Aki and I are cruising through a section of old growth forest turned in to marshland by beavers. Hardened by last night’s hard freeze, the supersaturated ground can no longer pull at my boots or stain Aki’s fur the color of strong tea. A small stream drained this patch of forest when Aki was a puppy. Spongy moss softened the ground. Then the empire building beavers expanded their realm by damming the stream.
Live spruce trees still grow on tiny islands in the pond. Soon they will die. To hasten the process along, beavers have denuded the lower trunks of two of the larger trees. I lose track of Aki as I cautiously approach the pond’s edge. Stepping onto a spot of bog kept soft by a warm-water spring could mean a soaking—something to avoid on this 23-degree (F.) morning. There is no way I’ll chance walking on the pond ice.
The marsh was dusk-gray when we neared the beaver pond. Now shafts of the day’s first light paint long, straight-edged tree shadows on the ice. Backlit tree moss glow an electric green. Standing at the pond’s edge, I raise my camera to photograph the light’s impact on the pond and find Aki trotting into my frame. An image of her rolling on a pile of beaver scat, face holding a blissful smile pops into my mind. Aki must be looking for more.
Hoping not having to test the holding strength of the ice, I whistle for my little dog. She hunches for a moment, like she does when she finds my commands tedious. Then she trots further onto the pond. I whistle again. Aki sniffs at a beaver-scared tree, pees, and trots off the ice.