Ode to the beaver @ Dismal Swamp
We go to the dismal swamp to unwind and refresh our spirits.
We get out our red wine, bird books, field chairs and sit. The most exercise we get is swatting away black flies and mosquitoes. The swamp does the rest as it unveils to us a life that is in harmony.
We sit back sip on our wine and watch. My furrowed brow unfurrows, my body relaxes, my spirit soars as the beaver moves around his world.
Off to the right is his house and a fine house it is. He is king of this pond. He never flips his tail at us like so many beavers do when we are in the river canoeing.
He is secure that we will not harm him.
On the heels of our hard winter the beaver's pond is over flowing. He quickly builds a new wall to the dam. He is the most industrious I have ever seen.
A few days later we returned and the water looked lower. We were confused. We saw a muskrat swimming in the water. We sipped our wine and swatted at black flies and watched.
After spending an hour we went home.
The next day we packed up and drove back to the swamp. It was a sunny calm day. We arrived and noticed that the water was down a good two feet from the peak fullness we had seen. We observed that the dam had been breached. My husband said that the beaver would never stand for that and would have patched it up immediately. I walked around and came to the original beaver dam site. I looked for signs of the beaver. I spotted two tufts of hair. I picked up one clump and walked back to my husband. Our beaver had survived a terrible winter and now with the blush of spring we had to mourn his loss.
I was shocked and hung my head as the tears poured out of my swollen eyes. I cried all the way home and into the night. I imagined the beaver: trapped and killed, shot, ripped apart by dogs, put in a box and carted away. He was at the peak of his game, I was loving that brown wet body. His big nose at the edge of the water as he moved with purpose and grace. It was so clear he was getting ready to have a real home with a Mrs. beaver and babies. Maybe there were babies already in the house waiting to be fed. I wept as we left and said I would never go back. But all night I was there at the waters edge mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was trying to hold the beavers spirit. I couldn’t feel him anywhere. Like he had just disappeared.
I had taken him for granted. I had expected him to live on for years. I had contemplated buying the land to preserve this lovely pond and all that it contained. It wasn’t the killer winter that got him but amid: the apple blossoms, yellow green grass, the buzz of the dragonflies, the startling plunge of the king bird, the celestial song of the toads and frogs a human hand took all this and crushed it.
It’s hard to break up a beaver dam. They build them so strong. But these humans did it with a pick, a shovel, or a chain saw. They leaked away the life-blood of the pond. The tiny fish were jumping and skittering across the water that was quickly becoming mud. I couldn’t go today. I am sure the hot sun is baking the banks and will quickly erase years of life.
I will not go back.
We will be ghosts sitting on the bank sipping our wine and watching an apparition of the beaver as it bustles around this tiny spirit pond.