Now that spring is just around the corner – well, maybe for you it has already arrived, but in most of Canada where I live it doesn’t really arrive until the end of April – I find myself looking forward to walking in my wild places again, as they begin waking up.
Throughout my life, from time to time, someone has asked me about this – how do you do that? How do you not get lost, etc? I’m reminded of one January day this winter when I was leaving a parking lot to re-enter a very wild area in NE Toronto where deer and coyotes roam- an area of woods and swamp brushland where almost nobody else goes – when a young man stopped me with a request.
On the edge of that parking lot, many people come to see the deer, who come to the parking lot looking for handouts. People give them apples, vegetables, buns, etc. Unlike other naturalists, I don’t condemn them for giving the animals unnatural food. For they’re being attracted to the wild, and I know, or at least I hope, that a few of them will take the next step and entire that wild place and begin to learn more about it.
But this morning there were no deer at the parking lot. It was too cold for them. I knew the cedar grove where they were likely to be hiding out. So, this young man, who I would say was about 30 yrs old, asked me if I, about 75 yrs old, would take a small container of McDonald’s fries into the woods and leave it there for them. He was concerned about them in this extreme cold.
I smiled inwardly, and said I would be happy to take them, that I would put the fries down in one of their feeding spots. Some I suppose are offended by this – you would give McD fries to wild deer!? Well, fries are a vegetable, and deer probably like the salt on them. It it would give them some carbs at a time when they need them. I know these deer well and they appear very healthy (I came back to check 2 days later – the fries were completely eaten by someone).
What I was sorry about after though, was that I didn’t offer to take the young man with me. In less than half an hour I could have shown him many things – like, for example, the fascinating intricate trails of the deer, which I use to help me through heavy snow, and we might have met his beloved deer too, and maybe he would then return on his own and learn to walk in those woods by himself.
Anyway, thinking about that this morning, I was reminded of how George Adamson, the famous Kenyan who re-introduced many orphaned lions into the wilds of eastern Kenya, was asked by one woman tourist visitor to his camp to teach her ‘bush lore’, so she too could walk about comfortably in the wild. George told her that it was very simple, just:
“Stop talking so much; listen, use your eyes, watch the wind, and sniff it from time to time.”
There it is. I’m inclined to make it even simpler – I would reduce it to, “Just stop talking.”
For if you remain silent in any wild place, your eyes and ears and other senses will automatically become more alert. They evolved for exactly that, to perceive a wild world.
Hunters know – or at least native hunters are well aware of it – that lone hunters are more successful than those in parties. It’s because they aren’t talking.
And don’t forget that when you’re out in wild places with a camera instead of a gun, you’re still a hunter. The skills you use in finding your quarry are the same.
You can even apply this to unnatural places, like a large office where you might work. During the last 20 years of my career in the insurance claims business, moving from office to office on temporary contracts, someone (always a woman) in each one inevitably labelled me “the quietest man in the office”, or some version of that.
For, although I worked alone most of the time, which was my preference, I was always listening. Knowing what is going on among your fellow workers is a key to survival. Listening to individuals talk, you can learn, to some extent, how they think, which is especially important with supervisors/managers. Though people on the autistic spectrum are assumed to be poorly equipped to cope with workplaces, we do have skills like this that can help us, along with our increased ability to focus on tasks.
Anyway, yes, spring is coming and I’m looking forward to it. Though I say the ability to enter that world is simple, like all things in the universe, it does have another side to it. The famous hunter and naturalist Jim Corbett, who was as experienced with tigers in India as George Adamson was with lions in Africa, once said:
‘Jungle lore is not a science that can be learned from text books; it can, however, be absorbed a little at a time, and the absorption can go on indefinitely, for the book of nature has no beginning, as it has no end.’
That quote, by the way, and the previous one are taken from Adrian House’s biography of George Adamson, The Great Safari.