This little ditty is a ditto from The Finger Lakes Times (NY), appearing in the weekly column, “Denim Spirit.” It appeared first right here: http://www.fltimes.com/opinion/denim-spirit-squirrel-season/article_21c24ca7-fd14-590a-8726-b8031f6979fe.html
The elephant ear leaves on the catalpa tree are still as green as July, and the oak in my neighbor’s yard shows no signs of the season either. But this morning, for the first time this year, as I walked the dog in a dry, short-sleeve breeze, coteries of curled red maple leaves crab walked toward me in the wind, making skittering sounds along the concrete.
The blessed summer of 2017 – an August through October reprieve granted after a sub-par June and July – is coming to an end. It is difficult not to look this gift horse in the mouth, knowing as we do that climate change is the likely benefactor. Still, it has been grand, and still, autumn promises its own joy.
We have entered the season of squirrels. They are rats with bushy tails, not a creature to feel kindly toward; destructive little buggers if they get into an attic, chimney, or garage. I watched my dad spend years trying to invent contraptions that would keep squirrels from his myriad bird feeders, but to no avail. One of my in-laws, a physicist, rigged his backyard birdfeeder with a low-grade electrical charge that he could ignite with the press a button. As a squirrel crept up the rod toward the feeder, zap! They would leap off and run away. Except one lousy squirrel. It would absorb the electrical charge, grab some seeds, and then leap off.
I have been trying to Zen myself with the community of squirrels who inhabit their Eden of yards, which includes my own. I have seen my three-year old dog learn to do the same.
Together we watch from the sun room as fluffy, fat acrobats haltingly prance their way across the patio in full view, dog and me impounded behind glass like zoo animals. The squirrels, sensing the safety of their own control in the situation, will stop, nut in mouth, rise up on his or her haunches, and peer in at the human and dog. For our part, we stare back: dog with ears perked, head tilted, and tail slightly twitching, while human, me, mentally debates the pros and cons of acquiescence in a situation I have no control over.
The turning point came as I sat outside on the patio one morning with a cup of coffee, afore mentioned canine inside staring outside from behind glass.
I watched as a squirrel brought a nut up to the opposite end of the patio and stopped. I knew it had been storing food for the winter in an abandoned ceramic drain pipe just behind where I was sitting. It looked at me as if determining my intention, and whether or not to risk running alongside the house to the pipe, in reach of a swipe from me. I stared back, and then said, “Boo!”
Nut in mouth, the squirrel ran away across fifty feet of yard, leaped in a single bound to the top of a six-foot fence, paused, leaped across empty space to land vertically on a shaft of bark, midway up a tall maple. I watched with rapt attention as the squirrel bounded in small arches along twiggy branches that sagged and muscular arms that twisted and turned. From my own perch, I followed the silhouetted bobbing tail as it progressed across the canopy of trees overarching several hundred yards of real estate, all the way to a city-owned tree that reaches out above the street. There, in some cavity I could not see, the squirrel let go its nut. It could have cared less which depository it used, and the effortlessness and grace of its scamper across great distance proved my impotence. I decided then and there to enjoy them.
Happy squirrel season.