Communing with a black squirrel

Communing with a black squirrel

The red squirrel is the unrivaled tyrant and vandal of our bird feeding enterprise. It tears up the corners of deck boards and the adjoining lattice to excavate seeds. It would destroy the squirrel-proof Eliminator birdfeeder if it could; the metal frame is laced with teeth marks. Its compulsion to bully other creatures, even the larger grey and black squirrels, seems to override its need for food. On Saturday five mourning doves perched sleepily in the sheltering honey-locust outside my office window. The red squirrel bounced around and harrassed them while the feeder area remained vacant. Fortunately the little monster was all chatter. The birds simply ignored it.

Yesterday when I went downstairs at lunchtime the deck was relatively quiet, occupied only by a bushy black squirrel diligently feeding on seeds I had spilt earlier that morning. Apparently it had wearied of ridicule and chased the red squirrel away, Danny told me.

“I like the black squirrel,” he said. “It’s not destructive.”

After returning from the cottage last week I set up my weighted warp weaving project in the living room window, which offers a sturdy curtain rod, good light for working, and a pleasant closeup view of the the birdfeeder. Yesterday with the black squirrel feeding unconcernedly a metre away, I settled to work there while a batch of gluten-free granola roasted in the oven.

After grazing for a few minutes, the animal climbed onto the deck rail. There it sprawled to soak up thin midday sun. With glassy eyes it watched what I was doing. Nimbly my fingers selected strands of warp yarn, lifted them and passed lacy weft underneath.

Skeptical scientists frequently warn against anthropomorphizing animals: assuming they have consciousness. I might err in interpreting a sense of curiosity or camaraderie from this passive creature.

It is equally dangerous to ignore intuition. Impaired social cognition frequently characterizes psycopathy. By ignoring cues from other living things we end up acting badly toward nature. The black squirrel and I grow irritated with red squirrels and certain people who behave with entitlement, ignoring the welfare of others.

It is unwise to assume any being, human or otherwise, thinks or feels the same way I do or acts according to the same principles. It is always best to keep an open mind and try to understand.

The black squirrel observed my craft. She knows how to weave a nest, called a drey, from leaves and sticks wrapped with slender laces of grass. I continued working, enjoying the squirrel’s company, and thinking well of her.


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