I carry a Pyrex bowl of black oil sunflower seeds with a one-cup measure scoop down to the apple tree where the feeder hangs, carrying it like gifts of communion to the altar. In winter, the trees groaned and creaked in the wind like old floorboards and the snow was crisscrossed with fresh turkey tracks. Today the snow is nearly gone. I am the recipient of songs and calls and the soft purr of bird wing. Then my meditation is interrupted by the red squirrel.
He is hungry and voracious. Like me. He chatters like a wind-up toy that won’t turn off. I dislike his herky-jerky strobe light leaps. He doesn’t sound free or sweet, like birdsong. He is rooted, embattled, desperate.
I’d rather be the mewling nuthatch, peeping as it flies and then turning on its nasal siren. Or a cheerful chickadee. Even a cocky jay or ragged crow.
The squirrel stuffs seed in his cheeks, doing acrobatics to slurp them up from the tiny tube. No dainty grace of the silent grazing junco. His eyes half-mad, frantic, he’s a jerking mess with nowhere to flee but up a tree and down again. Such a linear existence. No mystery of owls chorusing at full moon, or dashing fierceness of the evening grosbeak. He is a warrior crying out at nothing. Is it even wild? It surely belongs in a cage somewhere. The poor squirrel is dumb, with nowhere to go but up. If only it migrated somewhere, taking off on some hidden jet stream, making us gasp at its impossible feat and yearn for its safe return. Instead, it never leaves, and is a banal reminder of our own clay-footed existence.
It can’t go that high or far.
It goes where it needs to go.
It is as relentless and unstoppable as my own thoughts under the bird feeder today…