I am the lake.
I am still water at dawn.
I fill the earth with liquid cool for the approaching summer, I touch her sides and bottom.
The water creatures move within me, skate over me.
The tongue of the gentle deer dips into me, feather soft.
The eagles soar above me, their eagle eyes sweeping the earth; the small birds sing for me.
The sky colors me.
The beaver sails upon me, a sharp V trailing the water behind her. She is a morning hunter, gliding, diving, curling into the water her lovely beaver tail, shining, smooth.
She dives. She surfaces. I, no longer the lake, and besides, I suspect the lake is a dam and the silenced voice the drowned earth below. I, no longer the lake but myself, tall and taut and bright in my red shirt, stand steady, watching the beaver.
I am mesmerized. I have never seen a beaver. At first I wonder who she is and I call her Otter. Then I see the tail and I think Oh! You are Beaver. But I am not sure. Like I am not sure the peck peck peck on a distant tree is a woodpecker. I’m not sure because these are cartoon animals. I’m not sure I ever thought these animals real; the beaver with her big teeth, Woody with his sharp beak. Of course I knew Bambi was real.
I watch the beaver on the lake, still but for the small pools that ripple around her, diving near the submerged branches of a large, newly fallen tree. She heads for the bank, I peer after her. When her back is turned I move closer. And stop. Still.
I watch. I listen. She is beating her tail. She is making gnawing sounds. I wonder if she is building a dam. She is busy as a beaver. She skates to the fallen branches and continues her hunting. Then heads for the bank and the gnawing sounds start up again.
I forget to be still. She catches me on the bank and makes a dash across the water, sailing past me as fast as her little beaver feet will peddle. I could weep that she counts me one among the enemy; I am not to be trusted.
I remember Grey Owl, an old book I came across in the Takaka Library in New Zealand a lifetime ago. Grey Owl and I by Anahareo, one of the best books I have ever read. That’s how I knew beavers weren’t cartoon animals. That’s how I learned about beaver.
I smile, sadly, to myself and long for the world before the silence of the 21st century forest. When the rivers and lakes and woodlands were full of life, when humans counted themselves as one among the creatures of the earth.
I am sad for the beaver. I tell myself a story: that she is returning to her dam in the quiet light of dawn after the music, laughter and hijinx of the humans of the night drove her to a distant refuge. I am here with the young and the boisterous, who quite truly believe they are in the wilderness and it is theirs to possess as they please.
They are in love with the water and the night darkness, the traveling moon and the fire and the vodka and the sound of their own laughter. Even the animals, on human terms.
We are one hour from New York City.
They forget this is not their land alone, but the home of the creatures who were here before them and will be here when we leave with the midday sun.
A small orange bird bouncing around the branches of a nearby bush catches my attention. The fish leap from the water, splashhhh, splashh. A pair of dragonflies dance across the water.
A dog yaps on the distant shore. It is Memorial Day Weekend and those Americans not saluting white crosses for fallen soldiers or servicemen and women on parade in local parks have headed for the hills.