THE FIRST SIPS OF MORNING COFFEE (A Story of a Naïve Wildlife Photographer)
I WOKE UP WELL BEFORE SUNRISE and peeked out of the window. It was as if a cloud had descended – the thick white fog had filled every gap among the trees. These were the last days of summer and the earth was cooling off.
My whole body was instantly alert and ready. Yes, I’m going to that clearing in the wood where a moose family lives. I saw them a few times, and often discovered their beds. This was just across my pasture, beyond a small wood and across a neighbour‘s field. I dressed up speedily, gathered my gear and made coffee in the flask – I would take my first cup of morning coffee while waiting for the animals to appear on the scene.
A few minutes later I was out in the dusk, ‚rowing‘ through the thick fog, towards the abode of the beasts. I hadn‘t anticipated that the bracken would be so tall! It was much easier to walk there in late autumn or in spring, when the undergrowth was so much thinner, when all the tall grasses – the dry cow parsley, nettles, and the wild raspberry twigs – lay flattened on the ground.
In the beginning, though, it wasn’t that difficult – I simply followed the track through the tall grass beaten by wild animals and it did not take me long to reach the edge of the clearing. But further down it was all overgrown with bracken and young trees. I would not be able to see any animal for that thicket.
I moved on, stepping carefully on patches of wetland and then I came upon the moose beds amidst the tall bracken. Bet after bed, all empty. Their occupants had gone out on their day-time wanderings. The bracken was up to my chest and I was slowly working my way through it. It felt so sacrilegious treading on the most private territory of the wild beast. I felt guilty and looked frantically for a route to escape this thicket of bracken. I only hoped that I was the only silly person in the parish to encroach on the privacy of the moose. Although no sane local man would struggle through all this growth anyway.
Soon I found a clear site with a huge stump of an ancient tree in the middle. I sat down on it and was ready. The fog had thinned, the sun was about to rise behind the dark forest which surrounded the clearing. And there I sat, holding the camera with a telephoto lens on the lap, very still, vigilant, listening and waiting for at least an unsuspecting roe-deer to appear out of wood.
It was quiet… Very quiet... Not even a bird was heard… either a song or at least a flutter among the tree leaves. Where have they all gone! So instead I listened to the silence of the rising sun, gazing at the tree trunks and the dark shadows between them, at the leathery green leaves of an oak sapling, silver grey lichen, spongy moss, dead branches lying on the ground. I must have cut an archetypal figure there: a lone human being hunched on a stump in the middle of the woods… With no one to see them.
And… nothing happened, if not to count a small animal, a fox or a raccoon dog, buzying itslef somewhere in the bushes. Then I decided that it was time for coffee. I took out the flask, poured some near black steaming liquid into a cup and had the first sips of my morning coffee...