Ideas that add up #7
Seamus Heaney, Mary O’Malley and Ted Hughes have all devoted elegant doggerel to these creatures. Hughes is taken with the otter’s “Underwater eyes, an eel’s. Oil of water body”, the way it “Re-enters the water by melting”. Mr Heaney declares his love for an otter’s “wet head and smashing crawl/Your fine swimmer’s back and shoulders/Surfacing and surfacing again.” Ms Darlington’s own lyrical prose is often beautifully evocative: a male otter is “supple as rope made out of silk”; a female swimming underwater moves in a “ripple-wake”; the “thin curves” of a mother and cub “slip together into the twilight, like fierce, muscled ribbons, darkening into the ribbon of the stream.”
Review of Otter Country: In Search of the Wild Otter in The Economist, September 1st 2012.
A sinuous, secretive predator. Sleek and alert. Lithe. Beady-eyed and mischievous-looking. True poetry in motion: seeing one is a feast for the eyes. Hunted and poisoned to the verge of extinction in Britain by the 1970s, now back in numbers thanks to conservation efforts.
Walking this summer on an embankment beside one of the Norfolk Broads, I saw faint breaches in the knee-high grass either side of the footpath. Tantalising traces – according to the farmer – of an otter crossing from the reedy riverbank down to the pastures of the marsh farm. It was a minor thrill, that not-quite-brush with the neighbourhood wildlife.