We like to attribute human emotions and actions to animals, especially when they adopt a pose like this otter! So please pardon my whimsy… Perhaps these creatures know more than we think.
Is he praying? Clapping? Simply resting? Or waiting impatiently for food? Perhaps about to tell a story…
Smoothpelt set out that morning for a quick swim, mostly to work off that rather tasty trout taken last night in the millstream. As the Sun began to burn through the early mist, the river lay quiet except for the dawn chorus of the robins and blackbirds of Easthill Wood. Two stately swans glided downstream, bowing to each other, and surveying the reed beds for a suitable site safe for cygnets.
Spring brought colour to the willows, and stirred the deep instincts of all.
Minnows darted for cover, as kingfisher flashed overhead like blue lightning. All was well with the world, and Smoothpelt’s contentment helped him relax into a carefree rhythm. Diving lazily, leaving a line of silver bubbles, he passed swiftly over the river bed, emerging from the shallows onto the meadow. Life felt good.
He scampered across the short grass to the dewpond and vanished with hardly a swirl. Playful, Smoothpelt pursued a frog briefly but sudden heavy vibrations distracted him. Head thrust through the duckweed, Smoothpelt sniffed the air and looked for danger. Sour and choking, a new smell invaded the peaceful field. Great metal lumps moved, slow, remorseless, toward the river bank puffing black clouds and clanking in time with tuneless growls. Humans!
Disturbed, a cloud of rooks took flight, wheeling and complaining. The swans thrashed the water into a churning cauldron and took off, labouring their heavy bodies skywards, and powerfully beat the air into submission in the urgent search for safety.
Another green field ravaged. Smoothpelt retreated to the river’s edge, craning to see the cranes and bulldozers beating the silence into the mud. Concerned for his cubs and mate, he watched the waters turn milky as great posts were hammered deep into the riverbed. What would these humans do this time? Another road to pollute the air and stream? Hadn’t they ruined enough?
Another river despoiled. Smoothpelt knew it was time to flee, to take his family upstream to the hills, to the wild moorland where few People trespassed. How long this time?
Sad eyed, Smoothpelt remembered the Tale Long Told, of the troubles Humans caused and the Great Promise of the Maker. One day, The Day to Come, when the Maker’s Peace will heal the land and sky, the rivers and Sea. If any Human had troubled to look, they’d have seen an Otter with its paws reaching out as if in prayer. And if any Human could understand, they’d surely hear the Ancient Cry of Creation: “How long, Great Maker? Our groans call out for freedom. Yet we believe and hope- Make all things New!”
Photograph and story (c) Richard Starling, 2021. Bible quotation from the New Living Translation.