A couple of years ago I wrote a piece on Hunting Woodpeckers. And I’m reminded of this again this weekend as I find myself in the forest, camera in hand, German Shorthaired [woodpecker-hunting] Pointer by my side, an extra layer of down protecting my shivering core from the elements.
The hunt, a metaphor, perhaps, for seeking something fleeting, fantastic, magical, outside of your own same self.
We’re traipsing down a familiar (and ice-laden) path this afternoon, a sparkling February day, woods a brittle quiet and waiting for spring to do its thing. The day is warm-ish in comparison to the last weeks, where it feels as though ice has formed most everywhere.
While February is a hopeful month (and the groundhog this year concurs), it still wields the dreaded trident of Valentine’s musts, Winter’s dregs and early spring fever. I escape by endeavouring on a photo safari, as one does, to find my unicorn.
My inner compass guides me towards the forest when life gets bumpy. When I feel shut-in, work becomes overwhelming, or the din of the battling egos and brandification of the world in which we live becomes deafening, I turn to the trees. And I look to the birds.
I practice a yoga-meets-the-natural-world approach, seeking peace and balance from that which does its thing without it being a thing at all. I turn to the forest, for its silence absorbs the cacophony of sound and thought and mind-stuff that jockeys for position in my overactive headspace.
So on this day, I find myself in on a familiar trail and my dog takes a left where we would typically go straight. And I wonder if he can sense what it is I’m seeking. I also wonder if he’s also bored with the straight and slippery path (itself, a metaphor!). For sure he knows the call; he knows the way I stop and look in awe as the birds do their thing in the trees; he hears the deep tap-tap-tap of their beaks and their jocular calls.
Is he hunting his own woodpeckers, or mine?
We aren’t 5 metres down this trail when I hear it call, close-by! I slowly turn towards the hollow knocking and look up to find him enjoying, I’m certain, his own respite from the sleet and snow and gray days. I watch for a moment and shoot, sneaking as close as I can without disturbing his mission.
He flits across the trees; stopping, pecking, bouncing through the air as woodpeckers do. And I watch as he works; more watching than shooting, I observe.
Because once you catch your unicorn, is it what you thought it would be? Is it still what it was?
And if you let it go and observe its flights of fancy, does it become more precious?
Thank you for reading. 🕉🦄