A long time ago, I read books about animals. Horses, dogs, ocelots. Sentimental novels like "Black Beauty." My father's books on trapping techniques. And a book about otters. "Ring of Bright Water" was the story of a man and wild otters on the coast of Scotland. It's still around in book form, though of course a movie has been made - on a quick search I learned that there are follow-ups to the original, a trilogy of nature books. So, this has what to do with sailing? Sunday morning, I was sitting in the cockpit, watching mist rise off the water and working on a cup of coffee. I heard a splash behind me and turned, thinking it might be the snapping turtle I saw last week. It was an otter, sleek head and sinuous body gliding up to a neighboring empty dock and then under. I watched for a long time, hoping it would re-emerge, but it was gone into the maze of 30-foot slips or perhaps back across the cove to the wild side where the heron roosts. I remembered the book, read and re-read, and while having no illusions about a cuddly relationship - I believe wild things are best left wild, since close contact with humans generally has bad results - I enjoyed the visit and look forward to more. We sailed Saturday in a nice breeze, enjoying the ride. But part of the pleasure of being on the water is the companionship of creatures that are native there. The snapping turtle tearing at a dead catfish. The heron that roosts on a branch across the way and fishes every morning near the head of the cove, undisturbed by the gabble of ducks. Small creatures, too - a flotilla of tiny water striders skating off onto a water so wide and full of hazards. Sometimes just being still, with the slap of waves against the hull, is enough.
My third novel, Blood Clay, will appear in November from Press 53. It is set in Piedmont North Carolina, my home since 1997.
Other books: Wake Wake Wake, a poetry collection; Fidelities, a short story collection; a novel about the 1970s called Survivor; and an SF novel way back when, Neena Gathering, in Brazil published as Mundo Perdido.
I teach at North Carolina A and T State University after a long career as a newspaper reporter and editor. And late in life I have taken up sailing - look for High Cotton on Lake Kerr.
All original material on this site is Copyright, Valerie Nieman.