06 October 2019

A world diminished by loss

In the many photos and videos on social media that form the touchstones of this small squirrel’s life, sunlight infuses his coat with a glow, his eyes twinkle with mischief and the love of his caretaker - his human brother - is evident.

At first, a palm squirrel’s imprint on this earth does not seem to amount to much. Perhaps on average, each adult of this species weighs a bit more than 100 grams - or close to a quarter pound. In the U.S., we are denied the privilege of personally knowing these tiny treasures of southeast Asia. But in the moving images on popular social media sites, we see readily how much weight they really have as citizens of their part of the planet. For those who ascribe to Hindu legend, palm squirrels are sacred squirrels, their stripes visible proof that they were loved and protected by Lord Rama. Rama, legend says, saved them from certain death, comforting and stroking them with his fingers after successfully wresting them from enemy assault. The stripes that appear on their backs are - according to that same legend - a reminder of Rama's powerful gestures of comfort.

The more secular, contemporary legend of one Sri Lankan squirrel named Sweepy has its sacred moments too. Those of us who care deeply about these tiny members of the Order Rodentia can grow to know palm squirrels, even from afar, through online friendships with their human families. There is so much to gain from their videos and photos. Those images preserve their fleeting three-dimensional lives forever in the two-dimensional realm of sound and image. Once again we see that glow of sunlight, that twinkle and all the love.

Sweepy's physical body has just completed its adventure on earth. He departed, having been given the gift of more than 6 years on the planet, a milestone unseen by the majority of other palm squirrels.

This noble citizen of Sri Lanka, rescued as a baby, lived to be doted on. He was joined in his squirrel games by a human brother who did not draw the line between “man” and “squirrel,” but simply united the two as brethren. With this family, Sweepy found security and love. With this family, he was comforted and stroked when he was sick or hurting – and countless times he returned the favor. None of us can ask for more in life than that, even if that life comprises only six trips of our planet around the sun.

Now as Earth turns on its axis, it moves with 100 or so grams missing from its cargo of passengers. This sweet creature known as Sweepy has taken his energy elsewhere.

But if you sit quietly - very quietly - you can still feel that pulse. It beats within a realm that we cannot capture in any photos or videos. Sunlight now infuses his very being with its eternal glow. And if you close your eyes and look within, you’ll know the universe itself is twinkling now.

No comments: