Living on Bear Creek, we take great pleasure in watching the wildlife. A few days ago, my partner Tom came running in shouting, “Beaver! Beaver in the river!” He grabbed his binoculars and raced to the back window.
I grew up in a big city and thought beavers were ancient, extinct creatures seen only in picture books. I was shocked to actually see one in my backyard.
She was standing in the water on her hind legs, reaching for leaves on a tree that had fallen across the creek. Through the binoculars, I could see her chubby, brown belly and her tiny little hands carefully picking the leaves and stuffing them into her mouth. After she had eaten everything she could reach, she let go and floated down the river.
The image of the beaver stayed with me all that day and into the next. It felt like a gift meant to be treasured. I kept telling myself: Don’t forget the beaver. Hold on to the image of her in your mind.
But Mother Nature was not done with us. The next day, a pair of Canadian geese landed within view. First they had a fight, although Tom said they might have been mating. The male stood in the river, while the female flew up high and perched in a tree. She seemed to be posing for us. They were both perfectly, utterly still and silent. Then the female flew down to join the male and they also floated down the creek. Tom said he had been knocked over by a goose at age five, so for him it was no big deal. But I had never seen geese except flying overhead honking, a form of communication I’ve always hoped to understand.
A few days later, we observed a Blue Heron sitting on a rock in the middle of the creek. It was so close to us that binoculars were not necessary. After a brief respite, the majestic bird spread its enormous wings and flew gracefully past us, flying about two feet above the water. It seemed to be gliding on the air currents created by the movement of the water.
More time passed, and one morning we discovered most of our smallest cherry tree was missing. Gone! I blinked and, yep, the tree was not there. We examined the sliced trunk and wondered: Who sawed down our tree? Do we have an angry neighbor? Closer examination revealed obvious tooth marks and we realized the beaver was the culprit.
Then we noticed the strawberries had been decimated! Chewed down to the ground. Why, just the other day, I was bragging about my foot-high berry patch, telling everyone “Living on Bear Creek is like living at Findhorn in Scotland, where the vegetables are gigantic.”
We have come to understand the phrase “busy as a beaver,” because our nocturnal visitor has also severely pruned the roses in our front yard and tested one branch of an English Laurel bush. She must have decided she didn’t like the taste of the laurel, because she left the branch on the ground. Fortunately, she hasn’t touched the lilacs or the broccoli.
Many lessons can be learned from living on a river. Perhaps it’s about floating—simply flowing with life—or giving up pride in possessing a beautiful garden. In the end, I decided to make peace with “our” adorable Backyard Beaver and allow her to take from us whatever she needs to sustain herself. We can always buy strawberries at the grocery store.