Dreamworlds of Beavers

in Field Notes/Video

In Tierra del Fuego, beavers are strangely invisible, and simultaneously ever-present. They are fleeting. One rarely sees a beaver, as they spend their days hidden under tannin-dark waters. Instead, only trace impressions. Rows of chew marks on the bark of a fallen tree. Castoreum’s oily residue. Downed timber. Drag lines in the mud.

In the woods, predators lurk. Here, beavers are graceless, lumbering. On the other hand, the pond offers a lightness of being. A safe tranquility. Light captures and enlivens microscopic particles. The calm of a snow globe, these sediments drift along the water column.

Beavers are night creatures, nocturnal. Of course, they may not even notice the dark, as they have such poor eyesight. In a hazy blur, their world is profoundly enlivened by scent and sound. Surely, beavers do not dream in images. Instead, their dreams offer an acrid, musty sensorium. A vibrato of gnashing teeth.

A beaver’s life acquires form in the water. Over the millennia, beavers have “become” with land and water. At some point they learned forestry. Later, to build underwater dens. We all make spaces that comfort us.

Piles of rough timber, tree limbs; really, this is an architecture of kinship. Kinship resists the logic of trees. It is a much messier entanglement.

Like other forms of domestic life, here, home comes into being through routinized labor. Chewing and dragging, chewing and dragging…such repetition. In “becoming beaver”, what other attachments are lost?

Silt, decades old, hovers and skips along every surface, like the landscape of the moon. For astronauts, water signals life’s possibility, though this seems a low bar for encountering the magic of other worlds. Beavers practice this kind of magic–what we call “becoming in other worlds.

Let us resist the indications of industry. Busy as a beaver? Instead, contemplate the intimacy of water.

Beavers are remaking this land of fire. Where rivers rushed wild, now dead trees litter the landscape like so many discarded pick-up-sticks. There is little hope for the forest’s return.

Can a forest be saturated by grief? If so, this is a form of forest arboressence, or, a forest made unchanging and stable. Put another way, it is a grief bound by our attachment to nature’s purity–a purity that no one really believes.

What happens when we look beyond this grief, when we pause for a moment of speculative wonder?

Text by Laura Ogden, Camila Marambio & Christy Gast

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