February 9, 2012 —
I have a terrarium of moss and ferns that we planted in a glass domed cake plate—the type of plate you see upon a diner counter with a carrot cake inside. My terrarium sits in the middle of my kitchen table like a green island of spring. I like to lift the lid off the pedestal and breathe in its moist, pungent woodland smell. It is a world unto itself. We planted it so as to have some green in the winter months, but without the contrast of winter whiteness it doesn’t have quite the same effect.
“Wintertime and the livin’ is easy” is not how the song goes. In February my windows are usually in the grip of a glistening mouth of icicles. Where are the icicles? As I look out my window there is no snow. The woodland is strewn with the haphazard angles of the parts of trees—trunks and branches like so many pick-up-sticks. There is no thigh high snow to fight. I run outside without my coat. Certainly we have had mild winters before. But while I am enjoying the ease of this unseasonable season, I feel uneasy too, as if something is amiss. It is a strange winter, people say. Who knows how long this lull will last?
Last Sunday, we went walking in the woods—something generally unimaginable this time of year without snowshoes or at least boots. As it was, I wore my sneakers and it was an easy trek to our old pond. There were hints of wintertime green—lichen and the tiny leaves of partridgeberry. And the flattened, arching fronds of the evergreen Christmas fern—the same species that is in my kitchen terrarium.
We keep an eye on the activity at the pond in hopes that a beaver will again move in and call the pond home. The beavers that had lived there relocated after the dam broke last spring. Now there seems to be some evidence of freshly gnawed willow saplings and work on the dam. The pond, which is now partially frozen, is again holding water. One of the lodges could be occupied.
My son, Sam, shimmed his way into the entrance of another old and abandoned lodge and took some photos. This entrance is currently far above the waterline. Still, Sam, of course, got muddy and cold. As it is, we like to joke that Sam is part beaver due to his thick, rough textured hair which seems to be naturally repellent to water.
Sam managed to crawl into the lodge far enough so that only his legs were still out. His photos show a snug tunnel that leads to the beaver’s living quarters and a tangle of fine, hair-like roots, sticks and branches. There are three entrances to this old lodge. It was another luxury of this strange winter to be able to cross the threshold of the beaver’s lodge and view its indoor world.