Watching Stories

A game of patience

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A game of patience : it is the definition of hides and a good summary of my previous week. The hide net stayed into place in the forest and I sneaked in as often as possible in order to enjoy this rare opportunity of watching Woodcocks close up rather than flying away. Each time it is the same effort again. It looks like there is nothing. A binoculars scan. Still nothing. One more time, nothing again. The thoughts wanders and you end up looking more than observing.

Then you remotivate yourself. Let’s go, this time is the good one. And this evening, it is. I find the woodcock far away in the undergrowth. Then starts a long laborious monitoring with the observation scope in the interlacing of the branches. It is always the same routine : few steps, sinking the beak in the ground, pause, feeling, a deeper burst with the beak, pause, feeling, nothing. Getting the beak out, few steps ahead and starting again. An open area, swift crossing, watching the surroundings carefully.

Despite this franctic rythm, the woodcock stays very discreet and mimetic. It appears and disappears instantly. That is how it arrives fifteen meters from me, just after sunset. The light is soft at the edge of the lake. It is cold. Almost no wind, everything is quiet. The occasion for beautiful images. The bird walks to the right, disappears behind a trunk and…and…and nothing ! It should have come out on the other side of the trunk, but no. Despite me examining every corner, I cannot find it again. So I start scanning the undergrowth one more time looking for the slightest movement which could betray its presence. But this time instead, it is a tiny patch of light, in between two close trees, that catches my attention. It is round, cream colored. It is settled on a tuft of grass alongside the ice of the lake, beyond the trees. The angle is uncomfortable. I move about in the hide, contort myself as much as I can to install the scope. It is the woodcock, somnolent with half-closed eyes.

On its promontory, facing west, the view open on the blue shaded moutains and the vast frozen lake, I cannot help but imagine it is contemplating. I cannot help but projecting myself in its place, savouring the beauty and the peace of such a scene from my favorite spot. I already hear the sirens of anthropomorphism which my experience has taught me to be suspicious about. Yes this woodcock is resting here in order to probably just keep away from the snow and the ice that is covering everything else. It probably has an open view to see eventual predators coming. And it is likely that it has benefited from the warmth of the last sunbeams in this spot. Yes, for sure. But could it be possible that beyond all that, a small part of itself simply enjoys the fact of being there ? Who has never wondered what an animal is thinking about when it is doing nothing, when it is here, motionless, attentive, the gaze into the distance ?

Whatever those questions are, they do not take away anything from the softness of this observation, from the ecstatic pleasure of being able to contemplate this scene and of letting the pencil run almost automatically on the paper to grasp the richness of this magnificent bird’s plumage.

My eye go back between paper and scope, and at some point, when my eye returns to the scope, the bird has disappeared once again. I find it again and loose it again, for good this time.

It’s now very dark. It is time to go home. As I start tidying my stuff, a woodcock flies away two meters from me ! With still as much discretion as usual, it had snuck unnoticed to the edge of my hide !

Here I am, back at home and it is now time to trace the fieldsketch and to think about putting it into watercolor. I read my field notes again. A few drafts, choice of the colors, a few tries…that failed ! It is the main issue with such amazing observations : they ask for a lot of efforts to reach a results that honeslty represents what I saw.

A game of patience isn’t it, from the hide to the drawing table. The joy of the patience !

Adrien

The fieldsketch that has then been traced on watercolor paper and painted
Under the hide sketching
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error: Contenu protégé. Merci de respecter les droits d auteur. © Adrien Brun