Beavers are not born with baby teeth. They come gnawing into this world with the set they will have for life. Like all mammals of the order Rodentia, their upper and lower incisors grow continuously. In fact, a beaver can sprout teeth at a rate of 4 feet a year. They are kept at the proper length by these scaly-tailed rodents doing what they do best: chewing wood.
My own front teeth have been knocked out playing baseball. Twice. So, the first time I saw the stump of a beaver-felled tree in northern Minnesota— just a woody nub, conical shaped and smoothed as if hewn by little hatchets, I could not imagine my own frail teeth withstanding the force it must have required. But there is a reason their teeth are so adept at lumberjacking. It’s the reason their pearly whites...ain’t so much white, but a dull, rust-colored hue. It is the same reason the surface of Mars is red. The same reason your blood is too. It is the presence of iron. The enamel on the front of their four incisors is laced with the stuff of industrial machinery. However, the back of the tooth is composed of dentin, a softer material which wears away more easily than the dense, iron-infused veneer on its face. This creates a tooth which is beveled like the edge of a carpenter’s tool. In other words, beavers have literal chisels socketed into their skulls.
There is a trade-off to this enhancement though. Because their teeth never stop growing, the beaver’s survival depends upon its teeth being constantly worn away. To be idle is to invite gruesome consequences. Their incisors, allowed to grow unchecked, can inflict mortal wounds on the animal. The lower pair can curl upwards far enough to impale the beaver’s eyeballs; the upper pair will curl down eventually piercing the beaver’s own throat. Indolence is suicide.
And what about us? What in our own lives, if anything, do we attack with that same sense of not-fucking-around commitment? Like it was our sole purpose. Like our very lives depended on it.