A squirrel stares down at you from a high perch, chirping loudly, sounding the alarm. If a squirrel could form words, what words would they be? I always imagine them swearing at me. I realize I’m being anthropomorphic, but something about squirrel behavior communicates a complete lack of respect for our human sense of dignity and superiority. Henry got a taste of this when squirrels moved in under his house.
“At the approach of spring the red squirrels got under my house, two at a time, directly under my feet as I sat reading or writing, and kept up the queerest chuckling and chirruping and vocal pirouetting and gurgling sounds that ever were heard; and when I stamped they only chirruped the louder, as if past all fear and respect in their mad pranks, defying humanity to stop them. No, you don’t — chickaree — chickaree. They were wholly deaf to my arguments, or failed to perceive their force, and fell into a strain of invective that was irresistible.”
(His earlier colorful description of squirrel behavior is here.)
(About “A Year in Walden”)
Thoreau had been in the woods long enough — and had lived gently enough — that animals trusted him:
“They [titmice, a small gray and white songbird] were so familiar that at length one alighted on an armful of wood which I was carrying in, and pecked at the sticks without fear. I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn. The squirrels also grew at last to be quite familiar, and occasionally stepped upon my shoe, when that was the nearest way.” Continue reading
We’ve all seen it, but Thoreau provides one of the best descriptions of squirrel behavior that I’ve read. During the winter he left out ears of unripened sweet corn for them. I’ve added paragraph breaks to make it easier to read on the screen:
Eastern gray squirrel. Wikimedia Commons
“One would approach at first warily through the shrub oaks, running over the snow-crust by fits and starts like a leaf blown by the wind, now a few paces this way, with wonderful speed and waste of energy, making inconceivable haste with his “trotters,” as if it were for a wager, and now as many paces that way, but never getting on more than half a rod at a time; and then suddenly pausing with a ludicrous expression and a gratuitous somerset, as if all the eyes in the universe were eyed on him — for all the motions of a squirrel, even in the most solitary recesses of the forest, imply spectators as much as those of a dancing girl — wasting more time in delay and circumspection than would have sufficed to walk the whole distance — I never saw one walk — and then suddenly, before you could say Jack Robinson, he would be in the top of a young pitch pine, winding up his clock and chiding all imaginary spectators, soliloquizing and talking to all the universe at the same time — for no reason that I could ever detect, or he himself was aware of, I suspect. Continue reading
My Cats, poem by Charles Bukowski.
I don’t post a lot about cats on this blog, despite the constant gaze of Boo from the banner above. (And at nearly seventeen years old and increasingly frail, she’s often on our minds in this household.) But here’s a wonderful Bukowski poem via the blog Bukowski on Wry. What is it about cats? I think Buk captures it as well as anyone has.
I think the dog in the video knew what she was doing. After the black cow becomes startled, Lucy lies down and the cows (or steers more likely; can’t tell from the video) relax and come closer. Our boxer, Basie, used to do the same thing with small dogs who were afraid of her. But in the photo below, she stood quietly to sniff noses with the horses, who weren’t a bit afraid but eager to make her acquaintance.
Basie meets new friends, October 2002.