We are deep in beaver country, walking on a strip of high ground between two ponds. Cottonwood trees felled by the energetic rodents crisscross the ground. Paths beaten smooth by beaver feet drop off the trail to the ponds. Aki follows me down a path that leads to their den. Made of sticks stripped of bark, the beaver house looks like a Inuit igloo—a rough dome with a round-topped tunnel that allows underwater access to the den. I’m surprised to find an above water entrance. More surprising, Aki doesn’t drop into it to visit the beavers.
Near the beaver house, a lichen colony grows on the tip of a rotting spruce branch. The top branches of the little lichen trees have formed a tangled canopy around their dead host. Next January, while the beavers sleep away the long, cold days, snow might collect in the lichen canopy, turning the lichen forest into a snow-glove sized metaphor for winter. But by spring, the rotting base of the forest will give way and the tangle of lichen will fall to the mossy forest floor.