This is not how I will remember them: Confined to an outdoor pen, reliant on being hand fed, their wild movements limited to the parameters of the enclosure that held them. No, these are not the memories that do them justice:
But they were beautiful. And they remain so, even now. Out of my field of vision forever, they are what they had been at birth: Wild and spirited and now finally - as of this morning - free. Everything they need to have a successful life they carry in their bones, their blood, their genes.
These five siblings entered my life in early spring, their infant eyes still closed to the storm that had ravaged their nest and sent their mother fleeing. She returned briefly, and took a sixth sibling with her, but these five remained.
The photos I have of them now - the most recent ones, taken only a week ago - are merely shadows of the squirrels they are going to become. Two brothers, three sisters, they came into the world together but they go forward into it now separately, as individuals.
We sent them off with prayers and our love. The trees embrace them now.