Sunday, July 19, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A few months ago, I saw two squirrels playing tag round a palm tree in a Calistoga yard where I was taking a weekend writing workshop. Round and round, up-and-down, they went. I remembered the squirrels who lived in my Minneapolis yard some years ago. The four squirrels played tag around the base of the giant oak tree every day. I would watch them from the kitchen window, marveling at their playfulness.
I didn’t realize what a blessing their play was until one early morning when I saw only three of them. I went outside and looked around. The squirrels scampered up the tree. I glanced at the fence to the left and the fence to the rear. I glanced at the alley to the right. No fourth squirrel. I went back into the house and out the front door. Slowly I walked over the front lawn. As I did so, I began to glimpse a small bundle in the street.
Dreading what I might find, I kept walking… until I reached the fourth squirrel, its body limp at the edge of the street. Was this a boy or a girl squirrel? I didn’t know. West 35th Street was often a busy street, two lanes in each direction with cars coming and going to the freeway entrance two blocks away. How could some careless driver have failed to see the scampering squirrel? Did it happen in the dark?
I got a piece of newspaper and carefully carried the squirrel’s body to the backyard. I thought perhaps the three other squirrels didn’t know their friend was gone. How foolish I was! I placed the squirrel’s body near the base of the tree. There it lay for a few hours. The squirrels didn’t play anywhere near their friend’s body. They did not come up to sniff. They stayed out of sight. Of course they knew.
Later I picked up the squirrel’s stiffening form and put it in a bag and placed it gingerly in the trashcan. The next morning, I went to the trashcan and lifted the lid and looked inside, hoping the squirrel might somehow be alive again.
Where did this sudden impulse come from? I do not know.
But I remember the little lizards which played in my Redwood City backyard after I moved from Minneapolis. One evening as the sun began to set, I kept gardening, digging with my trowel into the earth by the fence, loosening it for new plants to come. Little did I suspect what was to come.
Something flashed by. My trowel went down on automatic dig. I recoiled in shock – there lay the body of a lizard on one side of the trowel and the head on the other side. I had been told that lizards in the yard were a special blessing. Now there lay a lizard beheaded by me. I took some loose leaves and sprinkled them over the lizard.
In the morning I went out to peek. Would the head be reunited with the body again? Would the spirit have returned to the wanderer? No. All was still – except for the ants busy disposing of the remains.
What place did I once live where those who have left could quickly return and be reborn, their bodies healed and Souls complete?
I do not know. But I know it was not this place where I now live. I had done the same thing to the lizard as the driver had done to the squirrel. I never gardened at twilight again.