I’d been walking all day in golden Autumnal forest. I was alone, and the air was still. The brilliant Sun illuminated each leaf to an incandescent glow. I took deep breaths to bring this place into my body, my memory, my awareness. I was only there for two weeks, and I wanted to steep myself in the spirit of that place—the Porcupine Mountains, and the Great Mother Lake—Lake Superior—that marks their northern edge.
On this day I was hiking down Summit Peak to Mirror Lake, and then back around the Little Carp River to the Summit again,making a nice loop of wilderness bliss. Near the end of my hike the trail turned and took me into an open space—a marsh—caressed by the small breeze that skipped across the yellowed tips of grass and rush with a silky laugh, the sapphire sky filling the open bowl with light and warmth.
This luminous bowl of water and grass and warmth had an architect. Beavers had clearly been at work creating their channels and pools—and somewhere their lodge, though I could not find it. The entire scene was a spectacular construction, a marvel of engineering, and of enormous benefit for the ecosystem, storing water for the dry times, providing habitat for all manner of small animals and birds. And mosquitoes!
That was back in September. Now I’m busy in the studio creating paintings from my two weeks of wilderness in the Porcupine Mountains. This scene, this moment of walking into that luminous beaver-made bowl, has stayed with me, as if it were a seed planted in my consciousness, and the more I water it with my wonder and appreciation, the more it swells with life. I think that it is sending roots deep into my consciousness because I can not stop thinking of beavers and their archetypal power of creation, their capacity to engineer a world that benefits not only their own species, but multitudes of others as well, and not even just species, but the very earth itself, blessed by the water dams of the humble beaver.