Thursday, October 21, 2010


Week #3 of unemployment brings news of impending surgery next week, and some free time to observe the urban wildlife.

Just a few minutes ago, the Princess and I were sitting on the front steps, watching the ferries go back and forth in the harbor.  Our front yard is a common space between two rows of townhouses, and a pair of birds squeaked like rusty springs in the the almost-bare oak trees in the courtyard.

But I couldn't see any birds, and on closer examination we saw that the squeaks were coming from two squirrels, each perched in its own tree.  They shouted back and forth to each other, creaking and clicking from their separate branches.  They reminded me of my neighbors here in this low-income housing project, whose personal lives often spill out into the courtyard and prompt police intervention.

These squirrels are used to people, and will take peanuts and almonds from the fingers of a person who holds very still, and then shallowly bury the nut, pat pat patting down a thin dirt cover with their hand-like paws.  I watched one today place a peanut under a decaying plastic grocery bag and smooth the material over it like the squirrel was putting it to bed.  They will go through an open apartment door if its resident isn't nearby.

But the squirrels are not tame.  They are fidgety and darting in their travels across the courtyard, and always mindful of the human residents.

I don't like feeding wild animals: I think it's a bad precedent to set.  And yet, I have succumbed to the temptation to hold out a raw almond, keep very still, until the squirrel approaches and grabs it from my fingers.  It's hard not to anthropomorphize them.  They are so like us, with their trusting/terrified approach, their wary eyes, their courtyard squabbles.  Last week I was in my small, fenced backyard when a squirrel darted under the gate with a treasure to bury clasped between its teeth.  Our joint surprise at finding each other there was so familiar--"Oh, excuse me! I didn't know this one was occupied!" "Not at all, excuse me, I didn't realized you'd be coming in!"  But the yard is mine and the squirrel left to find another shallow hole for its meal.

Like a household pet, I am soon to be neutered, my ovaries and uterus removed and my shaved and de-sexed body sent home the same day.  Unlike a household pet, I will be given hormones to replace the ones that are missing, so I will not likely become overweight and complacent.  At least, not from the surgery.

This surgery is for no one's convenience (except possibly mine--who has been tormented for years by problems with those lady parts); it's not so that my wild behavior will stop or so that I will not come home full of unwanted babies.

But I can't help likening myself to the squirrels.  I am certainly human, with a thinking mind and thumbs to turn my thoughts into actions.  I am also an animal with a body that must be obeyed.

Pat pat pat.  Cover over the treasure.  I can find it here later.

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