November 26, 2008

The sun is shining and once again, from my table in the boathouse, I can watch it dance and sparkle on the lake. The water is dark blue, almost black and there is a slight breeze whispering in the pines. I’m reaching for thoughts to write about today but they are eluding me like a mosquito hovering around my pillow in a dark bedroom. We caught a raccoon at some point in the night. It took three attempts. Each time he’d enter the trap and step daintily over the door-release mechanism, picking up the cracker and peanut butter bait, then slowly backing out. We rigged the trap with a piece of cardboard to camouflage the door-release mechanism and this morning found our bandit curled up in a ball, angry and shivering.

The island we are on is small and the raccoons swim over, but can never find enough food, so they attempt to break into the cottage. During the summer we trap them and, like bandits ourselves, sneak over in our boat to Port Sandfield, which is on the mainland at the juncture of Lake Joseph and Lake Rosseau, and drop them off while entertaining thoughts of them purchasing an ice-cream cone. The trap is supposed to be harmless, but this time the little raccoon tried so hard to get out that he scraped the fur off his paws and head. We drove him over to the mainland this morning and wondered if he’d be back in time for lunch.

I’ve just spent the last half hour sweeping the path from the boathouse to the cottage and hoping for lofty thoughts. All that came to me was frustration with the person who built the path out of asphalt, which is buckling and breaking apart at the seams. Why wouldn’t the builder have made the path with slate tiles laid in fine gravel? Slate’s been used for centuries because it stands up to the constant rise and fall of the land brought about by frost and, if well maintained, it would never need replacing. But asphalt is cheaper and it breaks down faster.

Our cultural climate breeds expediency. I reached the cottage end of the path and decided to sweep the deck, hoping to replace my frustrated thoughts about cheap workmanship with more intellectual conceptions. But alas, the deck that was stained the summer before last is peeling everywhere. As I sweep up large patches of peeling stain, the wood below is uncovered. The peeling is most noticeable under the eaves. The painters obviously used a latex (water-based) stain. It’s much cheaper than an oil but doesn’t stand up to rain so well. Why would workmen do something so cheaply? We have ferns growing wild all over the island. They grow along the forest floor.

Today Greg and I are planning on transplanting some to the new flower bed beside the boathouse. We found some beautiful large ferns yesterday while we were spraying the nests of the tent caterpillars. They destroy the young trees but we destroy them. Are we somehow mucking up the circle of life? The forest was littered with the tall birch trees that the winter winds knocked over. We collected some for firewood, but most are decaying; giving back to the earth that nourished them. More and more I’m amazed at the perfect balance in nature. Mother nature is a craftswoman with high standards.

The loons were convening last night. The sky was filled with stars, but without a moon the lake was a black pool. Their low, mournful calls were different, altered somehow into high, excited and repetitive announcements, cutting off each song but adding to it at the same time. I’ve never seen more than three loons together, but last night it sounded like five or six distinct voices, maybe more. I stood, a silent observer listening to an ancient ritual performed out in the shadows on the lake.

We alter this earth with every path swept, every tree felled and every habitat disturbed. But each of us has a choice to make. We can add to the craftsmanship of mother nature, we can imitate her example by building, creating or producing things that last and grow and change. We can hold her at bay while allowing her to grow beside us. Or we can insist on fulfilling our immediate needs, and in so doing destroy the natural world around us. In the end, life has a way of balancing everything out. Things built cheaply never last. People living for personal gain, always seem to end up with the short end of the stick. Change is an absolute and over time morality is our only guide. Mother Nature always rules and I’m beginning to wonder if what we humans understand as ethics are her laws.


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