Does it matter to the beaver in the woods?

 Melissa generally writes these, but I’ve been inspired by one of our customers who won our last Name That Soap Contest, with Walden - Thoreau-ly Clean.

I’ve always enjoyed Thoreau’s writings and have read Walden three times. In fact, I have read each of my copies once.

There’s a place in Northern MN where I feel A Waldenesque connection to nature. This is just one of the many such experiences.  

I grew up in Northern MN and spent my childhood playing in forests. Every year my dad would take my brothers and I camping in a state forest where his dad has taken him. In my mid-twenties, in the early years of an 80 hour per week corporate gig, I took a few days and went by myself. On the first morning I woke up early, laced up my boots and headed out to an area where I hadn’t been for years. The goal was to locate a green cup that my dad’s dad had placed on a tree, next to a spring fed stream, 50 years earlier. This forest was expansive, bordered by a lake and river, a long forgotten railroad track and I don’t know what else because it was 15 miles deep. After a few hours of hiking over ridges, climbing through blowdowns and following the general meander of animal trails, I found my feet sinking into a swamp that shouldn’t have been there. My head told me I was lost and my compass was freakishly spinning (due to iron deposits, or so the story went), but my gut said it was the forest swamp that was misplaced. I pushed on, hopping from tree to grass clump to avoid going knee deep into the swampy muck. It wasn’t long before I saw what looked to be a clearing up ahead. Climbing a tree to get a better look, I saw a lake. A beautiful but small, unmapped and undiscovered, lake.

Though I may have been lost, I knew I wasn’t THAT lost. In my early years I’d been THAT lost. So lost that your gut clenches up, mind starts playing tricks and you find yourself in a flight response. I’d vowed to never get THAT lost again and had taken the time to learn the forest and all its hidden places. So, I had to figure out what was going on with this mysterious lake.

Compass now behaving, I triangulated position to a previous ridge, backtracked to higher ground and approached from a different angle. Finding my way down the ridge through thick brush and fallen trees was a brutalizing maze but within an hour I was crawling under the last spruce tree and into the clearing.

In front of me was the lake and, to my amazement, there was also a beaver, it was THE beaver dam. My jaw dropped. Stretching between two ridges, THE dam was 150 feet long, 6-7 feet tall and four feet wide. The beaver had also constructed seven sub-dams to catch any overflow. Hanging on a tree worked into sub-dam 4, was my grandpa’s green cup.

I don’t know how long I stood there in awe, but the sound of a jet passing overhead burst my silent thoughtlessness and the thoughts came rushing in.

Out here in the middle of anthropo-centric nowhere, lives a beaver. This beaver, using only its teeth and determination, built a marvel of natural engineering. It certainly has some day-to-day stresses but by using what nature supplied, it provides everything it needs. In contrast, the passing jet is filled with oblivious passengers, all trying to scrap together an existence of consumption and fleeting contentment: businesspeople away from their families for lifestyle and stockholders, tourists trying to momentarily escape the daily grind, people trying to reconnect with separated friends and family. We consume and spend a great deal of resources to get back to what should have always been our first priority.

That’s when I came up with my mantra: Does it matter to the beaver in the woods?

Because, if it doesn’t matter to the beaver in the woods, is it really worth doing?

I would say no.

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