Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nature Day

     Today was "Nature Day." This morning on his 5:30a.m. run on the logging roads, Steve spotted a wolf! (A very RARE sighting) Then on his drive into work he said he saw numerous rabbits hopping alongside the road.
      I took the girls for a run through the campground this afternoon, and we saw ducks and geese on the lake. We ran down the road towards the lighthouse and hopped onto the beach to walk the last mile home. However, the girls spotted a dead animal lying amidst the rocks, and as we got closer we realized it was a dead beaver! It was lying on its back as if sunbathing, and we could see its long, bright yellow buckteeth, and its leathery tail. Even though it was obviously dead (I don't think it had been very long) the girls and I still remarked on how adorable it was. "Poor beaver," we lamented. We were also surprised at its size, which was that of a cocker spaniel. 
     Since it was so close to the lighthouse we decided to see if the lighthouse keeper was home so that we could borrow a shovel to bury it. He wasn't there, but an older, female museum volunteer, whom we recognized from last year, was. She came back down with us to the beach and immediately started stroking the beaver's body to see if it had died of an injury, "I've never touched a beaver before," she quipped with subtle excitement in her voice. I was taken aback by her reaction to the beaver, because I generally don't touch animals that have died of unknown causes...I'm more of the type that pokes them with a stick. This women however, dove into action, investigating and lifting the poor beaver as if it were a stuffed toy. She concluded that it was a female, and probably pregnant, and then she lifted it (with a back-breaking struggle) and carried it up the beach and closer to the woods, where she said she would make sure the lighthouse keeper would bury it when he returned. 
      I desperately wanted to offer my assistance while I watched her hoist the heavy beaver, and yet everything within me cried out "don't touch it!" So I just stood there shamefully, feeling like I do when I ask Steve to rescue me from a spider in the house or remove a dead mouse from a sticky trap under the sink. We said our goodbyes, and then continued walking down the beach... the girls full of excitement, because every 30 seconds they were finding large hunks of coal, and me full of self-reflection and embarrassment at my unwillingness to assist in "Poor beaver's" funeral ceremony. What did it say about me? Am I afraid of catching some strange beaver disease, or is it something more?
     Two geese honked at us as we stammered along the rockier than normal shore, lugging as much coal as we could creatively carry. "Why are we carrying large amounts of coal off the beach?" we asked each other. "It's like self-inflicted slavery," piped up Autumn. "It's fun!" "Well, my arms are killing me...and what are we going to do with all of it anyway?" I questioned.
     We decided we would take it home and use it as incentive to research coal for a science project. What is coal anyway? How is it made? Does it float or sink? What does it cost? Why does it keep washing up on our beach? We walked along thinking aloud coal questions.
     Near the end of our walk we noticed a large crane meandering along the still snowy in places shore, and bobbing its head up and down as though it were looking for pretty pebbles. It reminded us of the emu and ostrich that we had seen while visiting Binder Park Zoo, just a few weeks ago. The crane seemed oblivious of our approach, and we were able to get within 10 feet of it before it let out a loud, screechy call that reminded us that birds really might be descendants of the dinosaurs. "Wow! That was really special!" the girls exclaimed. As the crane flew away it looked as if it was struggling to fly. Maybe it had an injured wing and that is why it allowed us to get so close?
      We went for a bike ride this evening, and saw the usual squirrels, hawks and birds. But, because of the wolf, the beaver, and the crane our family dubbed today "Nature Day." We are so thankful to live in an area where, in all honesty, we could give this title to every day that we go outside and explore!

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