My Life in the Shadow of the Tail
"Sometimes you can hear the angels sing your name," Rebecca said to me. "The Gods tell us that we all started as just hearts, because that's the most important, but that we needed a ribcage to protect our hearts from the dangers out there, skin to hold in those bones, legs to move that heart closer to others and farther away from danger, and a tail to express what was once so obvious in our hearts but is now covered by all that other stuff. The tail is the window into the heart of a squirrel."
What I hated most about squirrel life was the religious aspects of it all. Religion was fairly new to them. From what I could gather Jeff's father's friend discovered the truth that lies within every nut. Their language when they talk about their religion was very high flatulent and I had a hard time understanding it, but I gather that the trees are kind of like angels. There was a lot said about the changing of seasons.
Unlike rabbit and deer, squirrels cannot digest fiber and must rely on foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
It would be wrong to think that squirrels have the same emotions and thoughts that people do. While they do have a rich and storied history, and the capacity for deeper feelings, they aren't the ones that we have. For instance they never seem to be happy or sad. Mainly their emotions are a kind of sense of discovery, when they find something they like, and a sense of want when they haven't. They have a peculiar habit of saying that you are whatever you are doing at that moment.
"You are a nut gatherer," one of them said to me when i was picking up nuts.
"you are mean to me," he said to me when I got distracted by a car and didn't lift my foot so he could get a nut.
"You are so nice," he said when i did lift my foot.
The word squirrel comes from the greek word skiouros, meaning shadow-tailed. Other animals in their family include chipmunks, marmots, and prairie dogs.
Parkus is the squirrel God of Picknicks
Oaker is the squirrel God of Traffic
Thinlin is the squirrel God of Cold/Winter
Most of these Gods were friends of Jeff's father.
In temperate regions early spring is the hardest time for squirrels. Buried nuts begin to grow and are no longer edible, and no new food is available yet. During these times squirrels often rely on the buds of trees, but some squirrels also consume meat when faced with hunger. Squirrels have been known to eat insects, small birds, young snakes and smaller rodents.
Some references say that a group of squirrels is called a dray, others say that it is called a scurry. It's worth noting that squirrels are actually solitary animals and no group name is officially recognized
I promised Jeff I would go to the lake with him, and I wanted to be a good person to him, so I went. We talked about kissing, and who he had a crush on. I told him that I've had sex with a woman before and he didn't believe me. After we ran out of stuff to talk about Jeff said that he had a sense of needing something, so I pulled a nut out of my pocket and gave it to him, he acted as if he just discovered it, maybe out of instinct, and immediatly burried it under some dirt.
Squirrels are the most active in late winter, when the mating season begins. Males will chase after females, and chase away other suitors. This ritual of chasing, occurs through the trees with high speed acrobatics.
Jeff got hit in the face on night. It was late, and dark, and he wasn't paying attention. A man snuck up on him while he was paralyzed by a particular smell that he couldn't pin down, but seemed like something tasty. The man pulled his tail and then, when Jeff tried to run away, the man hit his face with his hand.
"They aren't interested in the small pleasures it seems to me," Jeff's father said as he tended to Jeff's wounds.
I sat on the opposite branch and just watched, I didn't know what to say, and wanted to hear how they felt, as opposed to putting in my thoughts.
"It's only pain and death that are exciting to some of them, those are the things that are the easiest to get your heart racing. It takes a gentle mind to understand the pleasure of discovering a hidden pile of nuts."
"I'm sorry this happened to you Jeff," I finally said.
"Thank you for your concern," Jeff said from underneath his tucked in head.
In the summer squirrels are only active about three hours after sunrise, then they'll rest in the afternoon, resuming activity again two hours before sunset. Squirrels will retire to their nests well before dark, and will rarely leave the nest in the dark.
An adult squirrel normally lives alone. But will, in severe cold, share its nest with other squirrels to conserve body heat. Once the temperature rises, the guests will be on their way.
A squirrel's brain is about the size of a walnut. and it has one thing on it's brain: walnuts.
"We are all just nuance infants," Rebecca announced. "the same highs and lows, just more refined. My love of hats, how i choose my mate, how i act when i'm getting hungry, they are all just more precise places to put my baby emotions." I didn't think i agreed, i'd never let that kind of thought enter my mind before. I doubt it would stay long.
Squirrels communicate with a series of chirps. The frequency and the duration of the notes communicate everything from laughter to alarm. Their vocal range is normally between .01 KHz. and 10 KHz. These sounds when combined with tail gestures, form the basis of squirrel communication.
Squirrels generally don't like when people pronounce words in a foriegn way when they are not foreign; like kareoke and tortilla. Most find make up on women unappealing. The great majority of squirrels think that advances in technology, while having some negative side effects, is usually an improvement on life.
The sweat glands of a tree squirrel are located on their feet, between the foot pads and on their paws between the toes. When hot or excited a squirrel will leave wet tracks on a dry surface. This scent is also used to mark the trees in their territory.
The squirrel's erratic path while crossing a street is an attempt to confuse vehicles, thereby causing it to change direction. This is a fatal habit from more a more ancient instinct that doesn't translate well into the modern world.
"Are you still growing," Jeff asked me.
"No I don't think so, why do you ask."
"Because Rebecca said that everything is growing right now. She told me that the spring has a different feel because everything, including all of us, are growing. Do you think that's true?"
"I think it might be."
"Do you think that I'm growing fast enough," Jeff asked.
"You seem to be."
"How long before I fall in love do you think?"
"It's tough to say, it might be a while, it was for me."
Jeff climbed up my arm and down my back, and then circled my waist a few times. I sat down and he curled up in my lap and we both looked at the river.
"Do you like Rebecca," I asked Jeff.
"Are you going to ask Jatem, the God of Togetherness, for his blessing?"
"I don't know if i'm old enough."
"You're still growing."
When a squirrel senses danger, its first instinct is to stand motionless, it then races to the closest tree, or anything climable to escape. If it is on a tree, it will circle the trunk with its body pressed tightly to the bark.
Male squirrels takes twice as long as the females to groom themselves. They are the cleanest animals in the rodent family, the males doubly-so.
"As squirrels we some times take for granted that we have the hearts of each of our brothers and sisters within reach at all times. While we are a solitary species we are never unloved. It was a pleasure for us and we hope for our human visitor to get close to his heart, and let him know that he too, while a solitary species, is not unloved. May Macdus, the God of Just-The-Right-Amount-Of-Food be with you in your every day." After Jeff's father said those kind words he joined his friends, the Gods, up on one of the higher branches.