And so, among the squirrel-loving community, the December festivities are behind us and our own holiday season has finally arrived. It is a week or so of glory unto the highest - in this case, the highest branch:
Saturday, Jan. 21, Squirrel Appreciation Day, through Thursday, Feb. 2, Groundhog Day marks a time for rituals of deep winter napping, acorn-gathering, ceaseless chattering and, more often than not, going out on a limb. For the squirrels, at least, if not for us.
Even for the most orthodox and observant arboreal citizens who partake in this season, these rituals offer no opportunity for introspection or reflection: Rodents aren't known for their talents at self-assessment. When you're at the bottom of the food chain, it hardly seems an asset.
Neither is this a time for them to exchange gifts or indulge in acts of charitable giving: In their cache-as-cache-can world, squirrels have a notorious aversion to poverty, particularly their own. They covet one another's nuts. (Holiday season or not, when was the last time you saw a soup kitchen in an oak tree?)
And frankly, this is not even a season sweetened by melodies and caroling. Squirrels burst the winter silence with their pointed cacophany, their ill-mannered, loud and often dissonant chatter.
Squirrel Appreciation Day? It's all the same to them.
Ah but how do we humans - more inclined toward gratitude and related emotions - mark the season? We do our observing by serving. We deck the halls (and every place else) with bags of nuts. Cobs of corn. Chunks of bread.
And we dress in the festive colors of the holidays. Basic gray or perhaps even red for certain parts of the country. Or for those in the luckier regions to have even more variants of the species, a rare white or completely black outfit.
Somewhere after the reindeer of Christmas have departed and the bunny of Easter has yet to arrive, we encounter the simple squirrel of Appreciation Day.
This tiny bushy-tailed ornament makes every tree a holiday tree.
It takes so little to appreciate them.
Speak softly and carry a big nut.
And go forth, appreciatively.