My dog aside, there is lots of wildlife around this bridge in the forest in Maine. Photo by Madelyn Given.

The Little Bridge in the Woods

Back at home in Maine, there is a small bridge in the woods, where I walk nearly every day. The bridge used to be part of a railroad track, but the rails and ties are long gone; only a sturdy bridge and a path now remain. Years ago, the trains traveled across this little bridge, carrying passengers and their luggage trunks to a country depot not far from here, along the spur through these woods. At the depot, there were carriages waiting to bring the guests to the grand hotel, along with wagons to carry the trunks and baggage, and the guests would spend the summer here. Over the little bridge came Queen Victoria, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts.

Now only woodland animals cross over the bridge, and a pair of bald eagles circles it almost every day, looking for fish where the stream leads into the pond. There is much activity about this little bridge that goes unnoticed by most humans. The stream is concealed by an island, with a marsh and wooded shoreline perfect for birds and small wild animals.

Here I sit quietly and watch nature unfurl in front of me. Ducks, sometimes four or five, fly down one behind the other in a perfect row, then hit the water—splash! They’re home safely. A blue heron calls this its territory, too. Ever so deftly, the heron lifts one long leg up and out of the water and ever so slowly places it down ahead, and then lifts the other up and out of the water and places it slowly back down, never making so much as a ripple or sound.

The muskrat is a flighty little animal. It is a fast swimmer and it is all business as it goes along its route and makes a beeline across the water. The muskrat is weary of the falcon that sits high on a branch of the big pine tree on the island. A pair of bald eagles that have a nest on another nearby island on this pond. Each day they can be seen circling overhead, watching for a fish. Down, down one will come straight to the water and snatch the fish with the deadly talons and try to rise up out of the water. It is an effort for this heavy bird and it struggles and slowly gains momentum, until it is high enough to land on a big bare branch near the water. There it will pause and eat the fish.

A pair of Canadian geese decided this area near the bridge would be a good place for a nest, and every year they return and take charge of the area. They march up and down the shore and swim about near the shoreline, telling the ducks and woodland animals that this is their home. Frogs, squirrels, and song birds have their home around the little bridge. A pileated woodpecker can be heard with the loud rat-a-tat-tat, and a woodpile under each tree tells that it has been there.

A pair of red-winged blackbirds lives in the marsh near the little bridge, and their song is very distinct, saying, “We are here.” Deer cross the bridge during the day, and raccoons scurry across it at night. Turtles live in the stream and pond below the bridge. Sometimes on a warm day, they sit on a rock, or line up on a fallen log which is jutting out into the water.

It is the simplest of things that make life so enjoyable. A few brief moments in nature can bring such peace and calm to our daily lives. Life around a little bridge has much to offer us.

(posted May 31, 2016)