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Everybody's Chillin Around Here!

Now on December 30, 2020 grows brittle like the thin ice on Sebec Lake. In the last post about the upside of restrictions I described our travel having been curtailed, re-routed and basically foiled by the outbreak of the pandemic. Eventually, last May we repaired to our sanctum sanctorum on this magnificent lake in the Great North Woods of Maine. Bowerbank, Maine to be exact. Here we follow the rhythms of nature.

As the ice-out opened up the water, the lake was still was empty of boat traffic, much to the joy of the beavers. We watched them collecting the new crop of driftwood with which they make home repairs. They are focused on their building projects, bark gnawing and the young bucks on finding a mate. The kingfishers bullet themselves down from overhanging branches to impale minnows, their croaking cackles outdoing the red squirrel's chiding. The humming birds come back, darting around demanding their surgery feeders to be filled. Otters swoop and roil as they hunt under the green water for the activating fish. Fast forward to the end of the year and the beginning of hard winter.

The lake goes through many changes throughout the year. The burgeoning freeze is one of the most interesting. We have seen several changes already, as though the lake is just making up its mind to become dormant under a lid of ice. In our cove we have had cake ice, brittle ice, slushy applesauce ice, always giving way to to capricious winds that rewrite everything back to white capped waves. We have a scrappy mink that lives under the flat wooden deck by the seawall. it comes out for a stare-down once in a while.

Each day a bald eagle comes from a couple of miles down-lake from the small island where the mating pair hatches a new brood each year. He comes, flying high and straight until just here where he makes a big descending turn-about and hovers to await his chance. At the right moment the eagle stoops and dives, extending talons at the last second. It comes up with a fish every time!

But, yesterday was something special. We had a protracted otter sighting. There is a thin skim of ice in our small cove here and we saw, luckily, a brown eruption of wet fur from a hole in the ice about 100 yards out. all we could see at first was a blocky, wet head, and so thought BEAVER! But no, they are napping now. As we watched two more critters popped out crowding the hole. They they all started to fling themselves against the edges of the hole, only to crash through the ice and go under. Were they trapped out there on the unstable ice? Falling to the freezing water, succumbing to the cold? We began to worry. One of the furries managed to get out onto the surface of the ice for a few minutes and we could see it was an otter. The three otters continued to go in and out of holes, make new ones and travel under water from one hole to another all the while playing games of crowd-the-icehole, skid-after-me, and catch-me-if-you-can. Clearly they were in no distress, they were playing and having a grand time of it. We watched as they skidded, crashed and gamboled around in the sub-arctic wind blasts, seeming to enjoy best the simple act of going under and bashing up through the ice with their heads, coming up in another place. They worked their way down-lake until they came to open water and we lost contact with them then, but I am pretty sure they turned toward new games. We sat with grateful smiles and wished them and all the other hard-core lakers around us a happy new year. 2020 grows brittle in more ways than one and with it the ice that will come and go eventually but for now we all await the dormancy of the lake. What does it do under the dark cover of solid ice and deep snow? The critters all just make the best of it.

Don't ask an otter what he is doing out there in the unforgiving icescape cuz He's JUST CHILLIN'!

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