two geese, two dogs, and a beaver

Two and a half years of walking these woods and I have seen no wildlife to speak of. Yes, Nora got sprayed by a porcupine, yes, I could see scat on the trails, prints in the snow, yes, the sounds of woodpeckers and birds followed us. But I’ve never actually seen another living thing except the back end of a slow flying turkey making fight and the frozen stare of one lone deer getting ready to jump the brook. Last fall there was a family of otters that swam the back side of the pond, retreating to the furthest corner when we approached. That’s it. I had gotten used to the feeling of walking the trails with just flashes of dog to accompany me.

Then last week as we approached the pond I noticed something gliding, leaving a small wake as it moved through the water. Instead of retreating, this animal turned and began to swim right toward us, staring straight at me, at least that’s what it felt like. A beaver!

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What did I know of beavers except of their engineering prowess? Was this guy patrolling/protecting or just curious? Clearly he wasn’t afraid of us. As he was closing the distance between us, I moved quickly and called the dogs to keep moving along the trail, noting the edge of fear that propelled me away.

He/she she was there again the next day. Same dance, same result. I was humbled by how nervous I felt in the presence of a wild animal that wasn’t afraid of me. But then, he/she had the whole pond to hide in if necessary. I called again to the dogs to keep moving and the beaver slapped its tail and disappeared under the water. We moved along without waiting around to see what would happen if we stayed.

As we approached the pond yesterday, we were greeted by the loud honking of geese. Not the kind of cries from the sky that announced arrival or departure; this was like a conversation, a back and forth between two creatures.

There was just two of them, and like the beaver, as we approached, they actually began swimming toward us, continuing their lively banter. And much to my amazement, the beaver was right there with them. What a scene. Two geese, two dogs and a beaver.

For years I used to say I lived with two kids, two cats, and a dog. It rolled off my tongue like velvet, it felt good. I lived in a household that was rich in life that coexisted in harmony like a team. I didn’t realize how much I missed this until now, regarding the way in which these animals were all focused and communicating with each other in what seemed to be a trusting way. I finally felt how I was part of it too, not just an observer. I felt the urge to sing out loud like these geese. To say clearly whatever was there that I may have been silent about for too long. Did I dare? I decided to stay, sit and absorb what was being offered in this moment. We were an unlikely team, all of us there at the pond, but a team nonetheless. My job in this moment was to discern what endeavor was calling, how teamwork would be essential to the effort. Where my loyalty to living and modeling a sustainable life was leading me. The beaver circled around to the center of the pond, slapped its tail and dove out of sight. He didn’t reappear, instead, leaving a reverberation of presence in the center of the pond.

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Later, as if to make sure whatever message I needed to get was being delivered, Yogi stepped into the center of a pool in the brook.

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He transformed, became part bear in that moment, staying visible, inviting me to consider how a dream of making housing to serve developmentally disabled persons, and the developmentally challenged community of which they are a part, might actually become real…

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Yogi, Nora, and I are finally back in the woods.

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The paths are a little soggy, but the crampons have been put away, pants have been sprayed with permethrin in anticipation of warmth and ticks, and it feels like clear sailing ahead. Yesterday we covered three glorious miles of deep woods walking. We emerged in a new place behind my neighbors property, a place that gave me a view of my homestead in a way I’d never seen quite this way before. After two and a half years, it still takes my breath away.

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Aside from an occasional call out to the dogs to come, our walks are otherwise a quiet communion with a spirit of something that feels solid enough to hold all the inspiring thoughts that float through my mind. I have this huge story beginning to grow in me, and I can’t stop it from coming. Amidst the circling ideas about developing characters and scenes I had a persistent thought. When did the woods introduce themselves to me for the first time? How old was I when the initiation of this sacred feeling took place? I searched and searched my memory, considered all the years of skiing on snow covered slopes cut into the woods on the side of a mountain. My love of being in the wildness of this kind of context captured my heart immediately. But no, there was something earlier, something more visceral and intimate than swooshing in and out of woods in the cold with speed that had been triggered at an early age. It took a while, but the memory finally came. My one and only time attending summer camp in the heart of the Adirondacks for two whole weeks. I was ten years old. It all came flooding back then. The feeling of communion with companions in the wildness of where we were. The thrill of jumping into the deep black lake, the excitement of hiking and portaging with bags of homemade gorp in our pockets, the overnight trip deep into the woods, sleeping on the ground in the open, flashlight on all night in my sleeping bag, terrified of the thought of a bear finding me. The whole time, the woods were there with me too.

I’ve been in transition these past few months. As I move into production of my first book that has been in the making for three years, I simultaneously move into my job as a creative who also writes. It has become a serious thing, this business of writing, every bit as much an obsession now as my quilt-making. I fought it for awhile. All the shoulds and should nots that could prevent me from following this path have presented themselves and I’ve had to work through every aspect of what it means to live a life not devoted to one occupation, but to many. There is the worry about not being enough of a specialist to command a price for my work. There is wondering about providing for retirement. Retirement? What is retirement? There is fear about being alone. But I started down this path of crafting a life as I go along, a long time ago. There’s no looking back now. The woods and the brook give me the strength to hold onto this vision and keep flowing with it at the same time.

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Today, it is a new quilt occupies the landscape of my mind. So much of my work begins with making ‘fabric’ first by assembling random pieces and scraps in a spontaneous and unpatterned way. These pieces of ‘fabric’ get transformed in some way. The agent of transformation is hovering.

Here are the pieces that I’ve made so far. What will they become?

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