Perhaps if he had been named Allegro, his departure might have been easier. But from the very start, he was called Adagio, connoting music that is slow in tempo, easygoing and not necessarily quick to action.
It suited him: As a juvenile squirrel coming into my care last year, he was shy, slow to adjust, often afraid. Buddying him up with other juveniles was supposed to give him courage but instead it pushed him further behind his little protective wall.
Adagio spent the winter with two squirrels - a male and female - who got their freedom only weeks ago, after spending a long winter here, sheltered from a barren world of leafless trees largely inhospitable to the unindoctrinated squirrel. Adagio elected not to travel with his cagemates that day; he retreated, slow and steadfast, to his nestbox where he hunkered down, embracing his solitary stance against the outside world.
He would not be moved.
Today, when Adagio went free, he did it on his own terms. But his departure from the cage was accomplished only through the removal his nestbox itself - with him safely inside. He could not be enticed to go on his own. At least, not yet.
By the time the door hatch finally opened, we had carried his box deep into the woods. Still, he clung to that last piece of artificial shelter, the wooden box he'd called home for two seasons of his life. And once again, he would not be moved. He was listening to his own tempo, deaf to any other's.
Then, as if a cannon had propelled him, he shot out - and into relative obscurity. He left the life behind him - the life of wooden nestboxes and of captivity - making his final appearance to human eyes as only a blur of gray against a deep green background.
His physical pace, at last, had quickened to match that of his heart. And he followed it, without once looking back.