Mountain Lion but 3 small ones?
I drove the 1/2 mile or so up the narrow road to her house and pulled down the driveway. “They’ve been hanging out under the solar panel for about an hour” so that is where my attention is directed and as I stop about 50 yards from that spot a Mountain Lion is walking up the hill away from me. So… are there kittens here, am I too late? As I grabbed the camera and quietly closed the car door the cold and quiet impressed themselves on me. The birds have roosted by now, dreaming the dark and cold away. As for the numbing air, well, it is winter.
Scanning and walking slowly and quietly toward the solar panel something moves up hill among some granite boulders surrounded with winter-worn scrub oak. Lion cubs! Cold is erased, now two thoughts simultaneously try to take over. The first is “get the shot, get the shot, get the shot” the other is stop, watch, savor this moment, this view, this impossibly wonderful experience. On occasion, those seemingly incompatible intentions allow some space to do both. Of course that really only happens when the subject “cooperates” as these little guys did. They were somewhat apprehensive about my presence but mom must have told them to stay there because that is what they did. My approach was slow and never direct, giving them space and when they seemed more apprehensive I backed away. Sometime while that was happening I realized I had to look at the shutter release to get my finger on it as I could no longer feel my fingers.
The light is about gone now, time for me to go, mom maybe on her way back (if she wasn’t watching from the rocks above) to take these about 3 month old kids to her latest kill and hopefully fill their bellies against the frigid night.