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  • Writer's pictureMegan Willoughby

Otter.


I bought a pin at the post office the other morning, a small metal pin shaped and coloured like an otter, mounted on a blue piece of card which read “otter”.


I met a wild otter a few weeks ago and have felt myself clinging onto its presence since. Maybe by wearing this pin the otter will accompany me somehow. I could keep it under my armpit like an otter rock.


The walk to flights weir is full of ghosts, crossing the sheep field to the river Brew I pass the memory of a Crane, three years before, larger than the sheep. It sparked a wondrous rage within me when others doubted what my eyes relayed. Why do we pick at magic?


I always suspect the condensation of our breath up against the veil of another way when I walk the Somerset levels. The mists conceal secrets under such a vastly honest sky. The crane being sits by the ditches of our quarters, conversing with the memoirs of the waters that hold this lands truth. Water and islands they whisper and the crane-crone nods back. Once these lands held the stars in their soils, where air met earth, water met light and they sat together in the drifts of fog. The crane and the river are plotting I believe, to break the banks again one day.


Approaching Flights weir the air holds the shape of another ghost, a drowned deer from my first swim here. Its body, ballooned down stream, loomed death into the pools; face to face with the crashing waterfall, bursting gasping bubbles into the water which float like pockets of new tiny worlds. I couldn’t swim between the two that day, it was a bit much.

On this day, a few weeks ago, my head was in the past and conversation with a dear friend. We walked around the edge of the pool, through the mirage of last summers gabble - nests of teenagers with tinny speakers, families in inflatable unicorn donuts and sparkling plastic packagings - the summers leaf fall. It wasn’t until our return journey that we really arrived. How you enter a space can be fundamental, and many places have a way in which they are supposed to be entered. We came across the bridge, a top of the waterfall, turning the bend to a slap as a dark, wet, tick tail flashed over the same site of summers disposable barbecues…But now, down at the pool edge, sat upon a rotting branch, was a very large otter.

Otter, Jackie Morris.

Its a strange feeling when you meet a creature for the first time, your consciousness taps into the motion-space between you both, magnetised. The otter glowed from within a water-washed coat, eyes light from the inside and beardy cheeks seemingly unable to stay wet. For an animal so rare to spot these days I was taken by its nonchalance. We had walked into a cosy kitchen, with pots cooking and winters afternoon routines enacting, the otter greeted us into its home almost impersonally, insignificantly whilst the flow commenced.


A local fisherman came along while we gazed at the otter slipping through the water to the far bank. He didn’t knock at the kitchen door and began hauling and sliding himself and his kit down the bank.

“Do you see otters here often?” Raam said.

No response, I think perhaps for him it was his kitchen, and we hadn’t knocked.

“There’s an otter over there” I say.

He sees too and his wonder fills my heart too.


We spent a while longer looking down at the otter from atop of the bridge; creating a bed, curling up into itself to clean and nest, creating a perfect ammonite otter.


Life within this space, between the falling waters first cries and the subtle current of deaths float, is where we can relish in the abundance of each small beauty we meet. From honouring insignificance we can play in the largeness of life, when our dreams are as small as the stone an otter keeps under its armpit to harvest its next lunch. Our dreams, seen outside or inside of our heads, leave pebble sized grooves in the coat of the land with magical ghosts stories of our belonging can inhabit .


Otter by Jackie Morris


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