What I Learned From a Squirrel

I was puttering about in the kitchen yesterday morning, fixing breakfast and doing dishes. The kitchen is what I consider traditional, there is a window over the kitchen sink. I consider this normal and have had a couple of abnormal kitchens in my life. I hated them. It should be part of the building code; kitchen sink placement shall be beneath a window with a view to the outdoors, preferably to a pleasing view. Since I currently live in the house I grew up in, and there is a window over the kitchen sink, and the view is quite pleasing, I suppose my high expectations are well-explained.

As I puttered about in the kitchen, at the sink, glancing out to the pleasing view on occasion, I noticed a squirrel. Our squirrels are numerous and are big and fat and gray. Growing up, Mom used to name the squirrels, based on the characteristics of their tails. There was Wispy Tail and Bushy Tail and Fluffy Tail. Those are the ones I remember. I don’t remember, though, actually being able to discern one squirrel from the other quite as well as Mom. At a young age, I assumed this was a gift that came with wisdom and maturity. No. They still look all the same to me, I do consider myself at least somewhat more wise and mature than when I was a tot. Last week, I saw four different squirrels scampering around the back yard at the same time, two in one tree, a third high in the branches, navigating from one tree to another, the squirrel highway system, I suppose. The fourth squirrel was on the fence between our yard and the ravine where a seasonal creek runs during the wetter months, or the wetter month, or the one wet week we have each year.

I observed the single squirrel, yesterday, on the deck railing, not too terribly far from the window where I stood. The squirrel was preoccupied with his nuts. I watched as he flitted from one point to another, looking for a good place to hide his nuts. He twitched his tail continuously as he fretted over one locale, then another.

I mentioned to Mom that there was a squirrel on the deck and she asked, “Oh, is it Fluffy Tail?” I replied, “Um, I don’t know?” They all have fluffy tails as far as I can tell. “Fluffy Tail is the only squirrel left,” Mom stated with a melancholy tone, “he’s the only squirrel I ever see anymore.” Mom’s world is one of scarcity, these days. I told her I saw four squirrels at one time, in the backyard, earlier in the week. She didn’t seem convinced, or didn’t hear me. Either way. And at least I was off the hook for proper squirrel identification, as far as I was concerned. If Fluffy Tail is the “only” squirrel left, then the squirrel on the deck MUST be Fluffy Tail. And, so, I’d probably be right to say that every squirrel in a hundred mile radius is also Fluffy Tail. That certainly makes it easier, and a lot less mysterious. I shall no longer worry or be mystified by proper squirrel names. It’s all kind of nutty, anyway, if you ask me.

Mom continued to muse, now watching the squirrel, busy with his nuts, “I always wondered if they were pooping when they twitched their tails like that, or is that how they balance?” My logical and over-analytical mind has to assume the latter, otherwise, the world as I know it would be a foot deep in squirrel shit, I reckon. And, to add further credence, I don’t know that I’ve ever, in my life, seen squirrel shit. Anywhere. I think it must just be vapor, or dust or some other particulate matter that does not accumulate. Another mystery.

I watched the squirrel, he watched me.

Squirrels are everywhere, I know, to the point where we kind of take them for granted. I’ve only lived in one place where there were no squirrels. We had rats the size of squirrels, but no squirrels. This was sort of a depressed and crime-ridden neighborhood, a stepchild suburb of Sacramento. The area was populated by the down and out, with many Section 8 rentals, there were houses that were rumored to be meth labs, and, for the most part, from what I could tell, the demographics were what I’d consider “white trash” and “rednecks”. Not that they are one in the same, but, coincidentally, are often found in the same areas. I don’t want to make any inappropriate correlations, but I found it interesting that there were no squirrels, at all, in this neighborhood, in spite of the many mature trees and ample food supply. I’m thinking the squirrels, themselves, were considered an ample food supply by some of the residents in the area.  I’ve never cooked or eaten squirrel, but I’m pretty sure if I ever wanted to, I could knock on ‘most any door in that neighborhood and be obliged.

