I recently had the pleasure of creating an animal portrait of a long time friend of mine, Roy Weber. We spoke at length before arriving at a Muskrat, since he was adamantly opposed to my suggestion of an Opossum, for reasons I expected and understand. It's unfortunate though, since they're a terribly misunderstood and under appreciated animal. But that's another story.
Roy’s relationship with muskrat is karmic of sorts, beginning early in life when he was assigned the task of rounding up the day’s catch for his father, a part-time trapper in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Rooted in consumption and use-value (and of course death), it's none the less a relationship that can foster a connection and understanding with an animal, whether conscious or not. Usually the exception, there's a breed of hunter and trapper out there who's very respectful of their quarry. Although I'm not entirely sure where Roy's father fit into this spectrum, I thought this story, as well as an intuitive correlation on my part, made for an appropriate pairing of man and animal.
There's a visual resemblance in the eyes and hair, as well as a behavioral parallel. Roy inhabits his world in much the same way a muskrat inhabits theirs, living to a large degree comfortably beneath the surface, emerging for food and other needs. And given the sometimes treacherous nature of the world, with it's pitfalls and challenges, Roy keeps an eye out for life's many trappings. He often achieves this by denning up in his apartment, where he finds great comfort and sanctuary.
Roy also reminded me of a muskrat because he's a creature of habit (true for so many of us), with well worn trails emerging from his day to day activities. I saw this echoed in the water-trails created by a local muskrat living in an algae covered pond. His comings and goings left distinct, dark lines in the light green surface of the water.