Google+ Badge

Monday, July 8, 2013

Squirrely

I won't lie. Summer is very difficult for me. For various health reasons, the sun and heat just make me feel icky. I fondly remember the years of my childhood when my friends and I would run and play outdoors when it was a hundred degrees and love it. The drinks from the garden hose, which had the coldest and best-tasting water in the world, certainly helped. And it never hurt to douse your head with it either, or to run through the lawn sprinklers. I just can't handle the heat any more like I did back then. 

There are some things about summer that I really do love, however. As the days of spring get longer and the beautiful blossoms fade from the trees, you start to see the next amazing phase of nature. Suddenly the birds are all hanging out in pairs. If you walk within their field of vision, one will fly off to draw you away, while the other yells at you to get away from their nest, darn it! We have a pair of falcons that have nested on top of the building next to ours, and today we saw what may have been one of their young. He was standing in the grass underneath an oak tree, within ten feet of our car. He bent over to pick something up; it had tiny legs and a tail, so he must have been taking a rest break as he was flying home with his mousey catch. The cycles of life keep repeating. Perhaps next year this lovely peregrine will nest on our building, and his offspring will catch mice in a nearby field.

We also have a very industrious mama squirrel living nearby. The first time we saw her was last fall, as she was gathering and eating acorns from the same oak tree. She allowed me to take a few pictures of her, and I was close enough to see that she was indeed a mama, and had been nursing babies. As I spoke softly to her, she twitched her tail as if to say that I sounded all right, but she was keeping an eye on me. When we saw her this spring, it seemed pretty obvious that mama squirrel was ready to have another litter. It made both of us very happy. To me, there's something about having squirrels around that makes an area seem more homey and settled. You won't see them unless there are well-established trees for food and nesting.

When I see squirrels, and especially prairie dogs, I am reminded of a young man I worked with many years ago, and tried to be friends with. I think that my brief friendship with him taught me something I might have taken years to find out had I not known him. The way we view nature seems to reflect our attitude about life and the world. I was bound and determined to live fully, and fight against any and all of my ailments. This person, on the other hand, had a rather angry and victimized view of life. There was nothing wrong with him; he had not been an abused child, and hadn't fought any potentially life-threatening diseases. But he took everything too personally, and was angry about it. If a female that he was interested in didn't feel the same way about him, there was something wrong with her, and he would refer to her with unkind language. When things didn't go his way, he would say that he was going to commit suicide. I'd spend the weekend worrying since he had no phone, and he would show up to work on Monday in a good humor.

As I said, I tried to be friends with him, but it didn't last long. It was a very one-sided and soul-bashing experience. One of the things he and I would argue about was definitely a sign of his negativity. He lived in an older, downtown area with lots of huge old trees. And squirrels. We all know that squirrels (and prairie dogs!) have poor judgement at times about crossing streets. It still makes me sad to see one deceased in the street, because I am a softy, and I love animals. Not this person. He was convinced that squirrels who were hit by cars were committing suicide. I tried many times to tell him that he was trying to credit them with a level of learning that was beyond them, but he wouldn't have it. He just knew that they had seen enough other squirrels killed by cars, and that they knew better. They had learned the street was dangerous, so if they died in the streets it was because they were suicidal.

Eventually, I subjected the friendship to suicide. I hope my former friend learned to love life, and love himself and others. I've never forgotten what he said about suicidal squirrels. I shared this with Trent the first time we encountered a squashed rodent on the road. He agreed that this person was a wee bit wacky. But I will admit this...to soften the blow when we see an unfortunate road-killed beast, we do sometimes say it is yet another sad case of suicide...