To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Year 2: Part 1: Post 10: Preparing for Spring

So, I have a plan about how to win the egg hunt.

The issue is that I still don't know enough about birds, and there are lots of people on campus who are more likely to be able to spot bird's nests than I am. I need some kind of leg up.

Fortunately, I have a two-week head-start for looking for nests. The yearlings won't know about the hunt until it happens (or, at least, we didn't know about it ahead of time, last year) and most of the senior students won't bother preparing for the contest because it doesn't matter that much to them. So the only people I really have to worry about are the handful of other people who are really likely to spot nests on their own before the contest starts, like Rick and Raven G.

To beat them, I need to be able to produce great pictures. That's the other half of the contest; you have to find the birds' nests and take pictures of them and you get points for both finding the nests and the quality of the photos. Well, I don't know much about photography, but we do the contest in teams. So I have to find a team-mate ahead of time, too. Someone who takes great pictures.

I don't know who takes great pictures and who doesn't, and I didn't want to go around asking everybody if they take pictures because then my advantage would be gone. Everyone would know
what I was doing and why. So, I asked Sharon. She knows everything.

"I do?" she said when I said that her. "I don't know about that."

"Yes, you do. You know everything around here, at least. You're our resident spider." You've got to understand that here at school "spider" is a compliment. A lot of people claim spiders as personal mascots, spirit-helpers, or totems. You don't kill spiders here unless you actually want to become unpopular, and I know people who encourage spiders to live in their rooms as pets or familiars. What I meant was that Sharon is aware of the school the same way a spider is aware of whatever happens on its web.

"I am not!" She was blushing.

"Ok, who's the best photographer on campus?"

"Jasmine. She's a yearling in Elk dorm."


"Good luck with the egg-hunt, Daniel."

I hadn't told her I was trying to win the egg hunt. She just knew.

So, I found Jasmine and introduced myself and asked her to be my team-mate for the egg-hunt.

"Isn't that cheating?" she asked.

"No. They can't stop us from noticing birds ahead of time, so how could looking for them ahead of time be cheating?"

"But we can't take pictures ahead of time."

"No. But once I find the nests, you can figure out how you'll want to take the best pictures, angles and lighting and so forth. Then we'll have less to do on the actual day."

"I don't want to just take pictures for you, Daniel. I want to find nests, too."

"Of course," I told her. "And I want to learn more about photography." And so we made a deal. She'll teach me some about photography and I'll show her how to find nests. Of course, I don't actually know anything about looking for birds' nests, but I know how to sit around quietly and watch and listen outdoors and I expect that's at least half of it.

It seems strange to be talking about nesting birds while there's still six inches of snow.

Speaking of which, we just had Charlie's tracking workshop. Charlie had asked me to get good enough at tracking so I could lead the workshop if he got sick, but I didn't have to. He's had his spring cold already and recovered. I had mixed feelings about that. I mean, I'd kind of been looking forward to doing it.

He did let me help him analyze the tracking data and put together the maps.

It was fun, a completely different way to think about tracks--instead of walking along and looking, I had to rely on photographs and descriptions by people who didn't know what they were looking for. I couldn't look for additional evidence and I couldn't rely on my intuition to put together a scene, since I wasn't actually there. On the other hand, I could see the overview, all the tracks and signs the participants had found over an area several hundred feet on a side. That really made the stories, how the animals were interacting with each other, stand out.

I did most of the work, but with Charlie leaning over my shoulder, making suggestions and occasional corrections. I think I did pretty well. I think I could lead the workshop, if I had to.
[Next Post: Monday, March 10th:Finishing the Book Project]

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