It was on that last day that I paddled on the lake in October. It was quiet out there, with only a couple other people fishing from those long flat boats. We could greet each other in normal conversational voices even as I paddled far away to avoid disturbing their bobbers. The lake was mostly still, reflecting the golds and russets of the last of the fall color of the oak and maple trees along the shore. An occasional late brilliant sumac leaf or the red berry clusters of highbush cranberries stood out against the more muted colors. In some stretches, out in the open water of the lake and around certain bends, the wind churned up the water to make the low light of the late afternoon sun glisten like gems on the surface of the water. It was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Or call someone and tell them about it! I’d just put my camera away because it was getting a little too dark for really good photos and I wanted to mess around with some paddling practice before I headed back, when I came to a place where the shore swept back into the hill, where a stream had carved out a v-shape in the shoreline. Years of deposited silt had left little islands that reeds had colonized. I was paddling around the bend toward the reeds when . . . SPLASH . . . something made a terrific noise and made waves that rocked my boat. I turned just in time to see where the rings of waves were centered, and a row of bubbles coming straight at me on the surface. There was a beaver about to swim directly under my boat! I waited and watched for it to surface, finally giving up and paddling back to where the beaver had entered the water. I could see where it had been at work by the light color of the wood chips against the dark of the leaf litter on the ground and eventually found the small tree that it had been working on, and a few smaller branches with the characteristic cone-shaped chewed ends. I investigated the delta deposit with the reeds and then turned my boat to paddle back out to the main part of the lake when just about a dozen yards ahead, the beaver popped to the surface, swimming away from me. I paddled along, keeping the distance, matching its pace for a wonderful minute or two, when it saw me and slapped its tail on the surface before it dove beneath the water and disappeared. I paddled with a beaver! It doesn’t get much cooler than that!