I attended a military survival course in southern Germany many years ago, and it was during the escape and evasion phase that I had become aware of something about myself.
It was between two and three in the morning we had been on the run from a live enemy for about two days, the moon was full and was casting shadows over the surrounding countryside the air was crisp.
Sometimes when I reflect back on these particular moments, out in the wilds of our countryside late into the night, they are moments of magic. You feel you are the only people around, but of course you are not, there are the guys in your patrol and there is the odd farmhouse light in the distance, and on this occasion a church clock was chiming in the distance.
It is during this time that your senses are heightened as there was a live enemy out looking for us, they would normally be deployed ahead, on major junctions and searching the odd woodland trying to cut us off at the pass, as we found out later they had been searching the wrong area for three days.
On this particular night I had been alerted by the alarm call of a blackbird that something or someone was close by, I alerted my patrol to this and I was completely dismissed. As we continued our journey I was still aware of the alarm calls being given off by the local wildlife which was always behind us, I was convinced that we were being tracked by special forces, as this was a special forces school the course was being run by. It was never confirmed if we were being followed or not. However, I trusted my senses completely and later an event took place which allowed me to confirm my trust in my instincts.
As our patrol moved on I became aware to the fact that we were beginning to walk in circles, perhaps because we were tired. I drew this to the attention of the rest of the patrol and suggested that we camp for the rest of the night until daylight when we would be better able to get a fix on our location. They inquired as to how I knew this as I had not got the map.
I replied by saying that the chimes from the church clock were at first on our left flank and that it had moved around to our front and was now to our rear, indicating that we were moving in the wrong direction and as we were in very dense pine forest and I for one could not see my hand in front of my face, it made sense to hunker down until dawn when we could get a better fix on our position.
This ended up in heated discussion and split the patrol down the middle we eventually decided to stay put until dawn, so we brewed up and eat a little, then dawn came. As we moved off we discovered that not more than fifty metres away from where we had stopped was a ten to fifteen metre drop onto a hard surface and perhaps we had avoided a potential accident from occurring.
I felt good about standing my ground, but the situation had taught me some important lessons about how to work or not work with a group and of course I learnt a lot about myself, suffice to say I was glad that our patrol had problems because if it had all gone smoothly without a hitch what lessons would have been learnt from the experience.
So on many levels my awareness had been pricked, first the blackbirds and the rest of the animal world sending out concentric rings warning me of others who were present but had not been seen and the trees warning me of the danger that lay ahead. All this before I even had a language of Nature Awareness.
Photo: A lesson in survival skills, I am in the rear and third from the left.