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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Slip-sliding Away

Air Date: Week of May 28, 2010

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(Courtesy of: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

Twenty years ago, writer Mark Seth Lender was in awe when he saw the elusive, uncommon river otter. He was caught off-guard recently when he saw another river otter at a beaver pond in Groton, Connecticut.

Transcript

YOUNG: River Otters are not common in southern New England. Writer Mark Seth Lender had not seen one in 20 years. The only sure way to find them is when they find you. As Mark stood on the edge of a small pond in Groton Connecticut, that’s just what happened.


(Photo: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

LENDER: On the far side of the pond, bubbles Braille the surface, cerulean blue, soft as morning stars. Half light, the air is still, the lilies rustle. Their posted buds stirred by a breeze of water sway like channel markers. There just off shore someone breaking fast, leisurely. Jaws worked in whisper, reaching across the silence there. Then rolls and dips and disappears.


(Photo: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

A beaver lodge stands nearby, they built this pond, but that was no beaver. The texture of its fur, the shape and the way it moved. The smoothness of the dive and how the surface rose and closed—a navel of water and what it brings to mind. That surface, opaque as skin, blind to what lies beneath. Patience! Patience!


(Photo: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

The crease of a wake, grainy light, the water speaks. A head appears, oiled, sleek, coat like silk all umber and burnt ochre. Whiskers, dark eyes, fearless that broad, boy cat face so close, and my heart leaps—I, too, am fearless, I am soaring. I see what I was sure I would never see again. And now again.


(Photo: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

The river otter alone in having had his long look turns away. Now head, now back, now tail slipping beneath. Some yards off he reappears, looks again, dives again, resurfaces. This time he has a bullfrog. It dangles from his mouth as if forgotten. His gaze still fixed on me, more intense than curious as if he has as much to tell as to learn. For the last time he slides below leaving a silence so profound, neither speech nor written word can break it.


(Photo: Mark Seth Lender/Salt Marsh Diary)

 

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