To balance a day spent lugging books, going around around the stairs of my tall house from the aerie to the cellar, I set outside in the last of the winter sun. The shore called, and I got in a rowboat, went out to the oyster boys for a natter. When – not often on a day after Thanksgiving – I felt the heat of the sun on my back, I pulled against the wind to Carlisle, the only place I felt safe walking in the woods on this last afternoon of the deer season. The geese are overhead – high now as the cold deepens – but the gulls are still around, and an unperturbed seal bobbed up by a lobster pot in my wake. The osprey are gone, but their nest awaits them for next spring. Mate for life, they do.

Pulled for home in the shimmering track of the sun, a lane of gold across the surried surface, scaring a heron off the rocks with a squawk with an outstretched neck and then levered into flight, and then the neck retraction into aloof disregard.

Then it’s up into the field where the neighbor’s dogs are poking through the horseshit. They bark at my like I’m the intruder, but of course they give way to let me pass – they know the hierarchy. As I take the crest for the view of the russet sunset, I surprise about 30 mallards in the little farm pond, drawn by Quan’s cracked corn. Only one remains, a female who can’t fly out for some reason.

I stop a minute in the gathering stillness of twilight, and see something moving along the surface of the water. At first I think it must be ducklings, but it’s too late in the year for such little ones, and as I watch it forms into a muskrat. Fascinated – I have lived for four years across the street from this pond – this puddle really – and never have I see a muskrat in it – stock still, I watch him circle the edge toward the duck, disappear, and then the duck comes flying up again, sratled. What can the muskrat want with the duck? It’s the size of a large squirrel, with a strong muscular tail – it is over by me now – spiky fur on his back, but otherwise sleek – but no way could he tangle with a duck.

250px-common_muskrat_fws.jpgAt home in the dark, I try to look up muskrat iin Ted Andrews’ wonderful Animal Speaks, but oddly it isn’t there. Clearly, the muskrat had a message for me – no one else has seen him and he came right over, but what is it?


A friend found some information on muskrats :

Identifying animal tracks of the Muskrat indicates resilience, detachment and adaptability. “Muskrats have many attributes such as inhabiting both land and water, able to adapt to surroundings, being relatively waterproof, and having a knack for going about their business undetected. Given this, when we cross paths with the Muskrat we are encouraged to tap into our own ingenuity and adaptability when dealing with our present circumstances – realizing that everything has a potential for positive outcome (no matter how bleak appearances may be).”

So, at the moment, appearances are bleak on my ability to save the Clarks Cove farmland from development when the generational changes come.� I was enjoying the land and thinking about all the people and animals that depend on it when I spotted the muskrat.� Glad to hear that if I tap into ingenuity and adapt, a good outcome is possible.� � The muskrat specifically put the single female duck into the air, without hurting her.� So will I.� Stay tuned.


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