Monday, May 7, 2012

Squirrel Wisdom

 A couple of years ago I was in Indiana visiting my parents. I was taking a walk down the middle of a narrow tree-lined street in the neighborhood I grew up in when I heard a loud, splatting noise behind me, like someone had dropped twenty gallons of Jello from the tree-tops onto the road. It was loud, people.

I turned around. And behind me, on the road, was a fox squirrel laying limp. I didn’t have my camera with me but you know what they look like.

well-fed fox squirrel
I glanced upward. The nearest branch was at least thirty feet off the ground. Five seconds earlier and I’d have broken that squirrel’s fall with my head.

Anyway, I was pretty sure it was dead but I was still fascinated. I mean, I’ve seen a squirrel fall out of a tree and land on leaves and spruce needles and then run away, but this was pavement.

So, I took a step toward the motionless squirrel. My brain was a mix of sadness for the squirrel, and researcher for my writing. How did it die? Why did it fall? Poor thing. It looks so healthy otherwise.

I took another step toward the squirrel and it started to shake. I turned to my wife and said. “It’s moving.” Is it in pain? Is it having a seizure? What should I do? Am I going to be faced with the possibility of ending its suffering? If I get too close, will it try to bite me like an abandoned seal pup did years ago?

I took another step toward it and it started moving—slowly—very slowly—like slow motion-slowly, toward the base of the tree it’d fallen from. It looks like all its legs are working. It’s kind of shaky, but it’s walking.

Then it did something amazing. It proceeded to climb the very tree it’d fallen from just forty seconds ago.


  1. Replies
    1. Yeah, I thought he was history.

  2. The thought (and photo) of it landing on your head is too much!

    Metaphor for the writing life? Splat. Quiver. Scamper up the tree again.

    1. Well-put, Michael. :-)

    2. Exactly what I was thinking, Michael. We call it insanity in all other regards -- with writing its persistence! ;)

      I just came home from a classroom visit and told the kids if I'd known it would take 14 years from beginning to write to seeing a book on the shelves, I would have quit. Thankfully, I had no idea how many "falls" I'd have to make it through beforehand.

    3. Exactly right, Michael, and perfectly phrased!

  3. Yes, that definition of insanity (repeating the same action and expecting different results) applies to squirrels and writers.

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  5. There's something stirring about its bravery. No, I do not want to be stupid in repeating foolish mistakes, but YES I want to be brave enough to take a risk to achieve something - even if I may have fallen before.

    Glad the squirrel was okay. ;)

  6. Nicely said, Marissa. For me the squirrel represents being persistent. :-) I like the bravery aspect you've mentioned--very cool!! :-)

  7. I love the message here and the powerful way the squirrel story reinforced it. Nice post, Paul!

  8. Okay, I'm so glad this story had a happy ending! And why has no one mentioned how cute the squirrel in the fedora looks?? ;) Great post, Paul. I love this.

  9. I love Indiana. Miss that place. These kinds of things happen there. Thanks for sharing, Paul.

  10. I've always had a soft spot for squirrels. Glad he was okay :)


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