Tracking is the art of building relationships with mammals, birds and other beings that you rarely get to meet. It’s fun and exciting detective work, gathering clues, asking the right questions and discovering answers that pull you deeper into the forest.
One reward of the patient tracker is the thrill of an actual encounter with the wild: hares fighting for territory; a roe deer browsing calmly; a red fox curling its tail around its nose as it falls asleep in a sunny spot. You won’t forget your first encounter, and it will light a spark in you, a desire for more, a yearning for a deeper relationship with life in your neighborhood.
There will be frustrations, of course. More often than not, your advance through the land will alarm the animals long before you can see them. Then one day you catch the whiff of a fox, and you know you were close this time. Or you’ll see a sparrow hawk take off in the distance, and you’ll recall that you stepped on a twig a second earlier, and the sharp sound scared the bird off.
If your curiosity is high, and you’re desire to know the animals is deep, you’ll ask yourself what you’re doing that is preventing you from getting up close. Am I being too loud? How? What can I do to move more quietly? Can they smell me? Why? Can they see me as I walk? Is there a way to move that’s less obvious?
These questions will lead you on an inner journey of discovery—you’ll learn to quiet yourself, to become more present, more aware and attentive. In time, your family and closest friends will begin to notice a shift in your ability to listen deeply; they’ll witness a change in the way you move. The animals are now teaching you something new about yourself, and changing the way you carry yourself.
And then you might discover there are questions only the animals themselves can answer. How does a creature as large as a moose run unseen through the woods? How can a fox sneak up on a mouse? What can the lynx teach me about camouflage? If you want an answer, you have to go seek it in the woods. That’s where your new teachers are.
Soon you will find that you have endless amounts of questions. As you gain experience and become more comfortable with not knowing, you spend more time wondering than you do relaxing in the comfort of certitude. As your passion grows, the mystery of a world full of questions and continuous discovery intensifies.
You are now in a loving relationship with creation, dancing with wilderness, the ultimate reward that awaits the patient tracker.