There are many mysterious connections that sometime occur in peoples' live. For example, my father was 27 when I was born and fourteen years later, upon entering St. Joseph Seminary in Covington, Louisiana, the laundry number I received was 27. It has been interesting to see how many times that number played a role in my life. For example, my first assignment as a priest was for 27 months. Towards the end of my time as a seminarian I was on the staff of the school student newspaper as the sports editor. My first writings published were about the various seminary campus sports activities which preoccupied my free time thoughts. Now that my age is 27 turned around into 72, it may surprise some who knew me in the past that now my free time is not spent mostly pursuing sports but the grace experienced of nature and the wonderful discoveries of exploring Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arizona, Alaska, and New Mexico, and hopefully more. And in doing so, it is easy to observe that there are many connections that nature has to grace while witnessing grace in nature. In my blog entry with the title, "Pileated Woodpecker, I concluded by saying that it took me ten years to get a good picture of that shy woodpecker. Actually, when it happened, I was actually pursuing another beautiful bird, one that is not so shy, the Bald Eagle. It is the Bald Eagle that finally connected me to the next close sighting of a pileated woodpecker. This time, I was ready with my camera.
In 2008, some of my friends in Assumption Civil Parish and my fisherman brother, Mark Burns, had been telling me about the numbers of Eagles that were present in and around Lake Verret. One of my friends has a camp on Bayou Tranquille, on the Southwest edge of the Lake. He invited me to stay overnight and took me out on the Lake where I was quite successful in getting some good photos of that magnificent bird. Towards the end of that wonderful day, as daylight turned to dusk, I had already loaded my vehicle in my friend's driveway when we began hearing a Pileated Woodpecker's call. He asked if I knew what we were hearing and I immediately identified the call to my my friend, Warren Schneblen. The call was getting closer and closer while I slowly walked to the edge of the swamp, just a few feet from his driveway. It was thrilling to see a sight similar to the subject of my apparition ten years prior in Napoleonville as it entered its night roost in a dead cypress tree trunk. Since it was almost dark, I was unable to get a photo. However, my friend heard me make a promise that I would be back the next morning to see the Pileated leave its roost. and Voila...
Some days later while speaking with a birding friend, Dr. Carl Sheely,and telling him about my pileated sighting, he mentioned that he did not have a really good photo of that particular bird. Since I knew where to go, we made plans to visit the area the next Saturday morning. There, early that Saturday morning, we watched the woodpecker leave its roost and begin its daily hunt for food settled in the trunks of the surrounding cypress forrest. It did not take long for the Pileated and its' mate to put on a posing show for us, in wonderful light. While silently watching their performance on the branches and trunks of one tree after another, our cameras shutters steadily sang their song as we each captured all the images we desired. For me, it was the fulfillment of a wish that I made ten years prior. I finally had my great picture of a Pileated Woodpecker. After twenty to thirty minutes of their performance, they flew into the woods. With an enormous smile on my face I turned to see my smiling friend Carl, as he said, "boy, we really got that bird."
My decision ten years prior to that day, to get a great photo of a Pileated, connected me to an even greater and deeper desire and an awareness of a mysterious presence that one gets to witness in nature, even in remote places. Each time I head out for a nature photo shoot, it is like going on a day of recollection. It is an opportunity to be in touch with the divine in a unique way......in beauty, ......in silence..... in the life of creatures......in the beautiful shades of light dancing over its subjects. In these moments it is not difficult at all to have a deep communication.....without words, thoughts or even desires. It could be referred to as a unique contemplative experience. No wonder that it is something to be pursued.
Lead me, guide me along the way, for if you lead, I cannot stray.