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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Thursday, November 3, 2011


In this part of Maine (probably in most parts) we have red squirrels, and on our property at least one. That is, I see only one at a time but for all I know, there may be many, taking turns running across the ground and jumping from branch to branch. They seem to be more tree-oriented than the gray squirrel that so bedevils urban dogs; in fact, the red I saw the other day was climbing to the very top of a 40-foot fir on the shore. It might have been up there for the view, for it was a particularly pretty day. More likely it was seeking fresh buds and needles and even cones, the seeds of which are its favorite food.

The red squirrel is quite cute, being not much bigger than a chipmunk. Beyond that, I doubt humans think much about squirrels except to curse them in their attics.

Nor am I sure how the squirrel feels about humans. It scolds me, from the safety of a tree of course, when I'm out splitting wood. It finds the deck railing a convenient place to pick apart a cone, leaving its tell-tale midden of discarded cone bits behind. I've even seen it climbing directly up and down the outside walls of the house, presumably using the cedar shakes (an ex-tree) for toeholds. No nature-based reasons for the last-named exercise come to mind; recreational or psychological ones do.

Climbing to the tops of things fulfills all kinds of desires. My house is bigger than yours; my dad is taller than yours; the seeds are always greener at the top of the tree; I'm at the top of the world, on top of my game, high on Jesus. You'd think that getting closer to the infinity of space would make us humble. On the contrary, it seems to make us proud. Thank goodness the red squirrel chides us for our hubris and runs up things just for the hell of it.

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