|Where the squirrels roost.|
My war on squirrels has lasted most of my adult life. My opinion of squirrels is that they are rodents who live in trees. They are not quite as bad as rats, but they are a close cousin. During my childhood, my parents spent a small fortune on defensive measures. The squirrels were destructive; they burrowed their way into the attic of their house, causing damage to the roof. The exterminator was called and lingering scents of death plagued the upstairs for weeks. The squirrels would climb the trees and land on tmy parents’ bird-feeders -- appetite in tact. With an aggression that is generally associated with starving animals, the squirrels attacked the food my parents put out for the birds, My parents were frustrated because the squirrels scared away the birds they loved.
When my grandmother was ninety, she began to spend winters with my parents - away from her home on Martha’s Vineyard. While my mother was at work, it became my grandmother’s habit to watch the squirrels. She sat for hours, in a rocking chair, watching the activities of this small mammal. She could identify each one and surprised me with a detailed description of their social interactions. I allowed, for the first time, that squirrels were not as revolting as I once thought. To please my grandmother, my parents abandoned all efforts to repel the squirrels. As they loaded up the bird-feeders, they would comment that they were doing nothing more than feeding the squirrels.
Today, twenty years later, my sinister feelings toward squirrels has not fully abated. However, I do not wish them ill, exactly. When I pass one that has been hit by a car, I still say the same quick prayer for it as I do for any of God’s other creatures. Let’s just say I try to let them live their lives without any intersection with mine.
Recently, I have had a slight thawing toward the creatures. In the house where I am staying, there is not much activity to watch out the window. Summer visitors and tourists have dwindled to the most hearty. The Vineyard on a raw, windy, rainy day is surprisingly unpleasant. Vacationers do not want to brave the elements in late October.
|Camera used on safari.|
Thus, the constant activity of the squirrels that make their homes in the arms of the oak trees out the back window is one of my daily diversions. To document my transformation, I thought to photograph my furry new acquaintances. I have tried to photograph one particular squirrel for weeks. I keep my camera on the counter in the kitchen at the ready. This most active of squirrels spends his time running the balance beam created by the of white picket fence. His mouth is usually engorged with nuts and other offerings. I have witnessed his manic burying of treasures here and there in locations distributed within the sweep of a twenty foot radius of my position. Reluctantly, I have to make room for a new appreciation of squirrels. Their fervent commitment to the future -- whether conscious or genetically programmed -- is impressive to watch. This new perception of squirrels initiated my desire to catch a photograph of one, cheeks bulging with acorns, running along the fence. I have stalked my prey with the patience of a big game hunter and yet, their cunning has exceeded my patience. From a blind in the kitchen, I have stood cameral ready for minutes on end. Yet, with an uncanny sixth sense, the squirrel ceases and desists all activity within focal length. Can it smell me inside the house? Can it hear me breathing through closed windows? It is a game at this point. The squirrels and I are playing a game. I have a very strong suspicion just who will win.