More wonders of wildlife: An addendum to Crazy Thing #22.

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When I started this year’s ski season I had many goals –distance skied, covering all the trails in both directions, and photographing wildlife. My photography goals included photographing a moose, lynx, and owl. On Christmas Eve I got the most awesome Moose pictures I could imagine. I kept seeing lynx tracks, and other people were getting photos of them, but I kept missing out. As the season was drawing to a close and conditions (at the time) were not spectacular, I wasn’t holding out much hope.

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“Are you coming?”

On Sunday, March 6th, I was coming home in the morning from enjoying a great night with some friends in Logan Lake. I had been up until 2 am and I was seriously tired. I stopped at Stake Lake for a short ski. It was a bit slushy and it had been too warm to get the big groomer out so the tracks weren’t great and it was a little slippery. Still, any ski is better than no ski. I headed out on the green trails and felt myself following instinct again. I had no plan. I started on Ponderosa and thought I would turn right on Hoss but after making it about 10m on the trail I changed my mind – I almost NEVER do that. I decided to go back and finish the loop on Ponderosa. It was nice but uneventful. When I came to the other end of Hoss I headed onto it for real this time. This is not my regular way of doing these trails and I’m a creature of habit so I don’t often vary my routine. I passed some snowshoers crossing Hoss, and right after them I met an elderly man skiing toward me. I said hi and kept skiing. Right around the corner I nearly crashed – there was a lynx walking away from me on the trail, about 20m ahead of me. I could hardly breathe. I looked around and there was nobody else coming. I grabbed my big camera in my right hand and both of my poles in my left and started skiing on the slippery track. Suddenly I was less afraid of going fast or falling – I wanted those pictures! The lynx stopped and looked back at me, almost as if it was saying, “Are you coming?”

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The lynx walked on the skate lane in the middle of the trail up a hill and around a bend. I skied after as fast as I could. I got pictures from behind but I really wanted pictures from the front. The corner is a blind corner and the cat disappeared at the top of the hill. Seconds later a guy skate skiing came flying around the corner toward me  in the middle of the trail and nearly fell because he saw the lynx just off the top. I caught up and both of us watched as the lynx walked about 5m from us. If that skier had been a minute or so earlier he would have run right over that cat! That would have made for an awesome picture!

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My glasses were fogged up so I just kept taking pictures hoping they would work out.  I kept taking pictures at the top and, while I didn’t get ahead of it, I did get along side of it and took some awesome pictures. It disappeared in the trees right after that.

Again I proved to myself that magic really does happen when I let go of control and follow my instincts. I was finally on the right trail at the right time and I was given an amazing reward!

 

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #22 – Follow intuition and rediscover magic

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Hello gorgeous! One goal accomplished but it was so much more than just taking pictures of a moose.

At the beginning of each ski season I set some goals – how many km I want to ski, how many times I want to ski, and what wildlife I wanted to see and photograph. I usually reach the km and visit goals, but never the wildlife ones. This year my goals are to ski 700 Km, go skiing 55 times, and photograph the front end of a moose, a lynx, and an owl.

Christmas Eve, 2015 – Like many of my other crazy things, this just started as a normal day.

First, some background. After I graduated from university I moved to Dublin for six months of doing nothing. I had already spent two months backpacking around Britain and Ireland.  It seemed like a stupid and frivolous thing to do, go back with no plan, but it was easily one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

I was exhausted from school. After graduating with a science degree all I wanted to do was be a writer. I felt, at times, like I had wasted four years of my life. I hadn’t it turns out. That science degree is always valuable when I least expect it. More importantly I felt like I had lost my way. The strong, intuitive part of me had been ignored and devalued. Moving to Dublin gave me an opportunity to reclaim that part of myself. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I knew I would. It took me a few months to figure it out, but eventually I was able to let go of lists of things to do, obligations to others, and expectations of others. It’s probably the only time I’ve lived completely for myself.

I was alone, intentionally, and it was an incredibly important time in my life. I learned that when I followed my instincts I could create magic. Amazing things happened. Coming home, and in the years since, the challenge has always been to find a way to live that honestly with myself, and at the same time live in a world where I had lists of things to do, obligations outside of myself, and people I loved who had expectations of me.

This year on Christmas Eve I had to work a half day in Logan Lake at the Library. It was a good day – fun and festive. Two friends brought me pizza for lunch because I had complained that staff who worked Christmas Eve at the bigger branches in town were given pizza. In the smaller branches we got nothing. My homemade pizza and a can of coke arrived and it was delivered by two people I adore. It was yummy! Pretty awesome day so far. In the past few years I have surrounded myself with amazing people and they even bring snacks!

I planned to go for a long ski at Stake Lake after work and then get into the festive spirit when I got home. When I got to Stake it was almost 2 pm and I realized I didn’t have as much time as I thought and a long ski was out of the question. I’m a creature of habit so I thought I’d just do one of my other regular routes, a shorter one that would only take me an hour or so. As I was setting out, I realized that for some reason I wasn’t going to take that route and I really didn’t know where I was going. I felt that instinct sensation, a homing device in my spine, and I knew I just had to follow along and go wherever I felt like I should. I ended up in an area I don’t usually gravitate to because it’s full of steep trails that are often icy.

I believe that wildlife, or any kind of wonder in the world, allows you to find it, and you can only find it when you’re ready to receive it. You can’t go chasing it. You have to be open to it and it will let you in. It’s like riding a wave – if you catch the wave it’s amazing and you have that mythical feeling of being one with it. Sounds corny, but I think it’s true. If you try and force it – well that’s just painful and rarely gets you the results you’re looking for. I usually know when I follow my instincts and ride that wave, something special will happen. This time I wasn’t disappointed. I came around the corner and found myself face to face with a moose calf – one of the moose that regularly hang out around the ski trails. This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen a moose, or her in particular, but it was the first time I’ve been this close (and not in a car), and the first time I’ve had the time and the space to get some really good pictures.

As I came around the corner she looked up at me from where she was standing and eating. She acknowledged me, and then continued looking for food. We had at least 20 minutes where I slowly moved closer and took more pictures. I didn’t see one skier, and it was a busy day at the trails, the whole time I was with her. I was about 20 ft from her and I’m pretty sure I took over 100 pictures. Finally I knew I was done. I skied past her, maybe 10 ft away. She looked up at me, and then walked off into the bush. It was like she was waiting for me. It was the best Christmas present ever.

Why was this a crazy thing?

I had to slow down, and remember to follow a feeling that used to be so familiar to me. It used to be second nature. Now I have to remember it and relearn how to access and sustain it. Instinct is powerful and it’s like a muscle – it has to be worked and trained.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I have to keep working that instinct muscle and I’m committed to stopping and taking the time to appreciate beauty when I see it. I have to be prepared to catch the wave and enjoy the bounty at the end. I still have the owl and lynx to go this winter and I may or may not get lucky, but that’s OK. I had the moment and that is better than anything. I’ve seen this lady a couple of times since, never in good enough conditions to get good pictures. I always smile at her, nod in acknowledgement. Maybe she’s smiling too.

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My moose selfie! I wasn’t brave enough to turn my back on her when I was really close so I waited till was further away.