When you live in the middle of nowhere, it’s surprisingly easy to find friends who want to go even further into the middle of nowhere, especially when you’re also encouraging these plans to go wandering. And when you’ve made friends with the locals, sometimes they let you onto their several hundred acre property with a dozen lakes to trap their unwanted creatures. Trapping is popular around the Northwoods, and one day this fall a few of us tagged along with a guy who was pulling in muskrat and beaver. Let me tell you, if you have never been to a beaver dam, well that’s just fine, but you’re missing out. I don’t mean the skimpy little ones that you see as you drive past on a road that was put right through the middle of everything. I mean a dam that has been left alone long enough that the beavers have recorded the history of their multiple dynasties. There is nothing like it. All day we walked along ledges that were usually an even 2-3 feet across. 13 or more feet of clear water lay directly to our left, and a drop of open 10 or more feet lay to our right. Given as much time as they had, I wouldn’t have come close to building something so perfectly formed. And the lakes were huge. And the lodges rose side by side straight out of the water. That’s what they’re supposed to look like. None of this road nonsense.
I can find enjoyment in the trapping. Nature demands to be marveled at no matter the capacity in which you attend to it. But nature will give you more things to marvel at if you allow it to breathe a sigh of relief.
A few years ago, I wandered around a woods in Maryland with a boyfriend, playing in a swamp that had been formed by a nesting pair of beavers. It wasn’t necessarily as 5-star as the Wisconsin one, but it was beautiful. At one point, we lay side by side on our stomachs, dangling our heads off the edge of an old tree that had fallen and was hanging about four feet above the clearest water outside the lodge. The sun played its way in delicate strands through the trees, the surrounding wet earth and new growth took over the air. We stared at the crystal swirls beneath us, breathing in the peace and the grass and the damp bark, when suddenly, the mother and father along with two kits swam slowly and calmly out of the lodge and right underneath us towards the more open water. In absolute fearlessness, they glided past our dangling faces, gently on their way to something new. You wouldn’t think a beaver could add magic, but it was the romance of the forest. And I was in love.