Tuesday, November 25, 2008

on squirrels and mortality

I have knowingly had direct involvement in the deaths of two squirrels. “Knowingly” is not the same as “intentionally,” but “direct involvement in the deaths of” is the same as “killed.” The first time was a blur, just sudden road-kill in my rearview mirror. I remember telling a class about it that day, and thereafter I was routinely called squirrel-killer.

That is many years past. A few months ago it happened again. I drove down a hill and hit the brakes as one darted in front of me, then I slowed again for a second, managing to avoid each (or vice-versa). I came to a complete stop when a third one ran out, but not before hearing a thud. For days I was angry at the squirrel for having put me in a position of having to kill him.

More recently I woke up in the middle of the night and listened to an anguished squeal. I knew something outside was hurting, but couldn’t tell what it was. When it stopped I heard an owl hoot while a squirrel chirped in defiance. While the evidence is limited, the image I formed was similar to the Mexican flag, except instead of an eagle and a snake it was an owl taking off with a squirrel. (In my version of the flag, the squirrel would be grasping one of my tomato plants.)

This last weekend I walked toward the edge of my yard where there is a sudden drop of about 40 feet. A squirrel fell from a tree in front of me. I chuckled at first at its apparent spasticity, but stopped when I got close to the edge and could see the ground. It looked as if the squirrel had impaled itself on a fallen branch. All I could see was a lifeless furry lump with a large bloody gash. I would have needed a closer look to know with certainty what happened, but there are limits to my curiosity.

So I find myself wondering why a shameless carnivore, one who has experienced much of the nuisance these creatures can provide a homeowner, would react with such visceral lament to their deaths. Well, I suppose they can be cute and entertaining, but I think there’s more to it than that. I think it illustrates how everyone and everything is perched at the edge of a flimsy branch and we don’t know what’s down there. We all have to cross some thoroughfare sooner or later, but the oncoming traffic doesn’t care where we need to get to.

Last winter I saw a nest slide through some branches and land on the ground, then saw a squirrel scamper off with what I assumed to be a baby bird. It was horrifying to think that my backyard had spawned some new race of hunter squirrels. When it returned for another, I ran to chastise it for its betrayal of its own instincts, but saw that it wasn’t a bird in its mouth, it was a baby squirrel being carried away to a new nest. So this is the slightly happy ending to my squirrel meditation: we’ll never run out of squirrels, no matter how often or with what creativity they abuse themselves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

hey, fog

I always figure foggy mornings make for good photo opportunities, but I discovered on this day that sometimes you can only see fog. All the photogenic landmarks I hoped to capture were all buried under a thick mist, and a couple of places where I planned to stop, I missed the turn due to poor visibility. These hay rolls were close enough to the road, though, eager to have their picture taken.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

haiku for student

Wearing ear buds, she
asked something. The answer was
repeated. Again.

Here's a mostly unrelated photo:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


This is a gourd tendril. I've read that they are among the tendriliest.

I will now do a google search for "tendriliest" to see if this post comes up.