I lived in another neighborhood that had plentiful squirrels that were both a joy and a relief to see, after the previous situation. There was one demonic squirrel, though, and he frequented a tree on our property, that had several large limbs that arched over our wide, graveled driveway. On more than one occasion, as I made my way to or from the house and car, this particular squirrel would chatter and scold me, then throw, not just drop, but throw, with force and with malice aforethought, an object at me. Once, caught unaware, I got beaned in the head with an apple and almost lost consciousness! There’s a squirrel worth looking up a recipe for!

For those areas where squirrels haven’t been hunted and eaten to extinction, we’ll find geographic differences, some have smaller squirrels, some squirrels are brown, or red, or striped. The college I attended has fricking scary squirrels! They will crawl right up on your lap and try to pry food from your fingers, staring intently at the food with one eye and into your eyes with the other. I swear it. There are squirrels on campus that are nearly as large as some of the more petite students. Big, scary, damn squirrels. I was sitting on a bench beneath a tree one day, knowing me I was probably studying, for the first time, for an exam the very next hour, and something sizable whizzed past my head from above and landed with a frightening thud on the ground next to me. A squirrel. I feared he’d be injured, or dead, from the fall from the top of the stately sycamore tree next to me. Nope. He stood up, sized me up, and, once convinced I had no food, scampered back up the tree. A few minutes later another student sat at a nearby bench, and, moments later, whump, the same squirrel landed on the dirt next to that bench. This squirrel was so obsessed with food, apparently, that it chose the fastest route to the ground to be the first, of thousands of squirrels, to pry food from a human’s hands. Scary, scary, scary squirrels.

I’ve been on a few backpacking adventures at Philmont Scout Ranch outside of Cimarron, New Mexico. Here, the little ground squirrels are called, and not with an air of fondness, but more one of disdain, “mini-bears”. If food is not handled and stored according to the best of “bear proofing” standards, if not the real bears, then for certain the mini-bears, will chew through anything to get at any morsel of edible matter, including dehydrated backpacking food and greasy, nasty, “squeeze-cheese”, which, I’m sure, isn’t cheese at all. If you set your daypack down for three seconds, when you pick it up again, there will likely be a mini-bear inside, having either deftly unlatched the nearly human proof latches, or, usually, having gnawed a squirrel-sized hole in the bottom of the pack. Varmints.

I especially like the bubonic plague carrying squirrels that populated the Sierras there for a while. Not.

Fluffy Tail isn’t quite so terrifying, trouble causing, diseased, or demonic, he’s not menacing at all, and seems, actually, to have an appropriate amount of wariness about me, on the other side of the glass, a good twenty feet away. And though I’ve seen squirrels on practically a daily basis, for most of my life, this morning, I was drawn to watch Fluffy Tail’s antics.

And, as with everything in life, I learned something.

It doesn’t’ really matter if everyone can see your nuts ~

A nut "hidden" in the bird feeder.
A nut “hidden” in the bird feeder.

Show the world what you’re made of. In most things in life, we kind of just have to put it out there; to grow, to develop, to evolve, to succeed, we can’t quietly hide away, keeping our talents, our passions, our abilities, hidden or secret. The more willing and able we are to step out of our comfort zone and make ourselves known, the more comfortable we are with being uncomfortable, the more we have to gain. Take risks, take chances, make mistakes, learn from your mistakes, get up, brush yourself off, laugh it off and take a different approach. Don’t ever let fear or insecurities dictate your actions or compromise your goals or your dreams. Get out there and show off your nuts!

Take chances in making connections, fostering relationships, establishing a network both professionally and personally. Every connection you make is a two way street with good will running in both directions. Never allow yourself to miss an opportunity to connect with people, and those opportunities exist 24/7/365. I don’t mean social networking, though it has its place, I’m talking about real, tangible connected relationships with real people, outside of the comforts of your house. Get out there and show off your nuts!

It doesn’t really matter if everyone can see you’re nuts ~

A nut "hidden" on the deck railing.
A nut “hidden” on the deck railing.

Take pride in your uniqueness and individuality, even if you do march to the beat of a different drummer. How refreshing is it to meet people who are confident, outgoing and a little bit zany? It’s our differences, our unique qualities, our one-of-a-kind way of looking at things or doing things that make us special. Who wants to blend in with the crowd? Most great inventors and achievers in our time were thought to be out of their minds for the ideas and their commitment to see those ideas through; Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, and the list goes on and on. In fact, you’d better be a little nuts if you have any intention of succeeding, it’s part of the process, to keep trying in the face of repeated failure; also know as the definition of insanity.

