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Spartanburg River Otter • Seamus Heaney

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Uploaded on Jan 5, 2008

City of Spartanburg, SC - This footage, shot from our dining room window, was captured around lunchtime on January 4th, 2008. Once it gets too dark in the evenings to film, a family of three river otters will often join us to frolic and feed. This was the first time in years that we have seen one go fishing in broad daylight, though one or another of them has been fishing from mid-morning to mid-afternoon since. Only toward nighttime, and recently it has been every night, do we get the playful threesome. Before grading for the Super Wal-Mart began back in 2003, I was able to record a few hours of the little guys plunging and surfacing in pairs during the day, but it was shot with an old mini-DV camera that has not had its tapes sorted nor viewed since the convenience of digital cameras made us mothball the device. It is gratifying to see the happy return of these delightful little critters.

"The Otter" is being recited by Sage's favorite poet, Seamus Heaney, the Nobel laureate who also translated the version of "Beowulf" that I read to her when she was two and a half years old. Having taken to the story of Beowulf as an otter takes to water, Sage and I together read John Gardner's "Grendel" while vacationing at Sewanee during the Summer of 2006. At the risk of further digression from our Mustelidaedic friend, let me just say that Sage was indignant at the liberties taken with the epic poem by Robert Zemeckis for the sake of a tight screenplay. We all thought the 3-D was pretty cool, though.

The Otter - Seamus Heaney

When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.

I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,
Your fine swimmer's back and shoulders
Surfacing and surfacing again
This year and every year since.

I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air
Thinned and disappointed.

Thank God for the slow loadening,
When I hold you now
We are close and deep
As the atmosphere on water.

My two hands are plumbed water.
You are my palpable, lithe
Otter of memory
In the pool of the moment,

Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
Heaving the cool at your neck.

And suddenly you're out,
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones

For more videos and to see many of the other critters who live at the headwaters of Lawson's Fork Creek, please visit www.kuhens.com.

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