I use the camera hunters use. When animals know me, I wield it handheld and shoot blindly, a proprioceptive choreography in the dark. With wild animals, I keep my distance. I learn only what they choose to announce.
Privacy. Incursions. There is no informed consent. Woman with a camera. Hunter with a gun. Something is taken.
In the woods, my blunter senses are a bubble. The animals around me hold their breath. I don’t know the half of what goes on. The deer watch from a distance. 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 panther 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. I looked down. At my feet the cat’s breakfast, interrupted, a freshly killed squirrel.
At night, the coyotes move close, singing to the passing train. The bobcat strolls under the porch. The armed poacher with his dog and his lantern passes along the crest of the near hill. Flight response. Hair trigger reflex. The gun, the flash. Empathy unfolds after the fact.