27 August 2007

Squirrel chatter

Everyone, it seems, wants to talk about squirrels.

At a party last night, after we were done immersing ourselves in office politics and national politics, surfacing only to trash banks and the economy, the subject got around to the local squirrel population. And there were plenty of questions: "Are squirrels territorial?" "If you feed them separately will they stay out of your birdfeeders?" "Do they migrate?" "Are there really flying squirrels in this part of New York?"

The answer, of course, was yes - to all of them. There were stories people told of squirrels in their attics, stories of well-meaning rescues when nests fell and the babies in them got cold and could not be revived. There was a curiosity, and a true benevolence, as if people at this party were asking because they planned some travel to a foreign land sometime soon, and wanted to know more about the population they would meet there.

It's like that with squirrels, I suppose. You see them from afar. Then you have your first encounter, or read something about them, and begin to notice theirs is not a one-dimensional existence.

Suddenly you're entering that new territory and you don't want to be a tourist on the bus anymore, you want to be an active participant in the scene unfolding around you.

Squirrels, by virtue of their exuberance and their cleverness, can effect those kinds of changes. For those of us who get caught up in it, well, we're the lucky ones.

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