A tail slap is a declaration. It is a beaver’s emphatic statement. It is an impressive cannonball into any pool of water that has been claimed. And, really it should be respected.
Except, I’m a curious person and, like most therapists, I naturally gravitate toward big splashes. A beaver tantrum is an invitation to a game of peek-a-boo.
And that’s how it all started. Yesterday, I went searching in response to that kirplunk-slap. When I arrived at the small pond, I could only see the concentric circles emanating outward on the surface of the water. When his huge head emerged, I swear he was thrilled at my arrival. Quick footed, undulating his tail, he didn’t take his eyes off of me. And then, another huge slap and he vanished. I stood my ground (a fleeting concern that he might pop out onto the shore and eat my little dog). After a minute or so, he did surface–closer—watching.
I did what I usually do. I narrated his actions. “Mr. Beaver, I see you in this gorgeous pond with your duck friends. You swim so fast and your tail can be so loud. Oooo, I’m so glad I got to see you today. If you hadn’t announced your presence, I would never have come over, and I would have missed you entirely….” I think he liked it ‘cause I got another few tail slaps, stares from the surface, and swim-by laps. I got to see that he was very large and half his body was head. His whiskers were darling, and his eyes looked intelligent. I admired him. Yup, I did.
Big splashes really are nothing more than invitations. They are sign markers for soul seeking therapists. If we retreat every time there is a declaration of territory from a client, we miss out. We don’t see beyond the surface. Of course, we have to use our sense of timing, too. If I hadn’t waited for that beaver to surface the first time, I would never have seen the source of the tail slap. I would have been left staring at concentric water rings instead.
But, if we respectfully wait, if we understand that it’s an intense (mostly unplanned) game of peek-a-boo we are playing, those big splashes come to mean a lot.
When was the last time that you stood your ground and waited? What peeked out? How did staying curious impact your therapeutic relationship?