Monday, October 12, 2009
Yesterday, as I paddled west on the creek, I took great pleasure in the beautiful fall colors in the trees along the bank: gold, yellow, orange, red and brown, all sparkling in the afternoon sun. I moved not only against the current, but against the wind as well, so it was an invigorating undertaking. I took cover by ducking into Sucker Brook; the current there is minimal, and the banks are lined with trees, which block the wind. In fact, it affords protection from the elements in every season. It is this quiet little microcosm of a world, where other creatures find safe haven, as well, so I am often fortunate enough to observe that which is invisible in the greater surroundings. It’s close edges make for intimate interaction when, by chance, one stumbles upon some animal going about its business, unaware of being observed.
Some of my most thrilling experiences have occurred here: I remember one day, mid-September, a few years back, when I came upon a male beaver. I’d come around a bend and taken him by surprise; he was enormous, the size of an average dog, and his coat was thick and sleek. Our eyes locked (his were a deep brown) and for a brief moment I felt as though I was looking into the essence of his being; it was like looking into the eyes of an elder: very wise, solid, and unafraid.
He slipped into the water, as I passed, his great heft of a body slipping below the surface, while his eyes stayed fixed on me. I got a little shiver down my spine, then, he smacked the water, hard, with his beautiful, flat, scaly tail, and was gone.
I came upon him several times that summer (which is rare because they are mostly nocturnal.) Sometimes he was on the banks, and I could hear him working at a young tree, peeling the bark and using his great incisors to gnaw away at the trunk. Poplar, birch, aspen, willow and maple are its favorite trees to use in the construction of their dams, and these are its favorite foods, as well, and all of these trees are present here, in the brook and on the creek. They cut these small trees in the summer and then store them for winter food.
But this year I have not seen him, or his mate, though I have seen evidence of new chewing. Even these tell-tale signs are thrilling to me, for I have stored his image away in my mind, and just knowing that he, or an off-spring, are still there at work is a comfort to me.