Be quick  ~

Be quick.
Be quick.

Life is short, there is no time to waste, not a single second. Every second of every day should be put to good use in furthering our evolution. I’m not saying you have to work sixteen hour days to get ahead, I’m saying that no time should be wasted. Time put to good use includes time for adequate rest, some stimulating and interesting adventures, appropriate time for relaxation, reflection and meditation, time for good nutrition and adequate physical exertion, time for love and for nurturing relationships and friendships, time for acquiring knowledge, for developing new interests, hobbies, pastimes, time for exploring possible new career avenues or technologies. Plan and use your time carefully and guard it judiciously. Time is not refundable, expires quickly and cannot be retrieved or replenished. Use it ever so wisely.

Have some nuts – be fearless ~

Be fearless.
Be fearless.

Have respect, exercise caution, but refuse to be fearful. Don’t make me quote Eleanor Roosevelt again.

Freeze ~


Stop, observe, then decide what action is appropriate. Be thoughtful, reflective and contemplative, but don’t dwell or belabor. Be decisive, with discretion. You can see any prey animal you encounter freeze, momentarily, and in those seconds, a life or death decision is made. Have you ever seen a deer deliberate over whether to run or go back to grazing for more than a few seconds? And yet, the life of the deer depends on that split second decision and usually multiple times a day. True, we are predators, most often, and have been given the luxury of time to mull things over, we’ve also been given incredible intelligence, which is both a blessing and our bane. We are capable of acting quickly and rashly, often to our detriment.  We are equally as capable of being unable to make a timely decision, again, usually to our detriment. Observe the squirrel; freeze, watch, and decide; scamper or get back to taking care of your nuts.

Don’t keep all you nuts in one place ~

Don't keep all your nuts in one place.
Don’t keep all your nuts in one place.

Have a variety of interests, develop goals for each role you serve in your life, nurture your passions, follow your causes. We have a remarkable amount of energy if we know how to appropriately develop it and use it. We all have the individual ability to change the world in a positive way. Together, our changes can amount to amazing things. Explore every avenue.

Don’t forget where you put your nuts ~

Don't forget where you put your nuts.
Don’t forget where you put your nuts.

Be organized. De-clutter your life, de-clutter your mind. Much of success, personal and professional, arises from efficiency. Efficiency is never gained in a cluttered space or in a cluttered mind. A place for everything, everything in its place, including your nuts. Every effort you take to cut the clutter is going to result in a freeing and liberating euphoria. Clutter in our midst and in our minds robs us of energy, vitality and precious, precious time. One of the best books I’ve read this year was a book on minimalism, “The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life” by Francine Jay. I have a ways to go, but, yes, every step towards minimalism is truly bliss.

Sample your nuts ~

Sample your nuts.
Sample your nuts.

Whoever made cookies without having a spoonful of cookie dough? Liar. Everything we do speaks to our reputation. Double check everything before you release it to the universe; thoughts, words and actions all deserve a quick sample before we decide to unleash them for the rest of the world. What we send out comes back our way, guaranteed. Think positive, speak kindly, act with valor, honor and integrity, and as a result, live richly.

Know when to stop hiding your nuts ~

Know when to stop hiding your nuts.
Know when to stop hiding your nuts.

Know when to stop working and focus on what really matters in life; you, your health, your family, relationships and friendships. Voluminous are stories of people so driven to work and succeed in their careers that they lost everything that truly, truly mattered. Every day should have ample time in it to savor that which you cherish, beginning with yourself, your health and well-being, for it is a healthy you that will be able to love, nurture and provide for those you care for for a much greater time. It is a healthy you that is a happier and more relaxed you, a you that those you care for will so enjoy spending time with. Get your priorities straight. Jobs come and go, no job is worth sacrificing health, family, relationships and friendships for.

The real lesson here, I’d have to say, is to learn to stop, look out the window, and to find value in everything you observe. Lessons in life are everywhere, we only need to stop fussing with our nuts long enough to pay attention, and learn.

Go nuts.

Comments are closed.