beaver medicine


Each day that passes, the intensity eases. The earth within me grows quieter, pieces of my self return. Goodnesses that seemed wiped out, or at least diminished, in the wake of those floodwaters, return on my horizon, like the return of creatures after the fierceness of a storm, or the breach of a dam.

I have witnessed a woodland after a beaver dam let loose. The area that was once underwater, offering habitat for not just the beaver but the others who benefited from her capacity to engineer a place of safety and nurture for herself, all at once laid parched and barren. Rich in nutrients from all of those years underwater, supporting season upon season of life, the seemingly devastated and depressed basin soon will become a meadow, supporting other forms of life… grasses, sedges, flowering and berrying plants, and all of the subsequent reliant species of birds and mammals. Downstream, where a new dam has been built, trees find their feet suddenly feet underwater, their branches graying, their canopies thinned to let in light, soon to become the snags that will support cavity dwellers. Not just those particular waterfowl will follow the beaver’s dislocation and reorientation, but also the wading birds, warblers, marsh hawks, insects, amphibians, fishes, and small mammals, such as muskrat, and moose.

I find it fascinating and wonderful the way her need to survive, combined with her instincts, compel her to build something new, and the way that her subsequent and seemingly destructive flood in actuality offers shelter to others who need her particular gifts of survival.

Gifts have been flooding me. Loved ones — dear friends – old and new –children, grandchildren, sisters, and companions – have come bearing them. With a smile, I picture their arrival, marching over the dry land, carrying a branch or two to stuff into the breach, reminding me that this deep well I have crafted within me is a place of warmth and nurture, comfort and safety, love and blessing to them. My presence on their landscape has provided something important and vital. Precisely because of my particular wounds and gifts, my need for emotional safety, it seems that I provide a space of nurture for others, too.

As I began to explore in my journal yesterday, I am continuing to ponder my capacity to hold all of this… the fierceness of my pain alongside the depths of my grace, my mother’s rejection of me alongside the love that the rest of my world reflects back to me. Today, I’m thinking about that enlarged heart the doctors discovered this summer inside of my chest. I am thinking about my canoe trips… my resilience, my grit, my creativity…..and the way my body celebrates there.

Today, I wonder if I diminish the softness of my heart’s ability to hold all in compassion by labeling it as broken, or if i diminish the largeness of my soul when I label my well-learned and long practiced gifts of self-care as suppression or repression, or even ‘toughing it out’. Oh, perhaps that was what I was doing when I was ignoring my pain during earlier years, or even these last years/months of my mother’s life, when I was trying to fit back in to the dysfunctional definitions of ‘good girl’, but I don’t believe that’s what I am doing now in acknowledging the depth of these waters in me, waters that include both boot sucking, fetid muck and delicate, fragrant waterlilies.

My heart has the capacity to receive the one who comes raging from breached dams. It is a familiar event for me, for she has been dealing with the abandonment of dams for as long as she can remember, has learned to adapt and adopt and make of those waters a place of peace and plenty. I have learned well these ways to soothe myself, to create safety, find nurture, rebuild the dam. Learned to help her see that she can be a place of welcome, that she no longer needs to be alone with her pain.

Yesterday, i received these words.

“Needing emotional safety and support isn’t something wrong with you. It’s the sign of something deeply right with you. You were never supposed to learn to be alone with your pain”

Once upon a time, it was true that I was left alone to deal with devastating pain. Yes, it made me strong, it made me learn to be self-reliant and creative in order to survive, and thank Godde I had some innate instinct to do so gracefully enough, though there were years that could have spun dangerously into darker adaptations. But now I see that the dam I built around that pain, which for some time isolated me, has become a place of life, where gentle creatures thrive within its richness.

A beaver pond is a quiet, soothing body of water, after all, with so much life beneath the surface, so many beings drawing nourishment from its stillness, even along the edges, and so much song surrounding it. She’s quite clever that way, really, to have built for herself a such a environment of safety and support, beauty and bounty, love and light. I think I can love her for that

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