The morning my father died I dreamed that he had become a beaver. After the call came and the shock wore off (he had just been operated on apparently successfully and was in his fourth day of recovery in the hospital), the dream still wouldn’t let go of me. The dream wouldn’t let go of me. I kept contemplating its meaning during the following weeks while his maternal family and I planned a memorial service and his ashes were delivered to me.
Certainly transformation of form was a central idea expressed by the dream. Some theories in quantum physics suggest that the stuff we are made from is composed of energy and information. In this way of thinking, although appearing solid, on both a microscopic and macroscopic level we are composed of the element of air, an invisible sea of particles, some from ancient stars. During our lives we are able to maintain our individual forms/shape because patterns are intrinsic not only to humans but to the universe as a whole, from spiral galaxies to the smallest particles. These patterns act as a kind of glue holding us (and every living creature/tree) together during our lifetime. But what happens at death? When the soul/spirit leaves its body, is it possible that energy and information re-combine into new patterns that are self—similar or perhaps very different if circumstances warrant? In his book, The Self -Organizing Universe, Erich Jantsch states that the whole universe is alive. If nature also has a memory, as biologist Rupert Sheldrake theorizes, then it would make sense that at the time of death, or shortly thereafter, the life force would leave the body and be pulled into a new pattern, one that is composed of elements that might be similar to those (patterns) that came before; perhaps that of a relative or ancestor, or should the family fields be too chaotic/unstable, maybe the energy/information might be pulled towards an animal, or even a plant with similar characteristics. Chaos theory supports this notion, suggesting that under extreme conditions a complex new pattern emerges out of chaos. Recall too that we share DNA with all living things so this idea is not as far-fetched as it sounds. And perhaps this re-combining at the speed of light or faster, as in non-local transmissions, could explain why we humans are drawn towards a white light in near death experiences. At the very least I thought these were intriguing ideas.
In a sense it would appear that the soul/spirit of every living being is “eternal” as most of the world’s religions seem to imply. But there is also an evolutionary component to this notion because new forms can also come into existence. If we are cremated our bodies are literally transformed by the fire into bone and ash providing the nutrients/minerals to support new life. In world mythologies, the Phoenix rebirths itself through the element of fire. In many cultures then, fire is the ultimate transformer of soul/spirit and body. The Earth is our collective container.
During the first few days after my father’s death I mused over the uncanny similarities between my father and beavers; my father was an aeronautical engineer and beavers engineered the shifting of wetlands building dams to interrupt the flow of water, creating ponds in their wake. Both were excellent swimmers. Was it possible that the element missing from our lives is the one that pulls us towards our next incarnation? Both my father and the beavers were tireless workers and others have often viewed them as being driven to extremes. Both worked with wood and were excellent builders exhibiting patience, determination, and a willingness to stay focused. Both were family-oriented, although my father was absent most of my childhood because he worked such long hours. It seemed to me that it was no coincidence that my father and beavers had so much in common…
Curiously, during the previous summer I had fallen in love with the beavers that had erected a mighty dam and constructed a lodge in the middle of the stream that ran below my house. At first the beavers wouldn’t tolerate my presence at all. Slapping their flat scaly tails loudly, ruffling the water, they would dive, only to pop up in a different location a few minutes later to stare at me with beady little eyes shining suspiciously. I was hooked! I read everything I could about these largest of rodents with orange incisors that act as chisels to fell trees. (These teeth will outgrow the beavers if not used daily). I persisted in my quest to befriend the beavers by taking a small pine bench that my father had made (and my bug net) down to the water’s edge to sit on while I observed them in the mornings, and during the long evening twilight hours. My patience paid off. Soon one or more beaver heads would pop up out of the water, peer at me, and then swim up the narrow watery channels they had made to gnaw around another tree trunk, to cut some into sections, or to gather branches. At first I thought there were only two beavers, but one evening late in June a third head appeared and a few days later there were four. I had learned by then that beaver lodges could support three generations of beavers, so I assumed these two were adolescents. When the sleek chestnut heads of two kits appeared early one mid-summer evening, swimming behind one of the adults, I knew that the Beaver people had finally accepted me…
“In my father’s house are many mansions,” I read months later after my father’s death as I was reflecting on his life and his possible transformation from man to beaver. And suddenly I thought about the family of beavers now snug and warm in their house under the ice down the hill. It occurred to me that they might appreciate a fresh poplar for a treat on this night of the Beaver Moon, so I cut one down after using a crow bar to open a hole in the ice and gently pushed the sapling into the water. “Blessings to you dad,” I remarked. The next morning I was delighted to see that the entire tree was gone!
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