Okay, admittedly I'm not exactly sure why this is the case, but today (April 7) is International Beaver Day!
It's a 24-hour cycle set aside specifically for the purpose of paying homage to Castor canadensis, the world's second-largest rodents (the capybara of South America are the largest btw ;-).
Now I know a lot of you might view our buck-toothed little friend like you would any other member of its extended family - as a nuisance that chews on trees and dams up the river. But hey, just like you do whatever you do...that's just what beavers do! And I for one think they're pretty amazing critters who deserve a day of their own to be celebrated.
And so I thought I'd help out with the cause by giving the beaver a few loving words (no, not from June and Ward Cleaver ;-) and sharing a few tales of my own involving these busy-bodied pals.
In case you didn't know, you can actually see beavers in many places that are super easy to access right here in North Central Washington; and that's where two of my own encounters with them hale from.
The first I'll share was actually the most recent, and took place at Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park in East Wenatchee just last year.
Over the past few years when the weather's nice, I've fallen into the thankfully-healthy habit of taking walks along the Loop Trail there in the evening. And on one such occasion last fall, when I was approaching the trail's terminus at the south end of the park, I spied something moving through the water just off shore near a bank of trees.
I stopped to take a gander at the curious swimmer, since I rarely see anything but waterfowl in the water and the occasional breaching fish during my strolls.
I watched for a few minutes while inching a bit closer to the activity.
Then when I was within only about ten to twelve feet of it, the floating head veered suddenly for the shoreline and emerged from the river.
What the watery cloak that was now shed revealed was a beaver!...just as I had suspected. And he was now prowling the rocky banks of the shoreline.
I stood motionless and observed his movements in full Marlin Perkins-style glee. Hey, can you blame me? Beaver sightings of any kind are rare in my world, especially when they're only a few feet away.
My flat-tailed little friend hadn't seen me yet, so I was able to soak up a good half-a-minute of enjoyment just watching him do his thing.
Then, when he finally did turn his head my direction and realized I was there, he not surprisingly made a quickened scurry back into the river where he began a hastened beaver stroke downstream and out of sight.
About ten years ago, I had another encounter with a beaver about 25 miles upriver at Daroga State Park.
I was married at the time, and my now ex-wife and I were walking our dog along the park's trail system, which was one of her very favorite places.
Along one stretch of the trail, there was a rather large area of standing water, similar to a pond, which must have connected via some subterranean means to the adjacent Columbia River.
My dog was a sweet little Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Willow who was never one to let her stunted stature stand in the way of her intrepid nature when it came to letting any other creature, no matter how big or small, know that she was present and of equal or greater importance.
Usually, this brazen compulsion of calling attention to herself surfaced in the face of other canines and, where the park was concerned, any flocks of ducks or geese she might come across.
But on this occasion, Willow cocked her head to the left and simply froze in place all of the sudden - acting more like a pointed hunting dog than the meddlesome herding pooch her breed is well-renowned for being.
We were taken aback by her behavior and looked in the direction which had apparently caused her to gorgonize. And there in the pond was a beaver treading water in our direction with its large front tooth reflecting in the sunlight.
He was certainly a sight to see for all three of us and we watched him do his beaver errands - with Willow being the most curious of intent - for several minutes until it was time to move on and finish our walk.
The last story I have to share about encountering a beaver is my favorite, and this one really hit home with me in a way that was exceedingly meaningful.
I know a lot of people think the notion of spirit animals is nonsense, and that the thought of seeing an animal in the wild unexpectedly having any deeper meaning than just coincidence deserves even less attention. But the beaver I crossed paths with in a very unlikely location about twelve years ago definitely had a message for me. And in my mind (or moreover my heart), there's just no doubt about that.
I was driving the road that goes through Palisades heading east a few miles outside of town when, right where the asphalt portion of the road becomes gravel, I saw something clambering across its surface.
Now I know there are a lot of marmots out that way and the untrained eye might mistake one of these rodents for a beaver. But I'm a trained marmot spotter, since I've been hanging around with them at the local parks and feeding them for many years. So I know the distinctions between a marmot and a beaver, and to my absolute astonishment, the critter that was clumsily crawling across the road in front of me was indeed a beaver!
I stopped the car in plenty of time to avoid potentially hitting him and watched in awe as he crossed the road and crawled into the safety of some tall grass in the drainage ditch alongside the road.
What in the world is a beaver doing out by Palisades, I thought to myself and even continue to ponder to this very day.
In prosaic terms, I have no idea. But at that time in my life I was at a major creative crossroads and trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my time on Earth. So Mr. Beaver being in that unusual of a place at that very moment when I came upon him in my sedan had an extremely profound meaning for me.
And that message was to start building; to build something that I could use in the future that would assist me in creating the things I desired. After all, beavers are master builders, and there's no question this beaver was urging me to be like him and get started with laying some foundations for the future.
And so it was...and so I did!
Aside from these very fond memories involving our good friend, the Beaver, these creatures are wonderful in so many ubiquitous ways.
In general, beavers are symbolic of acting upon your dreams to make them a reality. Beavers instill us with focus, setting goals, and the reminder that we possess the power to work hard enough to make anything we want happen.
Beavers also remind us to make plans for our future and set an example of both teamwork and individual effort.
In short, beavers are marvelous creations and I love them and am very thankful to share this beautiful planet with them all ;-)=