Our friends in the woods

Before I emigrated to Canada six years ago I was never one of those people who wanted to live in the countryside. BOR-ING. Why would you want to live somewhere without coffee shops or pubs? I was then and have always been a city mouse. But spending so much of our summers in a cottage in the woods can change that. Take this morning for instance.

Unusually I went for my morning swim in the lake alone. At least I thought I would be alone but when I reached the water's edge it was as if someone had beaten me to it. There on the raft was the beautiful heron which flies and fishes in these waters. He wasn't going any where. I have been recently reading the wonderful Waterlog by the late Roger Deakin. He swims waterways in Britain and writes of the delights of observing birds and animals from water level. He says creatures who inhabit rivers and lakes are usually not threatened when you enter the water. It is like you are one of them.

 I swam out to the heron and talked to him. He stayed until I was almost close enough to get up there with him. Then he flew off and I savoured the moment as his giant wingspan cast a shadow on the water below. It is these casual encounters with wildlife out here that I love so much. Just a couple of hours later we gazed at the groundhog on next door's lawn and discovered the flowers I had been admiring were his favourite snack.

Walking back up the hill home I crouch down to photograph a squirrel on a pile of logs. Then I heard a crashing sound in the woods. It was getting louder. The squirrel and I looked around to see a deer leaping across the path beside us and off in the trees on the other side. Something had scared it. The deer was such a bright colour it almost looked orange.

All of this life is going on around the lake and in the woods and none of these creatures need us to be there. They are getting on with their lives. They are wild. But when we are there and we witness just a tiny bit of it - it feels like an incredible privilege. THIS is better than Starbucks.


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