When I first started tracking, I didn’t know how to see the signs around me or read the landscape. I didn’t know how many toes in the front versus back a rat had, or a rabbit. Gaits, or an animal’s locomotion, were a complete mystery. Pat would show me the tracks, sign and trails that he found, but I struggled to ‘see’ them when on my own.
More than anything, I wanted to have a connection to the land – one where I could understand the ebb and flow of life all around me, where I saw the rhythm and swirl of Nature. Tracking, to me, is engaging in conversation with the landscape. It is the combination of a naturalist understanding (‘this animal makes this track’, or ‘this plant is here because..’) with total engagement of the senses. Of dissolving into complete awareness.
One of our Cyber Tracker evaluators told us that tracking is simply a ‘conversation between you and the ground.’ I liked this phrase very much; it symbolized how we can get caught up in our minds so easily with doubts, fears, fantasies. Especially at a time when you are learning and developing. But tracking is simply you taking notice. You and the ground. Everything extraneous falls away.
I realized that to be a wildlife tracker, or any type of naturalist, I had to just start. To begin where I was, with my level (or lack of) knowledge and experience. To practice, build, learn, grow….accept my mistakes and failures, and begin again. And again.
It seems to me that most of life is like this. You have to get comfortable with the process of resurrecting. Of rebirthing yourself into new roles, new ideas, new skills. To start where you are, and proceed.