Beaver Highway

We were on Interstate 64, just past what used to be the end of town, just where the countryside began up until about ten years ago. So we’re all on the highway, myself and my two preschoolers, sticky, strapped into their car seats behind me, and there ahead, in the center of the highway, was a mother beaver with her baby. Young beavers probably have some proper name like kit or cub or pup, which I don’t yet and may never know. This pair was straddling the broken white line between two lanes, in full midday traffic. Seeing them, my heart lurched, almost stopped completely. Everything instantaneously flashed through my mind -- the loss of their wetland habitat to the shopping mall development I was headed to visit, the number of cars barreling directly at them from every direction, the stillness of their caught-in-the-headlights posture standing there in the road ahead, my own two pups buckled somewhat more safely into the backseat. I could see this mama beaver’s face, and I recognized the look -- she was weighing her options, the way I do when my kids throw temper tantrums in public places, or when someone gets hurt on a hike far enough from the road that it matters. She was considering the best course of action. 

To say I was momentarily and completely shattered by grief for this world we live in would not be a lie. This moment, as these moments do, lasted an eternity. I realized that there was no way to safely use my car as a barricade without endangering us all and many others. I realized there was actually nothing I could do. So I waited. Slowly passing her at 60 mph, I waited. So, too, did she, perhaps realizing as well that there was nothing for her situation but to stay precisely where she was.

And then her pup rose on his hind legs and placed one paw on each side of her beaver face. He took her face into his hands and looked her squarely in the eye. I do not know how, but I saw this all in slow motion. How she pushed her forehead to his in solidarity, in reassurance, how they stood there like a statue of all we had lost. And I almost died again, now watching in the rearview mirror what was surely their untimely demise at the collective and wayward hands of human progress. I watched, calmly now, in surrender, as the cars flew by and she paused one second longer, before eking out a miraculous exit between all the mad cars, with her babe safely to the side of the road. And when I finally breathed again, exhaling for a moment all that I had been holding back, tears fell from my face for all these tenuous moments we living creatures share.

Sara lives near some railroad tracks in Bon Air, VA and when she's not daydreaming about riding the rails, she can often be found writing from the eye of the storm which is her four children being children all around. See more of her special kind of crazy @mamabodhisara on Instagram.