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Tangents on the Orbit of Planet Squirrel

Tom Sturch

Window on Planet Squirrel Once our boys left home Bev and I were thrust into quick adjustments akin to riders just off the tilt-a whirl. Our stable orbits missed the gravity of their presence. The momentum of parenting doesn't go away once you've spun your progeny off and into the world. So we rotated and balanced the tires, refurnished repainted rooms, re-sized the recipes and learned new steps.

Even the cat made her adjustments, her periods of meditation at the window on the lawn growing longer. At some point we decided to enhance Annie's interest in the squirrels. Peanuts. First the salted ones I was eating, then raw, once the idea of hypertensive squirrels crossed our minds, except that Bev read about tripsin inhibitors and finally unsalted, roasted. It's the word on squirrels. She loves it. Begs for it when we forget.

Morning rituals now include balancing some nuts on the outside window mullions. At another point I remembered my own dad's story of the dead squirrel bagged in his freezer. It was waiting there for the next garbage day, but was discovered a prior evening by a shrieking party guest.

My dad pelts squirrels with BBs in favor the the many birds he feeds. My own eye is on the neighborhood tomcats. One of our frequenting squirrels who is partially blind and deaf re-appeared recently after what we suppose now was a restorative absence in the woods. A tomcat gashed his hindquarters. He escaped up the column at our front door leaving it impressively bloodied. We worried he'd contract an infection and die and thought that was the case after weeks of missing him. But he's back with the Spring and looks through the window for peanuts.

The momentum of our lives is driven by desires existing in and outside us, both proximate and ultimate, that conspire in an impossible dynamic, both inwardly, compelling us to deeper relationships and outwardly, propelling us toward greater freedoms. And instead of being sheared apart we join a spiraling dance, which is itself part of some larger dance, and so on. Some greater gravity drawing us near, hurtling us forward.

I can't parse whether we dance with the squirrels or they with us. I cannot see far into the space that expands for lifetimes in front of us. If my dad and I strike some kind of cosmic balance, I am unable to factor it. But with the squirrels I trust the light that fills the void will manifest new sight and new prospects. I miss my boys, even as I feel profound joy watching them learn to dance with the world. I still feel the tug of their earlier places as we circle them from time to time, by a memory that grows further away and yet somehow deeper.