Who Am I?

More often than not, you will see signs of my activity, rather than see me personally. I gnaw off tree trunks and branches, which serves a threefold purpose: it keeps my teeth, which grow throughout my lifetime, at the proper length; it provides me with nutrition, herbivore that I am; and last but not least, it affords me the material needed in the construction of lodges and dams for which I’m famous. I have been called nature’s engineer, you see.

I’m typically active during the night (people call me a nocturnal animal), but you might catch a glimpse of me during the day, especially close to dusk when I’m beginning the night’s labors after having rested in my comfortable, elevated sleeping quarters inside my domicile, which I reach through an underwater entrance, invisible to you. If I perceive potential danger while swimming, you might hear me slap my tail on the water, creating a nice, big, loud splash, before I dive out of sight.

That tail is a thing of beauty, if I may say so myself. It’s flat, black, and adorned with scales. Not unlike fish scales, but please don’t confuse me with a fish, as I’m a mammal—more specifically a rodent. Why some prejudices exist against my large family, I don’t know. Methinks it’s because we like to gnaw on things you don’t want us to gnaw on. That tail of mine, which has been described as a paddle, would make me a great ping-pong player, if I were a little faster on my feet. You might call me corpulent, but I need my thick, insulating adipose tissue to keep me warm in the cold water where I spend many of my waking hours.

My lipid layers are encased in a splendid fur, which was the reason you once hunted us nearly to extinction. But that sad story I will leave for another time. I spend a lot of time combing and grooming that coat of mine, and applying a waterproofing, oily substance called castoreum. Both this and our scientific name, Castor canadensis, are derived from the Latin “castor” (and from the Greek “kastor”), meaning beaver. Castor nordamericanensis might be a slightly more apropos appellation, since we occur not only in Canada, but across most of North America.

Sometimes we act in unpredictable ways—and who doesn’t? Such was the case on an unusually mild day in March, when some of you were lucky to see me in broad daylight for an extended period. Even a beaver craves a little sunshine on occasion. I had ventured away from my usual haunt to inspect a nearby pond. Not finding it suitable to erect a mansion, I nevertheless did a little foraging and, in between, hauled out on a platform in the water to soak in some warmth.

Did you notice my sleek, shimmering coat? And did you see my tail? (Have I mentioned this wondrous appendage before?) How about my agile front paws, which enable me to carry sticks underwater, to groom my handsome face, and to hold a morsel and eat it. Let’s not forget my hind paws, each of which has five toes—just like your feet. Unlike yours, mine are webbed, and aid in propelling me forward. I bet you had no idea that I can swim at a speed of 6 miles per hour once I get going. And that I can hold my breath for up to 15 minutes!

But pardon me for digressing. And for, perhaps, appearing slightly immodest.

Who am I? Allow me to introduce myself. I am the American Beaver, at your service.

Pleased to meet you.

With thanks to my fellow blogger, Steve @ Portraits of Wildflowers for reminding me of the etymology of “castor.”

Bitte verzeiht mir, daß es wegen der Länge dieses Beitrags heute keine deutsche Übersetzung gibt.

Looking For Spring

The plethora of shared nature impressions from my fellow bloggers in the last weeks is a reminder that springtime in Colorado arrives later than in other locations. The following images of Fountain Creek Regional Park, one of my favorite go-to places that help me forget about our chaotic reality, at least temporarily, were taken at the beginning of last week, a few days before spring equinox. While I love the muted late winter hues, I look forward to the impending surge of color.

Die reichhaltigen Naturimpressionen meiner Mitblogger in den vergangenen Wochen erinnern daran, daß der Frühling in Colorado später beginnt als an anderen Orten. Die folgenden Bilder von Fountain Creek Regional Park, einem meiner Lieblingsplätze, wo ich wenigstens zeitweise unsere chaotische Realität vergessen kann, habe ich zu Beginn der vergangenen Woche gemacht, nur wenige Tage vor der Frühjahrstagundnachtgleiche. Auch wenn ich die verhaltenen Winterfarben liebe, freue ich mich auf die bald zu erwartende Farbwelle.

