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We have beaver. Actually, we’ve had beaver for about 16 months now, however this summer it is really evident WE HAVE BEAVER.

Our townhouse community sits up at the top of a hill. It is a closed cul-de-sac community, so it is great that “through traffic” is not an issue here. A brand-new walking path is now within footsteps of my front door. It will eventually connect to other walking paths, but for now it is about 1.5 miles round trip. At the bottom of our “hill” the path takes us by both a busy road, and what was once a small creek. In the Spring, I use to get a kick out of “hearing” the water sounds, especially after heavy rains. Last Spring those water sounds disappeared. However, I spotted this:

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… and then this:

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The creek quickly turned into a pond. And this year? Well let’s just say there is a new ecosystem near my house.

I came across a huddled group of homeowners about 3 weeks ago, whispering and gesturing towards the pond with banks now within 60 feet of our back doors. I stopped to see what was going on, and because it was early enough in the morning with few traffic sounds, I could actually hear their whispers.

“Will the water level rise much more?”

“What do you think they are up to?”

“Do they bite?”

Now my first thought was, “FOLKS. Beaver do not understand human language and to my knowledge they don’t have bionic hearing like I do. Why the HECK are you whispering?”

I didn’t voice those thoughts. Instead I said, “Ummm” (I’m ever so eloquent…)

Yeah, but have y’all been down to the pond area where the walking path is? Have y’all seen what has happened down there?

Blank looks. I discovered they don’t comprehend SOUTHERN. I tried to speak a little more cultured…

Yes, you should walk down there. There are 2 HUGE culverts about 8 feet in diameter. That water level will never get any higher unless those culverts become dammed up as well. If that happens, the city will just unplug them. After all, that road will flood before our homes will“.

Blank looks. See what a lack of exercise will do? Go walking folks, go walking. Check out what the beaver have done up close. Geesh. I think they were miffed I was talking in a normal tone of voice. After all… *sneaky whisper* … the beaver probably HEARD ME.

Beaver have made a comeback in Maryland. I pulled this from a neighboring county’s website:

“Beaver can be among the most beneficial of the county’s wildlife. They create favorable habitat for a variety of wildlife species including fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. This variety of wildlife is in turn valued for recreational, scientific, educational and aesthetic purposes. Beaver activity is also helpful in retaining storm water runoff and improves water quality by trapping sediment, nutrients, and pollutants. Beaver activity can also cause flooding of roads, trails, forest land. They also consume trees and shrubs. Their impacts often occur suddenly and dramatically.

These benefits and detriments often occur simultaneously at a single location. Because of the varying degrees of tolerance levels among people to beaver activity, there are bound to be disagreements on how best to “deal” with beaver conflicts.” (Howard County Parks and Recreation, 2014).

Living side-by-side with these amazing creatures is fairly simple. I’ve been thinking a lot about this family of beaver.

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They migrated to this area near the bay bridge and did what came naturally to them. Not with destruction in mind… but cunning and incredibly discerning architects, this family of beaver have created a whole new ecosystem. We’ve always had tree frogs (although it took Chloe’s trainer to clue me in to what I was hearing each year). But now we have:

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… bullfrogs. You should have seen Chloe’s head and ears the first time she heard THEM! These fellas stretch about two feet, nose to tip of hind legs. I know this, because I’m the crazy neighbor lady screeching to the neighborhood boys who have caught them and held them up to “Return them to the pond when you are done!”  There are also numerous plants I have never seen before in this area when all we once had was a creek…

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and the trees are flourishing…

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I counted 4 different families of mallard duck one evening, with little ones thriving in this secluded and protected environment. Turtles are sunbathing on any log or rock that breaches the surface of the water. The fox are back (having been gone for at least two summers). There are enough deer in our area now to make my poor hound dogs hoarse for all the barking alerts they insist on for me.

I cannot help but be amazed. The beaver strengthened and created a home just right for them, and in the process created a place to thrive for other species. Folks? I want to be a beaver.

I didn’t ask for disabilities. I never once thought, “When I grow up… I want to be DEAF and have a significant BALANCE DISORDER”. However, in my own process of adapting and making my environment safe and liveable for ME (cochlear implant surgery, service dog from Fidos For Freedom, be-dazzled canes, no-slip shoes, discovering where all the elevators are on campus, practicing all I learned in vestibular rehab.), I have created a new ecosystem.

I want MY WORLD to intersect with the REAL WORLD and help folks recognize the importance of inclusion. I work to make sure that my new life, teaches and advocates in accepting differences. I want others to recognize abilities rather than disabilities. I want my invisible disabilities to be visible and “pond-like“. I want my life to inspire others to choose to live equally purposeful lives. In my own small way I do this by working with my campus disability office. I openly talk about being “differently-abled” in class. I “plug” what I know whenever I can to whomever will listen… cochlear implants and service dogs, depression and coping skills. I have discovered my environment changing. People are coming out of the woodwork… or umm… newly created POND, and sharing with me that they have a mental illness, invisible challenge or diagnosis such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Lyme’s disease.

Yes. Having an attitude of gratitude and focus on education and advocacy, has me walking by concerned citizens from time to time, whispering about a beaver conspiracy. But just as I’ve learned that being transparent is contagious, these folks will eventually HEAR and go walking to discover other new ecosystems. At least… I hope they will.

Do you live with disability? Are you struggling with an invisible illness? Do you have a chronic condition that folks do not seem to understand, nor comprehend how it affects you? Hearing Elmo is not just a place to “hear”. My desire is that numerous authors, both named and anonymous, begin to disseminate the kind of information that changes our environments. In the end, the beaver aren’t the sole beneficiaries. We all benefit. Would you like to write for Hearing Elmo? Contact me at denise.portis@gmail.com and type “Hearing Elmo” in the subject line. Building dams is pretty fun. It is unexpected. It is worthwhile. We can all make a difference!

Denise Portis

©2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Howard County Parks and Recreation. (2014). Beavers. Retrieved May 16, 2014, from http://howardcountymd.us/DisplayPrimary.aspx?id=2396