One afternoon this summer way back in the woods I stood along the boggy shoreline of Alfred’s Pond. No road reached this sanctuary. Black spruce and feathery tamaracks lined the pond’s edge, their reflections wriggling on the water’s surface. The sense of being alone in a faraway place was strong. And then the beaver arrived. He appeared in the distance, spotted me and turned in my direction, cutting a dark channel in the water. Ten feet away he slowed and stopped.
We looked at one another for maybe 15 seconds with dueling curiousity. What thoughts go through a beaver’s head? Was he as interested in my behavior as I in his? His opinion of me soon became clear as he slapped his tail on the water with a smack and submerged. When he popped back up in the distance, he did it again … and again.
I recall our encounter on this date because it’s the Full Beaver Moon tonight. The Harvest and Hunter’s Moons of September and October are in the rearview as beavers finish up final preparations for the coming winter. Soon they’ll hole up in their lodges and munch on the inner bark of tree limbs collected during the fatter seasons. Meanwhile their namesake moon rides high over the ponds and lakes looking more and more like an icy white ball as winter looms.
Every month’s full moon has a name based on Native American or colonial associations. Setting traps before the swamps froze to ensure a good supply of warm furs is another interpretation of the Beaver Moon moniker. The Dakota Sioux called November’s moon “Moon When Horns Are Broken Off” referring to the time when deer and moose begin to shed their antlers.
When I think of this month’s moon, like the beaver I’m reminded to get my affairs in order before the snow comes. That means putting the shovel outside the front door, cleaning the wood stove of ashes and keeping a sweater handy. We mammals have many things in common. One of them is to be in a cozy place when the chill moonlight paints the landscape the color of bleached bones.