In the corner of the eye

There is a part of instinct in some observation.

I have spent the all day searching. With my naked eyes or my binocluars, going through every angles of these stony peatlands. No animal seems to be living here and yet, they are here. A few prints, a few droppings. And, it is so vast and quiet, I can’t imagine these landscapes are empty of any creatures. I persist and the day brings indeed its share of surprises, observations and sketches.

It was a demanding day. I need to turn around in order to be back before night. I don’t have any headlight with me. I start the crest descent briskly. I do my best in the spongy ground full of water. No more discretion, I have to go. I’ve got my eyes riveted on the ground to secure my steps and glimps forward from time to time to check where I am going.

But why at this precise moment do I stop and turn my head ? Why do I turn my head to the corner of my right eye to immediately come across this small head emerging several hundreds of meters away ? My eyes have just landed on this Roe Deer before I see. And she is here, against the light, on a crest, next to a big pine tree, almost invisible in the middle of the branches and high grass. How have I been able to detect that ?

She seems to have had the same reflex as me : her eyes have fixed on me and don’t leave me. She looks peaceful. So I do not hesistate to set up my scope, to get rid of my backpack and to start a sketch. It doesn’t seem to affect her at all. She quietly turns her head right then come back to me. It goes this way for a few minutes and eventually, she turns around, simply, slowly, in a very disconcerting indifference. I am so used to the excaping Roe Deers, jumping and screaming in the souht west of France where I was born and raised. Is the absence of intensive hunting the only difference here ? Or are the vastness of the wilderness and the absence of an intensive management of nature everywhere, playing a role also ? But is there even any difference or am I seeing what I want to see ?

I don’t know. But there are things you see without choosing. I turned my eyes towards this area before noticing the deer. And I now this feeling so well. My friends from the birds migration sites know exactly what I am talking about. While we are waiting for the birds, how do our eyes do to fix on this bird, this tiny black dot soaring in the vast immaculate blue sky ? It is such a feeling, at the same time exciting, exhilarating and irrational.

The answer is the combination of two key elements : movement and instinct. We detect much more easily moving objects. Your eyes are litteraly jumping on a Woodcock flying away whereas you did not see it a meter from your feet while you were looking for it. We do not control that. It is a, automatic reflex that we can call instinct. This part of us that we forget, ignore and reject. This part of us that connects us to the present moment, to the time being, to the now.

Our brain is so complexe, or rather complicated, that we have to work hard in order to silence its permanent chatting and be in the time being, fully conscious. Each stay alone in nature proves it to me. My brain do not have anything to intellectualise or entertain itself anymore. It has no more social element it can attach to. Thus, always come a moment when it switches to the autopilot mode and starts spinning around, talking to itself. It keeps dwelling on, imagining, remembering, narrating.

And sometime, something in the corner of my eye silences it. I envy this Roe Deer I have in my binoculars. A life turned to the outside, to the direct contact with the reality.

Here is something to dwell on when my brain start racing again.

Watercolor of the first vision
Field sketch then traced back on a watercolor paper and painted
In the studio