Or actually, the proper English, where a preposition is not left hanging, would be, “From Where did They Come?” Sounds a bit snooty for upper Midwest talk. Kind of reminiscent of Winston Churchill, who was a great defender of the King’s English, when he said to his housekeeper, “There are certain things up with which I will not put.”
But I digress. The “they” in the question, of course, are squirrels. Why not talk about them on a bright Monday morning? The fact is, we have been living in this house for more than six years now, and up until this summer, a squirrel sighting was a rare occurrence. Kind of like seeing a unicorn. You know they are somewhere, but just not in your yard…
That all changed this Spring. It was as if their little squirrel visas were finally approved, and an entire population of the little mammals started pouring into our neighborhood. We’ve always had a lot of birds, but rarely a squirrel. That’s all changed. When we sit out in the backyard, or I look out my office window to the street, or drive down the street (slowly now, so as to save the population from having to hold a little squirrel funeral…), there is always a squirrel, or squirrels, or lots of squirrels to be seen. The neighborhood has been here since the early 1990s, and only now are we developing into a parkland, it seems. I expect next the deer, bears, and timberwolves will find their way.
Everywhere I have lived, or even visited around the world, I’ve seen squirrels in action. They all must be wearing pedometers, and signed up for cash incentives through their little squirrel health plans, because those critters never stop moving! I did a little research and found out they can run up to 20mph if need be, and always run in a zigzag, furtive pattern. They can also leap 10 times their own body length, and can actually fall 30 feet without getting hurt – and it’s all done without helmets, I must add.
A squirrel’s natural life expectancy is 5-10 years. I’m not sure if they calculate that based on the study of squished squirrels as they try to cross a four lane street – I expect the survival statistics are pretty slight, at least from my observance. They are born blind, like many little furry animals, but their front teeth never stop growing – that is, until they meet with a car… They can actually find food until a foot of snow, which is good, because they are one of those forest and field animals that doesn’t hibernate. Although, as much as they bury food for later, about 25% of that food is stolen by other squirrels. Of course, each squirrel is probably guilty of theft, and it may just be that the reason they bury so much food is not so they will find it later, but that some squirrel somewhere will be able to eat from the nut buffet.
Apparently they are intelligent little critters, and can figure out a number of solutions to, basically, getting the next load of food, which are normally nuts or fruit. The word squirrel is from the Greek, meaning “shadow tail.” I’m pretty sure they are in the minority when it comes to fluffy tails that matter (not like a rabbit’s tail, which is pretty worthless, if you ask me…).
My closest encounter with a squirrel happened when I was in 8th grade, and we were living in Omaha. We had a huge ravine behind our backyard, a perfect place to explore all sorts of “stuff.” One day my brother Ray talked me into going with him and collecting bird nests from the big trees that ran through the entire ravine. The process was that he would spot the nest, I would shimmy up the tree, and bring or toss the nest down to Ray. Looking back, I can’t imagine the number of creepy crawly things in those nests, but we were boys, and it was part of our nature.
We came to one tree, and there was a huge nest in the fork of the tree about 25 feet up. At this point, you have to realize that, although we were adventurous, we were not informed when it came to what creature might inhabit what nest. They were all bird’s nests, as far as we were concerned. I shimmied up the tree, feeling the wind blowing sideways across my tentative grip. When I got to the nest, I proceeded to try to lift it, but it was pretty heavy. As I finally freed it, and lifted it over my head, at that moment, shooting out of the nest like a bazooka was a very unhappy grey squirrel! I watched him float down through the sky, safe within the 30-foot falling range. Everything stopped for a moment, and then I came to the realization that the squirrel that left may not have been alone…
I shoved the nest back into the fork of the tree, and I expect I would have been on the medal stand in the Olympics if they had an event called, “Getting Down from the Tree After Ticking off an Angry Squirrel.” I have to say that ended our bird’s nest foray…
But the squirrels are in our neighborhood, apparently for keeps, each one looking like it had finished its fourth cup of double expresso with no cream. They are fun to watch, and provide a reminder to me that I really don’t “own” any part of nature. It’s not my giant maple in the front yard, or my shrubs and bushes – the squirrels share them with me, as together we try to find a nice way to live together. And I always keep the brake pedal handy as I move through the neighborhood. Just in case.
God blesses us with sights and sounds and scenes every day, if we are intentionally open enough to allow ourselves to be surprised, or to notice what is not always evident, and yet still lives beside us. It’s a great gift. Just leave the nests alone…
Word for the day: extrapolate. Pronounced ek-STRAP-oh-late. We hear this word used most often in scientific calculations, or when we talk about economics (so, we don’t use it often.). Breaking the word down, it comes from Latin, extra, meaning “outside,” and interpolate, which is “to alter, or polish up.” Further broken down, inter means “among or between” and polare/polire means “to smooth or polish.”
The word melded into an action far more than shining something up, however. The sense was that, whatever it was, you would take the raw material, and work and manipulate it to discover a future possibility. Another way to say it is that it’s a big guess, where we draw a conclusion about the future based on the present. In the 1862 Harvard study, extrapolate was defined as “to make an approximate calculation by inferring known values from trends in the known data.” In other words – a big guess.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.