I found myself marveling at an architectural masterpiece this weekend in the rolling hills of upstate NY. It was beautiful, intricate, and purposeful.
A beaver dam.
Each piece of wood that made up the dam was individually shaped and placed by these beavers in a grand display of nature's finest meticulous craftsmanship. Their innate perseverance and teamwork yielded a reservoir from a once running stream. I stood on the dam and lowered my gaze to meet the reservoir's water level. Ripples of water moved toward my eyes with the calm breeze as a tiny canoe creates wake in a lake. But at the brink of the dam, the water began to flow once again with a rush of energy, and the line separating these two states was indefinable.
I stood here and wondered -- what drove these beavers to create a dam? Is it simply instinct? A product of the cosmos ingrained in their DNA? Or was it passed down to them as knowledge acquired by their beaver ancestors that came before them? The thought of a conversation with the beavers sounded intriguing. I pictured myself walking in to see them seated at a round wooden table, dressed in beaver sized tuxedos with tiny mustaches and bowler hats, investigating my presence through their silver monocles while they casually sipped on an earthy Bordeaux. You never know..
But these beavers certainly have a profound effect on the environment they inhabit. It's rare for a creature of the wild (aside from humans) to manipulate the ecosystem around it's community in such an impactful way. "Beavers reliably and economically maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lesson erosion, raise the water table and act as the 'earth's kidneys' to purify water" (link). Amazing! By building their dams, they are creating a lush environment for themselves and other species to happily flourish.
Maybe the beavers are conscious and see their unique dam building skills as an opportunity to build a better world. Or maybe they just like to chew on wood and build things. Either way, we share this land with them and can learn a lot from their methods. The importance of teamwork is paramount to achieving goals on a grander scale. We each have our own work to do -- gathering and carving the sticks we find to add into the structure of life that we exist in on this planet. But only together, in unity and communion, does that structure stay strong and allow life to flourish. No single person can build a society, and no single beaver can build a dam.
Fun fact: The world's largest beaver dam is located in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Canada and measures 2,790 feet long. Whoa.