Even here, at 6,000 feet elevation, the signs of vernal awakening are unmistakable. Our mono- to dichromatic vegetation is slowly but surely assuming more shades. The grass is turning green before our eyes, and tender emerald shoots are pushing their noses through the soft soil. A few buds have emerged and are about to open.

Selbst hier, auf 2.000 Meter Höhe, sind die Zeichen des Frühlingserwachens unverkennbar. Unsere mono- bzw. dichromatische Vegetation nimmt langsam aber sicher mehrere Schattierungen an. Das Gras ist täglich etwas grüner und zarte smaragdfarbene Sprosse stecken ihre Näschen durch die weiche Erde. Einige Knospen sind bereits völlig zum Vorschein gekommen und stehen kurz davor, sich zu öffnen.

The beginning of my favorite time of year promises something new and vital, in the midst of what feels like the end of the life we have known. While there seems to be nothing good in this pandemic for us humans, some hopeful reports suggest that our environment has already benefitted from the decrease in man-made pollution. I can’t help but see the silver lining on the horizon for Mother Earth created by even a brief break from our frenzied activity, but we need to figure out a way to continue to live without destroying our very basis of life.

Der Beginn meiner Lieblingsjahreszeit verspricht Neues und Vitales, inmitten einer Periode, die das Ende unserer bisherigen Existenz zu signalisieren scheint. Auch wenn diese Pandemie nichts Gutes für uns Menschen mit sich bringt, weisen einige hoffnungsvolle Berichte darauf hin, daß unsere Umwelt bereits von der Minderung der menschengemachten Verschmutzung profitiert hat. Ich kann nicht anders, als den Silberstreif am Horizont für Mutter Erde wahrzunehmen, der Resultat dieser relativ kurzen Unterbrechung unserer wahnwitzigen Aktivtäten ist, doch muß es uns langfristig gelingen, unser Leben fortzuführen, ohne dabei unsere eigene Lebensgrundlage zu zerstören.

Thinking of you across the globe, and wishing all of us good health and courage.

Ich denke an Euch rund um die Welt, und wünsche uns allen gute Gesundheit und Unverzagtheit.

Look Who’s There

This is a view I have seen—and photographed—countless times, to my husband’s neverending amusement. He only grins when I show him yet another snapshot, taken from the deck of the Nature Center in Fountain Creek Regional Park, one of my local favorite haunts. I justify my repeated images with the argument that each hour, each day, each month has its own charms, and that the scenery is in a state of constant flux.

One day not long ago I am again enjoying this familiar outlook when I notice an addition to the canvas. Do you see what I see? To my utter delight, I witness how this White-tailed Deer doe-and-fawn-duo stride slowly through the shallow water, where they take an occasional bite out of the aquatic plants. They never venture far apart and gently nose and nudge one another.

Diese Aussicht habe ich schon unzählige Male gesehen—und photographiert, sehr zur Belustigung meines Mannes. Er grinst nur, wenn ich ihm noch einen Schnappschuss zeige, den ich von der Terrasse des Besucherzentrums des Fountain Creek Regionalparks aus gemacht habe, einem meiner Lieblingsziele. Ich rechtfertige meine wiederholten Bilder mit dem Argument, daß jede Stunde, jeder Tag, jeder Monat einen eigenen Charm besitzt, und daß diese Szene ständig im Wandel begriffen ist.

Vor nicht allzu lange genieße ich wieder diesen vertrauten Ausblick als ich bemerke, daß die Kulisse einen Zusatz bekommen hat. Siehst Du sie auch? Zu meinem Entzücken bekomme ich mit, wie dieses aus Hirschkuh und Kitz bestehende Weißwedelhirschduo langsam durch das seichte Wasser schreitet, und ab und zu an Wasserpflanzen knabbert. Sie bleiben die ganze Zeit eng zusammen und schubsen und stoßen sich sachte.

 

In a season rich with birth and babies in the animal kingdom, I relish this serene moment, this tender instance of motherhood, as well as the confirmation that no two experiences are ever quite identical, in this or any other location (which is a good reason to keep taking photos 😊).

