I’ve considered before how things tend to assume the shape I anticipate: expect a bear and one will appear, if only for a fleeting second as I gaze at a fire blackened stump; hope for a great horned owl and the shreds of cedar bark caught on a limb will flap into my consciousness; prepare for a moose, camera held ready, and shadows will lumber off into swamps, oddly silent for such large creatures.
It does not take much to convince me that this same sort of supposition goes on daily, every second, in fact, as we struggle to understand one another and the thoughts that inform our lives.
Of course, when out searching for wildlife to photograph, the consequences of acting too quickly on assumptions will only result in hasty photos of limbs where I think birds should be or bushes that look nothing like the creature I had imagined. Rather than delving deeply into the negative repercussions of believing first impressions, however, I’d like to consider a day when it appeared that the woods flourished with that which we were hoping to see.
Of course, spring’s arrival had almost everything to do with the abundance and much to do with creating the illusion that all we had to do was think of something and there it would be.
The willows were greening up and the snow was gone. Animals could walk freely through the underbrush, with plenty to browse and yet as observers we could still gaze in and see them as they browsed the new shoots. “There’s one,” whispered my husband as we idled along the road, searching mainly for moose yet willing to photograph anything that moved. I’ve learned to look for the horizontal lines when attempting to spot ungulates. Those straight backs stand out against the grid-work of trees stretching skyward. Colours are often unreliable markers for animals; even the brightest birds can disappear amid the stands of green and brown which on closer inspection yield blue and red and yellow quite readily.
So there behind the cottonwoods and spindly hard-hack branches stood a moose, contentedly chomping on a willow branch. And there was another and its calf; further still another mom and calf, then a young bull, then an older bull until finally, we had seen thirteen moose. We saw so many we became convinced we had missed more. Each time, there would be a hint that maybe, just maybe that was something and slowly the form would take shape into a moose. We should have tried to see pots of gold, though once the day was done our lives were definitely richer.
On this trip we also spied what may have been a wolf (or a long legged coyote,) three deer, two sapsuckers, one bear, a flock of tree swallows, many juncos and chickadees, twelve mountain goats, and a Canada goose whose mate was no doubt on the nest.
The other sights of the day included wildflowers and catkins and the breathtaking green of the first shoots of mare’s tale. Even the bark on the trees looked fresh and scrubbed.
It was a day to dream about in the dead of winter- a day when I almost believe I could have taken a photo of nothing but a stand of trees then teased out the image of a creature later just by playing with the light.