My Squirrel Teacher

To one degree or another, it’s been One of Those Days lately. You know the kind. Not that bad, not that good, weights on your emotional ankles that make you want to just stay in bed a little longer. You keep telling yourself that your problems aren’t that bad, other people have it so much worse, be grateful, etc. That perspective is essential, but not really helpful in an active sense. Like a floor, it keeps you from sinking too far or too easily, but doesn’t actually lift you up. (It also gives me a sense of outrage that other people are living lower. No one should have problems worse than mine.)

That floor was under me yesterday, while I had lunch with my Shoulds. I should be exercising more. I should be volunteering more. I should be selling my tour, and shouldn’t feel dispirited that it may not run this year. In fact, I should give up. And I definitely shouldn’t give up. I should also be plumbing the depths of my psyche to heal all the cracks. Cuz that’s a fun afternoon, ain’t it just? I should probably also do more to stop war, famine, racism, sexism, homophobia, deforestation, desertification, crappy TV shows, political apathy, political antipathy, bruises on apples, and flavorless tomatoes.

That’s a bit much, so I was just trying to enjoy my coconut curry, which turned out pretty good. But I kept catching tension on my forehead, minutes slipping away in combative mental movies, and the angsty music of my teenage years was sounding better than it had in years. Crap.

Then he arrived. He climbed up the bars on my window. Looked at me. Climbed back down. Found some kind of seed, which he held in his tiny claws. He looked me in the eye and held my soul in friendship while he nibbled at warp speed.

I think he was an eastern fox squirrel. Invasive to California but common in urban areas, since the native western grays don’t like living around people. And he was immediately my favorite thing. We shared a long beautiful communion. He didn’t care if I moved or looked at him or struggle with marketing. Our bond was firm, his schedule and soul were both compatible with mine. But I knew, KNEW, that if I tried to photograph him, he’d disappear.

“Just enjoy the squirrelly moment,” I reminded myself. And listened. For a bit.

But the urge to document, to grab, to keep and set aside, is strong and insidious. It comes on like thoughts at the end of meditation. I lifted my phone…and he bounced away. I knew I should have just enjoyed the moment, not sought to capture and imprison it. Life doesn’t work that way. Love it, appreciate it, drink it while it flows, but don’t try to pin it down. My Squirrel Teacher.

But as Life and Squirrels taketh away, so do they giveth anew. He taught me with the lesson of his departure, but generously dropped back down to sit on the top bar. This presented me with the indelible vision of his furry little nuts. Is there anything cuter than squirrel balls? Suddenly my day didn’t seem so drab.

This time I didn’t try to kidnap the moment, just felt the easy smile, and let it be. And like an indulgent teacher, satisfied with his pupil’s progress, my squirrel guru paused as he left so I could share his sagacious gaze with you.

So there it is. Bummers can weigh down your smiles, but set your feet solidly on the floor of gratitude, help others when you can, and wait for the beautiful uplifts. Sometimes they’re a kid laughing, an afternoon volunteering, a hug from an old friend, a hug from a new friend, or a good meal. And sometimes they’re squirrel balls.

Eastern fox squirrel