The sounds of silence

Ah…that photo that we always dream about when seeing it on Instagram. You know, the secluded cabin in the woods that you secretly look at over and over again, dreaming of spending a few days there to disconnect. Well we got a little taste of this little haven by travelling up to Quebec in Canada.

For this new experience, we were accompanied by Arnaud Montagard, a French photographer whose work I admire. I especially love his portraits in New York and more specifically his “Across the Window” series.

Once upon a time…

A little background: I visited some longtime Quebecois friends of mine 3 years ago, during our trip to Montreal. We talked about our various upcoming projects and started discussing the concept of the #disconnect series.

At that time, my friend told me about her uncle “Pierre.” He was a fifty-year-old man who worked in the large-scale energy business but had a unique way of disconnecting by going to his cabin in the heart of an immense forest. He did this to let go of his daily stresses and live in total isolation for several weeks.

She also told me about Pierre’s passion for Mother Nature and his growing disdain for certain players in the current food industry. He started to get disgusted by all the animal abuse scandals in slaughterhouses that were part of the intensive farming industry and that too quickly sacrificed ethics for profits.

Since then, Pierre has only eaten meat that he hunts during his time if disconnecting…If he doesn’t see the animal himself, he doesn’t eat it.

In Canada, as in many other countries, hunting is considered essential to the balance of the ecosystem. It is obviously highly regulated and reflects a deep respect for nature and animals. It is a far cry from the “bad image” of the modern hunter.

To go even further in his approach, Pierre mainly hunts using bows and arrows or crossbows! This quiet and “ancestral” method increases his sense of being in total connection with the forest. Regulations are strict. During the moose hunting season, hunters are only allowed to kill one per year. It’s an enormous animal and will be enough for the whole year. It’s a healthy alternative based on self-sufficiency.

This set the stage and as you can imagine, I was crazy about the idea after hearing such a convincing pitch! I told her that day that we would film this unusual character who seemed to be totally iconic!

October 2016

3 years later, and there we were! I admit that this time of year was not chosen by chance; we had all long dreamed of the famous colorful trees of the Canadian Indian summer!

The least we can say is that we were not disappointed! In fact, we were quite lucky! We came just at the right time during the two most magical weeks of the year: when the colors of the trees are at their peak, but just before the leaves fall. There were different shades of fall colors as far as the eye could see! We witnessed bright reds, pastel oranges, light yellows, and dark greens. This was the first time in my life that I didn’t have to use any filters on any of our photos and I had to add a #nofilter hashtag so people would believe us ;)

Usually, this comes rather early in September, but the persistent warm temperatures delayed it for our benefit. By day, it was 77 degrees on October 9th near Montreal!

The cabin

As I explained during our trip to Namibia, in the What The Film team, we like to go on trips without preparing any millimeter, which helps us to not “spoil” it in advance.

We never actually talked with Pierre before, we just communicated through my friend (his niece) who gave us broad information, but did not know herself what we would experience there. She just knew we were going to join her uncle in a “cabin,” and that there definitely wouldn’t be any electricity, running water, or maybe even beds. Basically, we had to come equipped to “survive.” We had just returned from Mongolia, so we were ready!

When we got there, the conditions were rudimentary, but much more comfortable than expected with electricity and real beds. From a distance, it even looked like a large traditional house. It wasn’t necessarily a real “cabin,” but we were definitely isolated in the woods!

Just like our trip to the Philippines, we quickly discovered that disconnection as we understood it to mean totally devoid of “modern comforts and objects,” is really a misconception. Being truly disconnected is not “entirely” like this. During our few days there, we felt totally disconnected by sharing unique moments with Pierre and his childhood friend Brad, who have done this routine getaway together for years.

Ah yes, one of the “unexpected” surprises was Brad. When we got there, we discovered that Pierre doesn’t disconnect alone. Instead, he always does this routine getaway with his best friend.

The silence

This is what hit me the most! Accustomed to always doing something, it’s really hard for me to do nothing. Wait, be patient, think…if five minutes have passed without me moving, I get bored! Suddenly, I realized that there’s always so much noise around me that I stupidly never even noticed.

Through this experience, I discovered what “true silence” is, which is in the woods. So, there it is, another “Hipster from the city” (that sounds like new La Fontaine fable) who discovers a new world cliché…

Of course, like most of you, I often wander through remote areas, quiet and silent. But most of the time, I’m with someone. Naturally, we start talking. And even if you’re alone, you often hear car noises or other people walking. And all these noises of civilization keep a connection with the city.

In this remote forest, we were deprived of speaking for hours while hunting and were really cut off from everything.

And you know what? In the true silence of the forest, there was lots of noise!

When Pierre told us at 6 am that we were going to spend half the day in the woods without making a sound, the anxiety that we would be bored was palpable! But in the end, we gave it a shot.

Sometimes we didn’t move for five hours, and nothing happened. Very conflicting emotions started stirring. The quiet mixed with the anxiety of coming across an overpowering animal like a moose.

We traveled long distances in a forest that seemed to almost be unreal. The sounds, smells, textures, and lights were almost enough to satisfy us in our quest.

After living these moments, we began to understand Pierre and Brad’s passion for hunting. Being alone or even with someone in such silence creates a communication that goes beyond words and fosters a sort of relaxation that we had never experienced, almost like meditation.

The hunt

To be honest, this was definitely the part I was least looking forward to during the experience. Killing an animal is never pleasant, but at the same time, I also have a big issue with the hypocrisy of almost everyone having empathy for animals except when it comes to eating a big juicy burger! Strangely, you don’t think of the animal’s feelings then.

As I develop more and more of a passion for permaculture and self-sufficiency, I am more attracted to the idea of only eating what you need in a healthy and ethical way.

Let’s face it, I’d never have gone on a trip like this if I didn’t know that Pierre and Brad were true nature lovers. When we were talking about it, it was the journey that interested us.

For them, this respect for nature is essential to preserve the environment and wildlife in a self-regulating way. In this spirit, they only hunt adult males, not babies or females.

Sometimes, if they happen to see an animal a few meters in front of them but aren’t sure if they want to kill it instantly, they prefer to let it get away. Knowing how rare it is to actually see an animal, this process is proof of their respect.

During our stay, for example, we heard some moose but never saw them. At the same time, with a team of 5 guys including a photographer who used cologne #privatejoke and 3 others dressed in beige jackets…the animals probably would have sensed us from miles away…

After these few days with Pierre and Brad, we realized that hunting was ultimately a pretext to feeling everything.

“The goal is not only the goal, but also the way to it.” Lao Tzu.

“The goal is not only the goal, but also the way to it.” Lao Tzu