As you read this and sink into that chair that you are sitting in, you might become aware of the thoughts that are running round your head. You know that ones I’m talking about. Those thoughts that are the most familiar to you. The ones that you think the most often. I’m going to ask you to put them aside just for a moment. Don’t worry, you can have them back when we are finished. Of course, they might never be the same. But then again, they never were to begin with, right?
When the old man suddenly realized that the sun had been up for several minutes, he quickly rolled out of bed. He noticed that his alarm hadn’t gone off as he’d hoped. That was ok. He still had plenty of time. He noticed that the fish he’d caught the day before were still where he’d left them. That wasn’t particularly surprising, as it was getting late in the season, and most of the bears had probably found a place to hibernate already. He checked his tackle and set out for another day of fishing.
As he was walking to the lake, he came across a rather large beaver dam. He didn’t recall seeing it yesterday, so he stopped to take a look. He noticed that the beavers were acting particularly strange, but how he knew this he couldn’t really put his finger on it. He decided to stop and watch. He’d been walking for about an hour when he came across the new dam, so he decided it would be as good a place as any to enjoy a quiet break. Something about these beavers was not quite right. The more he watched them, the more he became determined to find out exactly what it was about them that was so intriguing.
He set his bags down, and found a nice spot on the ground to sit. He leaned up against the hard bark of a sycamore tree, and began what was to be the most interesting afternoon of his life.
The beavers seemed to notice him watching, although they didn’t change the procedures, at least as far as he could tell. He was almost mesmerized by their methodical efficiency, scurrying off into the forest and coming back with pieces of tree that were the exact same size that they needed. They would carefully place the piece in just the exact place. Everything in order. It was amazing, the old man thought.
Trees would grow, taking different elements from the ground and the soil and the air and the rain. They would grow over the years, then these animals would come and chew down the trees to dam up the water to build their house. Did the trees mind that they were being taken to build a house? Did the water mind that its course was being changed? Were the beavers aware of all that they were doing?
The man remarked at the impressive way in which things so naturally fit together. So peacefully. So perfectly. Did he belong? Did he really? It was as if the earth itself was giving of one part of itself to help out the other part. As if it were taking resources from one area, that were becoming almost superfluous, and somehow using itself to move those resources to another more helpful self. Like it was constantly rearranging itself to rebuild itself, so it would more easily sustain itself.
The old man wondered why he never had the ability to see things from such a clear perspective. He realized then that everything was cyclical. From the earth to the tree to the water to the ocean back to the sky to the earth. He wondered how this cycle ever began, and how it knew how to sustain itself. Surely there must be some underlying pattern that lies beneath that which is seen?
The old man awoke, after having dozed off while watching the beavers. Their dam was complete. The sun had begun to set off in the west. The old man realized that he’s missed his opportunity to catch more fish. That was all right, he had enough to last him through a couple of weeks, and a couple of weeks would be enough to allow him to catch enough to keep for the winter.
As he walked back to his cabin, which would soon be warmed by the fire he would build, he wondered vaguely how the bears were doing. It will be good to see them again in the spring, he thought.