We live on a river in northern New Mexico. In the winter, the river is populated with a variety of ducks swimming up and downstream, lots of Canada geese who swim, fly and honk their way along the river and some beavers who are my nemesis. I am learning from all of them.
I watch the ducks, buffleheads, common goldeneyes and others as they swim, either alone or in small flocks, sometimes diving and feeding, other times riding the current downstream along the far edge and I wonder how many of their daylight hours are spent just looking for food. Sometimes they seem to be just playing and enjoying the diving and splashing, just for the fun of it. I used to think the phrase “free as a bird” wasn’t very accurate because birds seemed busy all the time, either feeding, nesting, caring for their young or avoiding predators such as our stalking cats. Even the hawks and eagles must soar on occasion, just for the sheer joy of catching those updrafts, without any thought of needing food. I should probably play more often, either alone or with others.
The geese are usually in large flocks and in those famous V-formations, resting on the river before flying to various adjacent fields in order to eat, mostly a vegetarian diet of grasses and grains. They also seem to spend a lot of the nights on the water, safe from most of their land bound predators. I hear them talking to each other in muted tones, probably going over the day’s events and making plans for tomorrow. No, that’s my projection of what I do each evening, reviewing the day past, preparing for the one ahead. The geese often swim silently upstream along the inner edge of the river and when the river is low, they are out of sight, hidden by the bank, although occasionally they will risk a stroll onto the land, only to be chased off by one of our dogs. The lesson learned from the geese is the transfer of leadership of the flock as the one out front drops back and lets the next one in line move forward.
I am learning slowly to co-exist with the beavers, allowing them to take their share, more than they deserve I think, of trees and shrubs to build their huts. They are the largest rodent in North America and like most rodents, we humans find them to be undesirable and destructive pests although in the eco-system of ponds and rivers, I suppose they serve a purpose. It’s an uneasy truce for now as I have all but given up trying to protect all of my trees from their need to feed and build. They have taken innumerable trees, some of which I don’t mind and lots of willow which is denuding the bank along the river. Enough will be enough at some point and I will need to figure out another strategy for deterrence. It’s a game of sorts and at this point the beavers are clearly ahead. I will be back in the game come Spring.