Here, fetch

Here, fetch

Not the first time we’ve celebrated the playfulness of otters in these pages.  This description of the artful animal turning the tables on would-be human tamers is a delight.  You start by throwing a ball and end up being the one who runs to fetch it. But when...
A clutch of bright berries

A clutch of bright berries

Otters seem to be the most nuannaarpoqian of animals and their eye is easily caught by bright objects.  Here a bunch of red berries does the trick, apparently leading to a form of horizontal meditation. Once, I remember, I went to look for him there and at first could...
Otter mockery

Otter mockery

As you may have noticed, I have a soft spot for the playfulness of otters, and a growing collection of examples soon to be gathered together in a dedicated page. In this case, the merry otter watches a human, who had been chasing him, take a tumble and a dip, and...
As punctual as …

As punctual as …

… an otter?  Not the obvious simile, but according to this, true.  This curious fact lies alongside the revelation that when the otter decided it was time to get up, his human handler had to get up to – the animal went through an elaborate process of...
Otter aquatics

Otter aquatics

Otters are playful and their element is water.  Here Gavin Maxwell’s companion Mij, having figured out where the bathroom is, slips between his human handler’s legs and makes a dash for the source of water. By the time I had caught up with him he was up on...
Song for a seal

Song for a seal

A marvelous moment shared by the poet Elizabeth Bishop, conveying a connection across species and elements, as a seal allows a human to sing for him, a common interest in music binding them across the water-land divide. One seal particularly I have seen here evening...
Dogged kindness

Dogged kindness

Vasily Grossman had a genius for writing about animals with empathy and respect, whether it was war horses and mules, or dogs.  Here he dedicated a short story to imagining the experience and mind of the first dog sent into space.  This little creature, grabbed from...
Delight in small things

Delight in small things

A personage who takes delight in small things he finds on the wayside – I loved this eclectic selection of things spotted, gathered up, carefully placed and then returned to.  Even in the open countryside he retained his passion for play-things, and would carry...
Of leaping dolphins

Of leaping dolphins

I found this somehow touching, the way the parent dolphins don’t overstretch their offspring.  Also curious about the fact that the calves always stayed on the right side of the mother and in seeking a photo, it struck me that this appears to be a calf …...
Ping-pong purposeful

Ping-pong purposeful

The capacity of otters to play and to turn anything they find into a game, is breath-taking.  Here is one, having worked out the ludic possibilities inherent in the physics of ping-pong balls, setting off to entertain himself for an hour or two at a stretch.   You can...
A seal of affection

A seal of affection

An astonishing account of a newborn seal pup responding to a passing cuddle from a human.  I liked too that in the end his mother’s love, even in a telling off, proved the stronger attraction. Once … I picked up a brown seal pup no more than a day or so...
The play of otters

The play of otters

Otters seem to be the most nuannaarpoqian of animals.  Their life skills, resilience, confidence and playfulness captivated me when I read the evocative classic Tarka the Otter, celebrated here with rich pickings of quotes and metaphors.  Another classic, Gavin...
Tea for two

Tea for two

Dogs are playful but otters are surely the arch-nuannaarpoqians of the animal world.  Here Gavin Maxwell takes his friendly otter on the sleeper train with him, and the animal settles into his bunk in such a human stance that the attendant, bringing tea in the...
When does autumn begin?

When does autumn begin?

Officially, around 21st September, and this year it arrived with the precision of a Swiss watch.  But sometimes it can slip its calendar moorings, and choose another moment.  I loved this marker of Gavin Maxwell’s. Autumn begins for me with the first day on...
In praise of the scruffy and marginal

In praise of the scruffy and marginal

I love hedgehogs and see them as an ambling, loveable, flea-scratching symbol of hope and freedom, as well as the rights of the scruffy and marginal to be scruffy and marginal.  If they can survive in your garden, your garden is healthy. If the species survives our...
Joy in a whistle

Joy in a whistle

A wonderful moment captured, or imagined, in the playful, cavorting, dangerous life of an otter. Here Tarka’s mate whistles to him and he responds in joy. ‘Soon he heard a whistle, and a feeling of joy warmed his being.’  Williamson’s is one of...
Here is a valuable life

Here is a valuable life

Lopez’s description of a tough animal encountered on a summer’s day, arresting him with its direct gaze, reminds me of the sightings of birds we enjoy in our garden. In one spot, we used a pair of terracotta pots, about a foot high and nearly as much...
Master of whirlpools

Master of whirlpools

I loved this entrancing description of joyous and playful mastery. Tarka is a splendid character depicted after months of close observation of his kind, by a man disaffected with humanity following the horrors of the First World War. Although often hunted, the animal...
One last game

One last game

Having given birth to cubs, Tarka’s mate goes her own way. But before they part company he calls her to play one last game at the bridge and she joins him there. I liked the timelessness of the otters’ game which Williamson suggests has been played since...
To the bar and back

To the bar and back

This wonderful anecdote by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer describes a beloved uncle who would take him to the bar for a drink. Before leaving, he would randomly select three of his eleven dogs to accompany them. This seems to have been perceived as a treat by...
Play time by the brook

Play time by the brook

One of the delights of observing birds and animals is to see them apparently at play. Williamson’s slim, taut and charming classic on otters gives many examples of them playing. Here I liked Tarka’s trying to catch and bite a rope of water twist-tumbling...
How to be gentle

How to be gentle

This is a striking comment, that lack of gentleness may stem from having been shocked into fear at some point. How many ‘loud and aggressive persons’ might have been otherwise had they not been confronted by an enemy of some sort, something propelling them...
Across the divide

Across the divide

We play with dogs and cats and some other creatures.  I used to play with a fox in our garden in London: he made a show of taking my abandoned fleece delicately in his mouth and began pulling it off the table where I’d left it, all the while staring at me to see...
The keen joy of meeting

The keen joy of meeting

Isn’t this a marvelous account of a joyous reunion, including the playful pretence of ignoring each other, the better to extend that first thrill of meeting? You will soon perceive, from this and other quotations from the same book, that I’ve concluded...

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