River Otters at Evergreen Ponds

River otter eating a fish, within a small rock enclosure in the small pond.

Our area of Maine loves nature news. So when we heard in the news that there were visiting river otters in the ponds at Evergreen Cemetery, we joined many other Portland residents to go to the cemetery to see if we could see them. And we did! We saw this one in one of the small upper ponds, diving under the water to fish, and then emerging in this little rock cave to eat. We also saw one in the big pond, walking on the iced areas in between diving beneath the open water to fish.

River otter on the ice near a thawed opening in the water.

It has been a while since we’ve been to the cemetery. I used to walk over to these ponds frequently, but haven’t had the energy for an hour-long walk lately, so we drove over this time. Sometimes it is wonderful to be alone in the natural world, to see the secrets of plants and animals revealed to a quiet human visitor. But sometimes it is just as wonderful to be with other humans who love these secrets, and can’t resist our animal relatives. There is a sense of kinship with each other, we chat about the sightings, we notice how skilled the otters are at catching fish, we share our tales with new arrivals. There are children and elders, and every age in between. Outside with each other.

Finally, when the otters had hidden behind the back of a little island, I took a walk around the big pond, carefully making my way over tree roots. I couldn’t resist also taking photos of this lovely blue heron–much easier to catch than otters, since it likes nothing better than standing still on its perch on the log.

Great blue heron standing on one foot, perched on a dead log in the pond.

When we first arrived, before we saw the otters, I also happened to catch her scratching her head. Maybe wondering about the sudden abundance of humans wandering around her pond. But not letting that disturb her equanimity and perfect balance.

Blue heron scratching her head, while standing on a log in the pond.

May our animal relatives find all they need to thrive that they may live long upon the earth. May we human animals wake up to our interconnection with all beings, that we may find a way to turn from destruction to mutuality.

Quietude

Evergreen Pond Dead Tree

Yesterday I finally walked to the ponds at Evergreen Cemetery, after not being there for over a year. It is a longer walk for me—half an hour there and half an hour back. But I never come right back. I go to the place where the dead tree fell into the water, becoming the center of pond life for the critters there.

So I sat at the base of the log, and I found myself growing quiet. Just paying attention to the life around me. I saw a brown frog in the water close by, and later, a green and yellow bigger one off to my right. A small turtle was sunning on the log. Once, the green and yellow frog slowly moved forward about a foot and then stopped again, eyes and mouth above the water. The turtle slipped into the water. A mother duck with two youngsters swam past, and then circled around and climbed up onto the log where she and her babies attended to their feathers.

Last week was encumbered with many projects, and lists of more projects. Ever since I cleaned out my office, I’ve been trying to catch up on household maintenance and fixing things. The biggest project that I actually accomplished was fixing the ice dispenser on our refrigerator. This involved two phone calls, moving ten boxes and a table to reach the freezer in the basement and turn it on; hauling food downstairs, two coolers, defrosting and cleaning the whole fridge, and starting it up again.  Three days. But it worked.

Anyway, once I sat next to the pond, the burden of unfinished projects just disappeared.  Not the projects of course, but the burden.  My soul got quiet and peaceful.  Another turtle climbed onto the log.  I saw another brown frog.  I saw a winged insect struggling on the surface of the water, until a dark turtle-shaped shadow swam near and suddenly the insect disappeared. On my walk home, the quietude stayed with me.

This has been a year of a lot of work in our yard, creating a garden of fruit trees and perennials and bushes. Working with growing things is one way to learn to connect to the earth. But being silent next to a pond brings a deeper sense of unity.  I am grateful.

Hidden Mysteries

Hidden Mysteries One

I walked to the cemetery ponds yesterday, and was sitting on a log. I suddenly noticed this strange creature in the water. Very quickly, they disappeared. How often do we walk by unaware of the mysteries hiding almost within our sight? Because I knew the snapping turtle was there, I could see enough to take this next photo, where they are barely visible beneath the water, in the shadow of the log. Can you see it?

Hidden Mysteries Two

How many other mysteries do we miss, how many beauties, how many blessings, lurking just beneath the shadows as we quickly pass by? May we slow down, may we pay attention, may we see what is all around us today.

American Redstart

American Redstart

Yesterday, Margy found the binoculars, and I walked to the Evergreen Cemetery to join in the Audubon Warbler Walk.  During the walk, this American redstart flew right up to where our group was standing next to the pond.  I had never seen one before.  How amazing that I was able to take photos of a warbler with my small camera!

I love the warbler walk because wise folks will identify and point out birds that I might not have noticed–tiny, and often hidden in thick brush, or in high branches.  I am getting better at spotting them and moving between using my eyes alone and switching to binoculars. I can’t keep track of too many new species, though, so after seeing a wood thrush, a pine warbler and this American redstart, I made my way back home.

American Redstart 2

Turtles

Snapping Turtle at Evergreen

Margy and I took a walk at the ponds at Evergreen Cemetery on Sunday afternoon.  Right away we saw this big snapping turtle who lives in the largest pond.  We walked around to the back, and several people were walking out on the fallen log and acting goofy.  But as soon as they left, the little painted turtles started climbing onto the log to bask in the sun. There were turtles on every available log.

Turtles on the Log

Now it feels like spring has really arrived.  We also saw three ducks, and lots of happy people wandering the trails.  And of course, both of us took lots of photos.

New Rhythms

Common Yellowthroat

I was delighted to see this warbler yesterday on the trail heading home from Evergreen Ponds. The black mask identifies it as a male  Common Yellowthroat.  Meanwhile, I am adjusting my rhythms to July vacation days here in Maine. I have been sleeping a lot, and letting the disorientation of these open days circle me around to re-orienting my soul.

The last several months have been exhausting.  So I have been napping and moving slowly, and watching Netflix.  Today, I finally started unpacking a few more boxes–four boxes of books done–and soon we are going to the beach for an afternoon swim in this sunny warm weather. This morning, our next door neighbor brought over a gift of honey from their bee hives–now that is very local honey! Another neighbor introduced us to someone who mows lawns. There is so much still to do to settle in to this home.  But first, finding my way back to new rhythms.