I don’t talk to squirrels.
(That’s not entirely true.)
Sometimes, I do. I’ll talk to a squirrel when it’s at rest (which is rarely) and looking in my direction. Usually, it’s something like, “Hey little buddy!” Not deep conversation, I know, but what else is there to say to a squirrel?
The other time I’ll talk to a squirrel is when it’s in the road, contemplating its next move (a stressful event for both me and the squirrel). As a motorist -- and in the larger picture, a decent human being -- I always root for the squirrel, and it makes me sad when I see one hasn’t successful reached its next destination, instead crossing into the “squirrel afterlife.”
While I don’t talk to squirrels often, I feel we have a lot in common. Like them, I’m small compared to most others around me. My movements tend to be quick, impulsive and often random (to others anyway).
My brain is constantly darting from one thing to another, and that usually kicks my body into motion. I often find myself carrying more than I can handle (i.e., travel mug, phone, wallet, keys, computer bag and that random piece of mail I’ve been meaning to send for the past week).
Also (and I don’t mean to boast), I consider myself friendly and relatively likable in small doses, and that’s the way I feel about squirrels. I’m sure there are lots of reasons not to like them (as there are loads of reasons – and good ones – not to like me), but from an observational standpoint, and always at arm’s length or more, they’re fun to watch.
Admittedly, I’ve never experienced a “squirrel problem”; in fact, I’m not even sure what that looks like, but I’m guessing it would involve burrowing into homes, barns or sheds, building things in eaves and gutters, chewing through stuff and the like. Maybe I just don’t want to believe these cute, manic, “squirrelly” creatures that I completely identify with could ruin anything. After all, I like to think I’m incapable of ruining anything, yet I’ve ruined countless things in my life, for myself and others.
That said, if I had a family of squirrels in living in my attic, chewing through my TV cable or sitting at my back door every day begging for food, I might feel differently about them, just as most of you (those that find me friendly and relatively likable in small doses) would feel if I brought my family to live in your attic, or I sat at your back door every morning, holding my travel mug (along with my phone, wallet, keys, computer bag and that random piece of mail, of course), waiting to use your Kuerig and rifle through your cabinets to see what I could grab for a quick breakfast “pick-me-up.”
Getting back to my original statement, “I don’t talk to squirrels” (though I don’t know any good reason we need to revisit it other than for recreational purposes), I feel I should amend it. Not only do I talk tothem (again, occasionally; it’s not a daily routine), but I also talk forthem by giving them distinct voices and interesting things to say because that’s fun for me, and sometimes, for those around me … again, in small doses.
And I also find myself talking about them, usually to myself because why in the world would you want to hear me talking about squirrels unless I was squirrel expert and you were a squirrel enthusiast, or in rare cases, a squirrel owner?
So, now I’ll ask you a question I ask myself often: “What’s wrong with me?”
Or maybe the better question is, “Is anything wrong with me?”
I mean, is it wrong to have a little fun greeting a squirrel as she sits with her paws in prayer position, waiting to scurry up a tree or blow off some steam running around in my yard? Is it wrong to root for that little, fluffy-tailed guy as he tries to navigate a busy intersection, hoping he makes it home safely?
Is it wrong to identify with the confusion and fast pace of life, and root for a creature whose place “in the meat” of the food chain (quite literally) means they’re always chasing survival? Is it wrong to see two squirrels trying to carry large tree nuts they can barely handle and think, “Man, I so get it. I need bigger hands … or stronger jaws!”
What I know about animals would fit in a teacup (actually, a teabag), but one thing I do know about a specific animal – the squirrel – is that even though we are completely different in almost every way, we’re cut from the same cloth.
Don’t be mistaken; I’m not going to turn into a squirrel fanatic and devote my life to them, but maybe I can learn something from them: celebrate the simple things and the small everyday victories. Respect all. Act like someone’s always watching, even if they’re not. Offer yourself to others in small doses.
Or maybe all I get out of watching them is that they make me smile.
And if that’s all, that’s enough.
© 2021 David R. Haznaw