Friday, March 13, 2009

The Beaver

Well, of course I didn't have my camera with me--I never do when it comes to the beaver. And still, it would make little difference. All you would see is this dark shadow in the silver water of twilight--looking very much like a cocker spaniel paddling his way home. Above is an image by Michael Quinton.

I had taken one last turn around the island. The sun had set and the glow was in the sky--more silver than pink--and I was on Alice's Deck listening to the bird song. We had a flight of redwing blackbirds cackling their way toward bedtime in the reeds, with a song bird I didn't recognize doing the counter melody.

I saw a group of ducks swimming toward the sea wall (golden eye, I think--all black and white and very striking in the low light--like they were dressed for a formal evening out). I thought I'd stroll along with them and walk the length of the wall.

As I rounded the seawall at the point deck, there was Mr. Beaver. He was certainly not afraid, he didn't even alter course as he swam along the sea wall coming from the opposite direction. "Not my tasty trees," I thought. So I reversed my walk and began lecturing my furry friend on the evils of dining on island trees.

The beaver didn't seem to be taking me all that seriously--but it did a very odd thing. It departed from its parallel course to the wall and went away from shore where he described a ten foot diameter swim circle which he then repeated. At the end of the loop he slapped his tail hard upon the water, driving himself underwater in the reaction, then surfaced and swam along next to the wall as he had been. After twenty more feet the circling and slapping ritual was repeated, then he broke off at the boat ramp and headed down the channels off the west side of the island. I remembered the "abandoned" beaver den I'd kayaked by the last summer, and noted that "abandoned" may not have been a good choice of words.

I'm wondering if "Mr. Beaver" might have been "Mrs. Beaver" and a baby may have been involved--one that kept itself underwater. Maybe the water slapping was mamma's attempt to keep the little one following close by.

And so another day ends on the island. Finally the March that went in like a lion is starting to act more like the lamb in the rhyme. Crisp cold air as still as can be, with the water like glass. The glistening ripples from the beaver adding a nice finishing touch as the night steals in.

THE NEXT MORNING.............
This is the perfect winter morning--clear as crystal and a snap in the air that is bracing but not a bother, as there is no wind to put an edge to it.

I was taking a walk around the place, appreciating the quiet of a winter morning on the lake, when I decided to head down the front walk which leads to the footing for the front pier when the pier is in place for the summer. Right now it simply leads to the water's edge.

There, at the foot of the sidewalk steps, neatly arrayed in a tidy pile, was... my juniper! Not all of it, just a tasteful (or tasty) arrangement that a florist would approve of. I couldn't and can't believe it. My friend returned after dark, despite my urging him to the contrary. I'd like to think that what he did--in his mind--was leave a tribute to a worthy adversary. However, I feel this is probably a bit more like having your car keyed after a dust-up in a parking lot.

So.. score one for the beaver. If he comes back I guess I'll need to find a way to net the bushes over. I never thought he'd get a taste for juniper.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Big Blow of '09

I imagine that's what they'll call it some day. Sustained winds of 70 mph for a couple of hours two days ago. When these things occur, I always stand in awe of this little cottage--built nearly a hundred years ago--and still standing up to mother nature with nary a creaking board or groan. Of course, now that I've bragged on her, I need to knock on some serious wood.

When it blows that hard, you walk around here with a wary eye on the trees. They've been here longer than the house, but I still make sure I'm a greater distance down wind than the trees are tall!

The lake put on quite a show. I've seen the lake with white caps plenty of times--that usually means 25 mph or so. I've seen some pretty big waves generated by the north wind--coming over the sea wall when at 35mph or so.

But the day of the blow I saw the lake in full dance mode. Not many waves from my vantage point as the wind was from the SW and the island is in the shore lee. However, off to the north, patches of water--say 10 feet by 10 feet--would rise vertically into the air to explode in a white cloud in a hundred different directions. This happened maybe five or six times while I was out there--and then I decided the basement might make a good place to visit.

Above is a picture of the sky during the big wind. Imagine watching the clouds moving left to right in a flurry of motion.