In dieser Jahreszeit, die in der Tierwelt von Geburten und Babys geprägt ist, genieße ich diesen friedlichen Moment, dieses zärtliche Beispiel der Mutterschaft sowie die Bestätigung, daß keine zwei Erfahrungen jemals identisch sind, weder hier noch an einem anderen Ort (was ein guter Grund ist, weiterhin zu photographieren 😊).

Lessons Of Nature

The morning hours of May 1 have been among the best so far this month. I passed them at a favorite local park, al fresco, with avian and other critters, away from humans. Birds do not make rude remarks, cut or flip me off in traffic. Squirrels do not show me the cold shoulder because I don’t share their religious or political convictions. Prairie dogs do not snub me on account of my eye, hair, or skin color, inadequate attire, awkward accent.

My need to be outdoors is inversely proportional to my level of frustration with (wo)mankind. Whenever it reaches a high (or low) point, as happens increasingly frequently, nothing helps restore my equilibrium, or at least inch me toward that elusive state, as simply being present in nature: seeing the sun rise, hearing the birds greet the new day with crystal-clear voices, watching the flowers open their faces to the light (or close them, as is the case with the dazzling night-blooming evening primrose whose petals curl and turn pink in the morning).

Monumental mountains grounded since times immemorial, trees rooted deeply in the earth, banks of condensing and dissipating clouds, the sun’s arc across the sky. They recall to me the big picture, put things in perspective. They help ground me, remind me that nature is cyclical, human nature included. That my own existence is ephemeral, that my real or perceived grievances are insignificant. We are here one moment, gone the next.

All I can do is savor the NOW, let go of matters vexatious, appreciate all that is good and beautiful: the cycles of the cosmos, the loveliness of the land, the verdant veil that finally adorns arbors after a long winter, the bright blossoms that beckon bees and butterflies, the birds that never fail to gladden the heart.

The Splendor of a Rainy Day

     We Coloradans are spoiled by living in a state that claims at least 300 sunny days per calendar year. Colorado Springs has benefited from this natural phenomenon since its founding in 1871, even calling itself “City of Sunshine”, to better attract tourists and health-seekers. For sufferers of consumption, a change in climate was frequently a desperate attempt to cure this age-old scourge of humanity. Before its cause was known, and before the discovery and development of effective antibiotics in the 1940s, treatment consisted of a multi-pronged approach, with exposure to fresh air and sunshine being one of its mainstays.

     Though most visitors and residents no longer arrive in Colorado Springs for health reasons, all still revel in our Columbine-colored skies, and the mood-enhancing effects of solar rays (their known potential for adverse health-effects notwithstanding). Originating from Germany, I was accustomed to extended episodes of gray and gloomy conditions, but it did not take long to convert me to the pleasures associated with a helio-dominated climate. But even in this sun-kissed region, the sun’s smiley face is concealed periodically. We might even forget that the Rocky Mountains rise directly in front of our doorsteps, when banks of mist and fog shroud our local fourteener, Pikes Peak, and its lesser but no less attractive neighbors.

     During one such beclouded stretch in early autumn, I stroll through one of my favorite local refuges, Fountain Creek Regional Park, also the focus of several previous posts (Monarchs and Milkweed, An Ode to Fountain Creek Regional Park, and Summer Sorrow). An alteration in weather is commonly paralleled by an alteration in animal activity, apparent as soon as I approach the Nature Center. A gobble of fourteen Wild Turkeys greets me from the meadow adjacent to the parking lot. They don’t flee as is their wont and, more remarkably, still roam the same vicinity two hours later, when I complete my loop.

The lower than usual sky seems to slow down pace and movement of all life. Whereas color and contrast diminish noticeably, many structures and textures are highlighted and brought into sharper focus, drawing my eyes to details I might otherwise overlook.

     I am grateful for the brightness and warmth that spoil us regularly, but instead of bemoaning the occasional sun-deprived period, I try to embrace it, resting assured in the knowledge that luminous and brilliant days will, once again, follow.

Click here for the German version/klicken Sie bitte hier für die deutsche Version:

https://tanjaschimmel.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/der-glanz-eines-verregneten-tages/