I got my kayak out today for the first time in 2021. It feels a bit early, but I dipped a toe into Hook Lake and it was so much warmer than last spring, thanks to our amazing winter. Yet off in the distance, snow still sugared the edge of the water in some places. On the second lake, chunks of ice floated in one long sheet, like someone was throwing a party and waiting impatiently for the tequila to arrive.
I was a party of one. As I dropped my bum into my kayak, followed by my trailing leg (it’s not elegant, but it works) I got the same feeling I get every time I leave shore, paddle in hand, filled with far too much excitement for such a serene undertaking. But the lake is never just a lake. It’s an experience, and I’m never the only player involved.
I hadn’t gone far on the second lake, reached via a skinny, boulder filled narrow channel, when I noticed three little heads popping up around me. They were either young beavers, or very large muskrats, and they were making the strangest sounds. Like a bronchial cough, but with a certain tone to it. A Peter Lorre tone. If you’re not familiar with the actor, let me fill you in. He always played the part of a ratfink, or a murderer. Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon. His voice gave a sinister aspect to the animal’s presence on the lake. They kept swimming ahead of me, ducking into the lake every few minutes, and surfacing with that malevolent cough. I left them behind, but after five minutes, I saw them again, trailing behind me.
“You’re creeping me out!’ I called. “Stop following me.” As if they understood English, they turned around and left. But it had me wondering. Were these beavers a thrupple? I’ve only seen them alone or in pairs before. But it’s 2021, for heaven’s sake. Live and let live, I say.
Shortly after, I spotted two baby loons on the lake. They were quite small and I would have thought them ducklings if not for their distinctive colouring. They let me get close enough to take a photo, but flew off before I could accomplish my mission. Since I’m not the most stable paddler, I decided not to lean into the shot.
Loons mate for life. Were these two chicks matched up? Did they zero in on the first bird they saw and just decide to settle? If so, they’re very different from humans, who can hem and haw and date for ten years, and still have a fifty percent chance of things not working out. It must be easier for a loon. Find food. Fly away from danger. Leave when it gets cold. After that, there’s probably not much to talk about.
There doesn’t seem to a be a lot of dissension in the animal/fish/fowl kingdom. I tried to picture the fish down below me divided on subjects like politics. Do they argue with the beavers about all the wood cluttering up the lake? They could do so safely, since beavers are herbivores. But muskrats like some tasty protein, and I’m sure the fish are wary enough to know it.
‘How did you vote in the last election?” I asked. Nobody replied. I went back to singing, which is my usual paddling activity, working my way through the Canadian paddling song, Land of the silver birch, home of the beaver, and finishing with a Loggins and Messina tune about Christopher Robin. It was one of my husband’s favorites, and since his ashes are scattered in that lake, it seemed only right to serenade him. Then the beavers came back and I decided to head to shore. It was the Peter Lorre cough that spooked me. Anyway, it’s their home, not mine. I’m just visiting. But I’ll be back. I tell them this in my best Arnold Schwarzenegger voice. I can be sinister, too.