Nicole had been watching birds professionally for about five years. Before that, she had been working in some laboratory where she helped create many types of perfume. But after so many years, she had grown very annoyed by the smells and also the tense environment in the workplace. Not many people would think that working creating the world’s most delicious scents would be tense but it was and she wanted out but didn’t know how to do it. She couldn’t just quit because she could lose many benefits but working there longer was not an option.
As she decided what would be her alternative path, Nicole decided to take advantage of a two week paid vacation leave that she hadn’t used during her time working for the lab. She thought the best place to go was a quiet one, where people would not be all around her asking things and talking all the time. Nicole certainly did not appreciate that at all. She looked it up in the Internet and soon discarded going to a grand European capital or to one of those luxurious seaside hotels. Too many people in both. Instead, she chose a retreat in the forest, more private and adequate to her needs.
Nicole arrived a Friday afternoon to the retreat and realized she had chosen the right place to go and relax. Even the staff of the hotel was gentle and not scandalous. The man in the hotel’s reception told her that they owned almost thirty cabins all around the forest and that they were all connected through dirt paths. A young man grabbed her suitcase and put it in a golf cart and helped her to her assigned cabin. It was beautiful, very small but very cozy at the same time. She had asked for a one bedroom one and it was just perfect.
It had a small bedroom, a very modern bathroom and a living room with a small kitchen space, which worked on electricity. There were not television sets, radios, phones or any type of Wi-Fi connection in any of the rooms. The only place from which a person could do any of those things was the reception structure. As the boy left after leaving her suit case in the cabin, Nicole checked and realized she was really disconnected from the world: her cellphone had no signal whatsoever. She finally felt free and seemed very excited for what may happen.
As she had arrived in the afternoon, it wasn’t a good idea to wander around the forest, as darkness would be upon her soon. Instead, she decided to use the bathtub and enjoy it thoroughly with hot water and the relaxing sound of the wind among the trees. After that bath, it was very easy for Nicole to just get into bed and fall asleep in a very short time. She never did that back home but she felt so tired from the road trip to the hotel that she fell asleep right away. She had a dreamless sleep that lasted for several hours.
When she woke up, it was ten past ten. When she saw the time in her watch, she got scared for a moment but then remembered she was on a holiday and not working in the laboratory. She could sleep for as many hours as she wanted and waking up at six in the morning was not mandatory anymore. She decided to check out the kitchen and, just as the brochure said, you could pay for it to be fully packed with things from day one of your stay. So she decided to cook herself a scrambled egg breakfast with some orange juice.
As she ate it all in a small table by a window, she heard the forest: there was no silence but a magnificent amount of sound coming from every direction. She wondered if that would help her think or would come against her at some point. Nicole decided to take a walk after eating and wandered around the paths for several hours until she realized she didn’t quite now where she was. She had not been smart enough to borrow a map from the reception and asking someone for directions didn’t seem to be a real possibility.
It was just then when she heard a whistle and the distinctive sound of a photography camera. There was someone near her. She walked around trying to identify the source of the sound but she couldn’t find anyone. Growing a bit desperate, she stepped into some rocks and her feet glided over them ass the moss covering them was very slimy. Nicole stumbled to the ground, hitting her behind hard against the ground and one of her legs being seriously hurt. It wasn’t long before a bearded man, about her age, appeared very close.
He didn’t ask her anything. He just grabbed her as if she was weightless and carried in a jog to the reception, where they had the infirmary. The doctor there told Nicole she had twisted her ankle but that it wasn’t too bad. She could prevent swelling with a special cream and should prevent movement at all costs. He offered her some crutches to use around but she declined, saying she did feel like she needed them. She would rather enjoy the rest of her stay by just being careful and resting a bit for the next couple of days.
Nicole wanted to thank the man that had carried her to the doctor but he had left in a huff. Apparently there was something much more important he had to do than checking if the person he carried was all right. Nicole tried not to think a lot about that, instead just been taken to her cabin in a golf cart. There, she decided to rest in bed for a while. When she about to fall asleep, she heard something like a whistle again. She hadn’t solved that mystery before and she wanted to know what was it.
She stepped out of her cabin once again and tried to hear where the sound was coming from again but there was no more whistling. Instead, she could perfectly hear the wind passing through the trees, which was a very soothing sound. Breathing slowly with her eyes closed, Nicole realized how precious it was to be in a place where the sound of the wind could take you to so many places at once. It was the best experience ever. She had never been in any trip where she could actually distance herself from her life but this time it seemed different.
The next day, she was lucky enough to stumble upon the man with the beard. She found him reorganizing some things by the main path. Nicole thanked him for his help and tried to shake his hand but he didn’t even look at her. He seemed immersed in something she couldn’t understand. When he finished whatever he was doing, he left the path immediately and started walking towards the deepness of the forest. Not really understanding why, Nicole decided to go after him, almost having to run in order to not to miss him among the trees.
She finally reached him in a clearing where he sat down on the floor and, with a gesture, asked Nicole to be quiet. He grabbed a camera from his backpack and waited, apparently only hearing the sound of the woods. She heard them too, trying not to make a sound. Then, the man whistled in a very specific manner. When he did, it seemed to be very precise. And it was. Out of nowhere, a flock of small birds flew over the clearing, some of them landing among the dried leaves. The man took several pictures before the birds left.
When she realized she could speak again, Nicole asked the man how he knew what sound to make in order for them to come and what was he doing in that place. He told her he was a ornithologist, a bird expert and that he was creating a complete catalogue of every bird in the forest. He told Nicole that it was a very difficult job but that it was very rewarding as birds weren’t as selfish and evil as men. He confessed he didn’t really like people. After he said that, he looked Nicole straight in the eye and stretched her hand to hear. His name was Quentin.
That day, and all the following days in which Nicole had decided to remain in the woods, Quentin would tell her all the tricks to get the best pictures of the birds. He would also take pictures of other animals and of the trees. He found nature fascinating at it most simple. Nicole was so enthralled by all of this that she decided it was time to make her next move. When she came back to the city she quit her job and applied to one in the university to be Quentin’s assistant. The pay was better making perfume but her life felt so much lighter and improved in the forest, in peace.