A loud thump on the roof of my porch outside my bedroom window startled me and I jumped out of bed. I didn’t know what to expect when I peeked between the blinds, it was only the end of September, too early for Biker-Claus to deliver my Vance and Hines Short Shot pipes for my motorcycle and it was too late in the year for anyone to be launching fireworks. So I was a bit startled when I saw a squirrel with only half a tail running back and forth three feet from me as if his world was just about to end.
He ran to my left, right up to the edge of the roof and placed his front paws on the gutter and stared at a Dogwood tree ten feet from where he was. Then he looked over his shoulder to the right edge of the roof and took a small step back and then stopped and looked at the Dogwood again. He became very still, it seemed to me as if he were pondering trying to make the leap to the far away tree, then he shook his head again and moved back to the right side of the roof where the cable wires come into the house. But he didn’t jump onto the cable wires; instead he turned back around and ran as fast as his small squirrel legs could carry him towards the edge of the roof nearest the Dogwood. He didn’t jump, instead he stopped a few feet short and slid into a fallen branch that has been sitting on that corner of the roof for a month or two now.
Once again he became still, once again I thought he was pondering trying to jump. Instead, he turned and slowly walked back to the cable wires, jumped onto them and made his way over my front yard and the street I live on. He then climbed down the telephone pole face first and sprinted across the street and up the Dogwood. I lost sight of him in the branches for a moment but then I saw the short tailed tree rodent sitting on a branch and staring into my front yard. A yard that on the previous morning had once contained a forty foot tall Oak tree but thanks to some good people the dying, oxygen producing, once proud tree had been felled, chopped and hauled away.
Now my front lawn held a large mulch filled hole in the middle where the tree once stood and I stood in my bedroom watching as the squirrel tried to figure out where one of his favorite hangouts had gone. That is when I realized we humans are not the only ones who become habitually addicted to routine. It seems habits are universal.
No, I’m not a scientist, biologist or even a psychologist. If anything, I am an observist, if there is such a word and according to my word crunching program, there is not so I shall claim it here and now. The squirrels reaction to the change in his environment brought forth memories of my own responses to sudden changes I have experienced. Those thoughts mainly drifted through the passages of time in my life to a world without internet, cell phones and instant communication. A time when I was just a kid running the streets of Green Bay with my pals and trying act like I was older than I really was.
Times spent at parties when my folks thought I was sleeping at a friend’s house, time spent in the back seat of cars with a girl I had met only a few hours earlier as we both tried to shed our youthful awkwardness in the hopes of discovering something more in the street lit world of hidden agendas and blatant lies. Memories of hanging out under bridges fishing, smoking and drinking with buddies I’ll never see again and I know if I go back, those bridges are gone like the branches of the tree the short tailed squirrel used to get from one tree to the next. Thoughts of the ever changing landscape of my adopted home town where restaurants have been closed and torn down, places where my wife and I went when we were dating are now empty lots or in one case a public library.
I don’t think the squirrel or many animals of this world understand the word nostalgia, and I think it is a blessing for them. They can’t mourn the loss of something that once was a daily part of their lives. Not like us humans do. Why else do we have a written and oral history? It is to keep the past alive. Animals don’t do that or if they did, wouldn’t we all want to listen in on what they have to say to each other? Just imagine what a conversation with some buffalo would be like or better yet Galapagos Tortoise. I know I would want to hear their history and what has occurred in their genealogy.
Nope, they can’t but we can and do. So now when I sit on my porch with my computer on my lap, my cigar burning slowly into the night and the white pages of my word crunching program open in front of me I can’t be amused by the creatures in the tree. Gone are the fighting squirrels, singing birds and cicadas I listened to throughout the day. Also gone is the incessant sap that seemed to find its way onto my motorcycle and the ever increasing number of limbs that seemed to fall into the yard and onto the house anytime the wind blew.
I will miss that old dying Oak longer than the squirrels and birds will. I will miss the shade it provided and I will miss the life it brought to my yard but if it had stayed much longer, I am sure it would have wound up crashing through my roof and into my bedroom and the squirrels I am sure would have loved that.
Have a great week.