Thomas Merton sought the solitude of a hermitage to enhance his appreciate of man. He would be happy taking this heavily tracked trail as it winds through old growth forest and open meadows. I doubt if Merton ever walked it even though he tested the solitude offered by the Shire of St. Teresa a few months before he died. Those two grey swans would be at the Shire in minutes if they weren’t resting on this huge beaver pond, floating with distain among a mixed gang of other migrating waterfowl.
Last night’s hard freeze set up the trail for us, cementing the churned mud, firming the remaining meadow snow into useable bridges for skirtting around flooded portions of the trail. With nothing to block the strong spring sun it will all turn to muck and mire by late afternoon.
Aki only tolerates solitude. Preferring company of any kind she sniffs the wind and ground for evidence of approaching friends. Near a slough backing up from the big beaver pond the little dog alerts and then dashes to the snowy edge, throws on the brakes but still slides forward, head down, rear in the air, until her nose almost enters the water. Something, probably an otter, splashes down the slough as if calling Aki to follow. She does, charging along the bank with wagging tail until coming to another sliding stop where the slough makes a sharp left turn. Is she chasing a Kooshdakhaa?
I call Aki back, remembering my experience with the Kooshdakhaa—something magical shaped like a large land otter. It was this time of year. A friend and I were returning by kayaks from Berners Bay, entering the narrow pass between between a large sand spit and the shore. Something like a small pear shaped black bear ran down the spit toward my kayak then dove into the water. Entering the water like an otter, it allowed itself to be carried into through the pass on a tidal current strong enough to form small whirlpools. Distracted by the surprising scene, I didn’t see a whirlpool until it grabbed my kayak’s nose with enough strength to twist the boat. With luck and a desperate paddle brace I righted the kayak before it flipped me into the water.