I have spent the past several years seeking out new places to walk as I document local trails in this area. Each trail included in my Easy Walks in Massachusetts publications is carefully considered. But over the years I have lived in New England, the one spot I have visited more than any other is literally right in my backyard. Our house overlooks Silver Lake in Bellingham, and I need only pull on my coat, step outside, and I’m on my way.
Out and back is just under a mile, along a mostly paved path right next to the shoreline. The road has a few potholes here and there, with some rough patches as well. But what draws me back, over and over, is the water and what might be there.
All summer swans swim along the shoreline. A kingfisher glides along the far side of the lake, its clacking call echoing across the water. Occasional hawks soar overhead, silencing the songbirds.
And every spring and fall the migrating waterfowl stop by in shifts of only a day or two on their way north or south. The parade of migration lasts for several weeks each season, and the shy birds stay as far from shore as they can manage, but they are there.
And now we have otters (as well as a beaver). A few years ago a single otter arrived for just a few days, but surely he was looking for love in all the wrong places. Silver Lake was clearly one of those wrong places, and he was gone within a week or so from when we’d first noticed him swimming about.
In the past week or three, word has gotten out that an otter family had arrived at the lake. I’ve been lucky to see them on several of my walks, and was even able to share the experience with others.
But they are wild animals, not cooperative about appearing on command. Other walks have offered little but the water, the swans, and the coming of winter.
How long this family will remain in the neighborhood is anybody’s guess. It’s a small lake, so I suspect they will move on before long. Each time I see them again is a gift, a sweet surprise.
I love to explore and discover new places that offer views of the New England countryside, with its many ponds, streams, hills, stonewalls, stone foundations, and amazing views. But right in my backyard, at least for now, are views I treasure. In the quiet of the afternoon as the sun sets. The mergansers swim about searching for food to fuel them on their way. And the otters come out of their hiding place in the rushes, when they so choose.
Marjorie Turner Hollman
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.