Brownfield Bog is about an hour and a half west of Portland, and spring hasn't fully arrived in that part of the state. While the city trees are fluffy with catkins and infant leaves, the bog trees are still winter-bare, and the understory growth is mostly young reed shoots and shoreline alders. But the water was high, and the air was mild, and the blackflies were immaterial, and it was a beautiful day to canoe.
The place is somewhat hard to find, and its access road is nothing but rocks and holes, so very few visitors were there to disturb the quiet. The paddle is a four-mile circuit up and down a winding finger of slow-moving water that ends at a big beaver dam. Beavers were busy in the bog: we must have seen eight or ten lodges along the edges, and Tom caught sight of a swimming animal that might have been a muskrat or an otter or a beaver. All of them live in the marsh.
Mostly, though, we saw birds . . . many, many red-winged blackbirds singing among last-year's brown grasses; mallards and Canada geese honking and splashing; a pair of hooded mergansers with their crazy flat-top hairdos; a kingfisher flying low over the open water and then hooking suddenly into a tree; and a shrieky plover-like wader we later identified as a greater yellowlegs.
Sitting in the middle of a canoe is pretty uncomfortable, so we swapped out the princess position, and everyone got a chance to paddle. Paul is a star-quality canoer: after spending so many summers on Ontario rivers, he could back us out of any corner. And I really enjoyed being in a part of Maine that resembled my homeland . . . watery and remote, ringed with firs, a secret garden teeming with small life.