Josna Rege

15. Humans—What a Bummer!

In 1990s, Stories, United States on March 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm

photo courtesy of Mike Dunn

“The Cave,” undisclosed location, North Central Massachusetts, c. 1992. It’s a sunny summer afternoon with a light breeze, on a rock high over the stream, still flowing freely from the abundant spring rains. The play of sun and shade dapples everything as I sit in a kind of absent presence, with quiet undirected attention. All at once two slim young otters come into view, dancing downstream together, splashing lightly through the water, wholly intent on each other and at ease with themselves and the world.

Though I try not to move a muscle, I must do so involuntarily, in sheer delight. The two start out of their reverie, shoot baleful glares up at me and immediately jerk their heads huffily away. It’s as if they’re rolling their eyes like teenagers faced with yet another example of adult stupidity: oh no, not again! Worse, it’s as if they have caught a bad smell on the breeze: they wrinkle their noses in disgust.

As one, the otters draw themselves up to their full height, step out of the water onto the opposite bank, and walk along it in dignified silence, eyes steadfastly averted. Then, the instant that they are downstream of me, they slip back into the water and their element, resuming their play as if the rude interruption had never happened.

I sit there quietly for a time, then pick myself up and return to the campsite with a sigh.

Tell Me Another

  1. Another wonderful story Jo. More more more please.

  2. Just fabulous, I can picture it perfectly! Have you read Gavin Maxwell’s “Ring of Bright Water”? He kept a few otters on a lonely outpost in Scotland, mid-century. On of my all-time favorites.

    • Sarah, apart from this one encounter, Ring of Bright Water (the book and the movie) has been my only source of knowledge about otters! His secluded life was also very attractive–wandering down the empty beach picking up bits of flotsam and jetsam. Just what I would like to do (but I can make do with thrift shops!) J

  3. I love otters. My reaction would have been the same as yours. Sigh.

  4. This makes me think of Watership Down, actually – lovely, Josna.

  5. Josna, This made me smile, and it also reminded me of the year I spent at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey studying Russian in classrooms whose doors opened to views of Monterey Bay. My fellow soldiers and I spent a lot of time watching the otters and listening to their barks instead of listening to our teachers drilling us on the Russian words for tank, rocket, armed personnel carrier, etc. Those otters remain one of my strongest memories from that time. I wonder what that could mean…

    • I wonder? (. . .not!) The otters’ barks clearly won out over your drill sergeant’s! And mental images of otters at play are surely more life-affirming than images of man-made implements of destruction. Whatever you were studying, though, if you were in Monterey Bay just about anything outside your windows would have been more attractive than anything inside! You have had such a wide variety of life experiences, Maureen–I didn’t know about this particular chapter. Can’t wait to read your novel.
      Thanks for commenting, love, J

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