I use the same infrared gadgetry used by hunters. When the animals know me, I wield the camera handheld and shoot blindly, without the aid of crosshairs, a proprioceptive choreography in the dark.
With wild animals, I keep my distance. I learn only what they choose to announce. They’ve grown familiar with the camera.
Privacy. Incursions. There is no informed consent. Woman with a camera. Hunter with a gun. Something is taken.
I spend time among the trees for the peace and quiet. My blunter senses build me a bubble. The animals around me hold their breath. However benign, I impinge.
I don’t know the half of what goes on. I listen. I watch. The dogs follow scent trails. I learn only what the animals choose to announce.
During the day from safe distances, the deer watch me. I keep my head down. If our gazes meet, they bound away, their foraging disturbed. Winter is coming.
I saw a big cat. Bigger than a bobcat, a panther. The dogs ran about, excited, but the cat was cloaked. There and yet somehow not there.
She looked at me. I froze. Like a deer, we say. A deer in headlights. The incidental moment. The stolen moment. The deep introspection of moments between motions.
A matter of geometry and placement of bodies in space. The predator considers formal arrangements: balance, poise, lines of sight.
I looked down and at my feet saw the cat’s breakfast, interrupted, a freshly killed squirrel. I backed away. Full retreat.
At night, the coyotes move in close, singing along to the passing train. The bobcat comes near the house. The armed poacher with his dog and his lantern passes along the crest of the nearest hill.
Flight response. Hair trigger reflex. The gun, the flash. Empathy unfolds later, with contemplation.