A Quiet Day in the Woods. Many Years Ago.

My bird mentor is the Black-capped Chickadee

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. – John Muir

I’m taking a class in Birding this year.  One of the first things we did was find our Bird Mentor.  The instructor, Kristi, presented me with a bag that had several names in it of year-round birds in our area. I pulled out the one that read Black-capped Chickadee.  The experience was kind of like using the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts!

The first chapter for the class had several sections and lessons about being present in Nature as unobtrusively as possible. There was a section about Approach, Stalking the Wapiti, Sits Spot and the idea of blending into and becoming a part of the preexisting story of the natural world.  Chapter one reminded me of an experience that took place many years ago near Bear Mountain in extreme northwestern Connecticut. At the time I was a graduate student in Biology at the University of Hartford. One year, during Spring break – as others headed South to places like Florida – I reserved four nights at a remote rustic cabin nestled into the pines on the flanks of Bear Mountain, the highest point in the state of Connecticut. The Appalachian Trail – of which I am intimately familiar – runs over the top of Bear Mountain.

cabin 1W15

The best way for me to access the cabin was to drive into Massachusetts and then drive south until I hit a road called the Mt. Washington Road. It was not plowed so I had to park my car and from there backpack along the road for a ways until I picked up the trail that went to the cabin.

My notes from my fifth day are as follows: “On my last day as I was heading back towards my automobile on hard packed snow, I paused for a moment beside a field. It was snowing a big heavy Springtime snow and I leaned on my ski poles not wanting to leave. How long I lingered there I have no idea. It could have been ten minutes. It could have been two hours. I stood there suspended in time and transformed into the landscape.

snowstorm 3W15Chickadee 0431bW13I know that it sounds crazy, but I became a part of that field filling up with snow. Every nerve and fiber in my body told me so. And – after a while – a chickadee came and landed on my snowshoes that were lashed to the pack on my back and started singing. When I became aware of what was happening, I laughed out loud.

Chickadee 0420W14

The bird flew away, but the magic remained. It is good to go solo for a while. Mysteries and magic tend to reveal themselves at such times and the fields may perhaps yield a bountiful harvest.” (I took these photos a few years ago – at my bird feeder – to recreate the event)