I’m an easy sell for books recommended by friends. My Boy Scout pal Bob mentioned that he enjoyed reading Lily Pond by Hope Ryden. The book, published in 1997, chronicles Ms. Ryden’s four year stint – observing a family of beavers in Harriman State Park in New York. The book sounded a bit mundane but given my friend’s recommendation, I found a used copy on Amazon. When I read the preface by Dr. Jane Goodall, I thought – this could be good. And it was.
We are introduced to the species Castor canadensis by meeting a family of beavers (each had a name). After some preliminary introductions, Ms. Ryden offers a brief history of the aggressive beaver pelt trade two centuries ago. Beaver pelts made beaver hats and other adornments and thus trapping (with steel jaw leg traps) was uncontrolled. Beavers were near extinction by the early 1800’s. As of 1800, the beaver population of the Adirnodacks had been reduced by more than 99%. And then things slowly got better. And beavers were given protection. Fast forward to the mid-1980’s when Ms. Ryden began her four year surveillance.
Winter. Summer. Spring. Fall. Ms. Ryden observed the growing family of beavers. She knew them by name – and they knew her. We see the circle of life. Joy. Sadness. And the occasional humans who try to poach, hurt or destroy.
If I had it to do over again, I’d probably read Lily Pond in the winter. A more quiet time. By a fireplace. The book is gentle. Compelling. And thought-provoking. When I finished the book, I actually felt like I was part of the family.