Friday, July 25, 2008

If Squirrels prayed, my office windows would be stained-glass

I've mentioned that I feed the squirrels from my ground floor office window; I go through about six pounds of peanuts every week. I'm not sure I've trained them so much to come towards the open window as they've trained me to throw peanuts out to them whenever I see them congregate outside. That's a little dicey as my back is to the two windows in the office.

I should also explain my windows don't open up, but, rather, out. The bottom about-a-quarter-of-a- panel makes a 45 degree angle with the rest of the pane. Sort of like a wing flap on an aircraft though no matter how I work the two of them, the building always seems to be in danger of ditching. Sometimes, there are a half dozen or more squirrels out there, across the front lawn, or more exactly, the sort-of green vegetation that keeps the dust and mud to a minimum by serving as ground cover. I'll remember to turn around and look out the window and should any of them be looking up through the glass and see me, it (I feel silly calling them 'it' when they are he and she, I'm sure, but I don't know which or how) will start to move its jaws like it was talking to itself.

Squirrels don't make noise--they chitter when they're warning one another off some object or if a cat has wandered into the neighborhood, but they are, for the most part, a silent and stoic bunch. When one stands up on its back legs, or paws, they all stand which in the spring's early morning dawn is breaking sort of light can be a little disquieting to study. Sort of like a monastery of eight inch tall monks with hoodies, all struggling to make eye contact with the pink bi-ped Dispenser of Peanuts on the far side of the glass.

I can tell you this, because I don't think squirrels surf the web: I only got into feeding the squirrels, robins, cardinals, sparrows, blue jays and titmouse (plural is mice or mouses?) as well as (unfortunately) the grackles because I was trying to feed a chipmunk. That was the impetus for this munificent benevolence on my part. It's taken months for the chipmunk, not sure why I think it's always the same one, but I do, to realize it, too, can eat peanuts--and now, it takes one, and only one, everyday, stuffs it into its mouth and bumbles off to wherever chipmunks go.

I throw peanuts, in small bunches out the window until I see the chipmunk arrive, stumble his way across the area, flip a peanut out that intersects with his travels, and off he goes. Then I close the window (we have air conditioning and if the building manager is reading this, I have some explaining to do) and the show is over for the day. It remains over even when the squirrels launch themselves at the window, a height of slightly more than three feet from the ground (the equivalent of you or I, but mostly you, high jumping into a third story window from a standing position) and they scratch and claw for a moment on imperfections in the window sill as they peer frantically into the Cathedral of the Peanut God.

Some mornings I forget to close the window, but never the sliding screen. I'll hear faint tapping sounds as I turn slowly to see a squirrel under the window, on the slimmest of sills, pressed against the screen smelling the peanuts in a bag I keep on the shelf, but unable to work its way past the screen. They are so hungry (=greedy) none of those who make the leap will jump down as I approach the window and when I look through the glass I can see other squirrels circling under the window waiting to see how Rocky makes out. I always reward the effort. As a Divinity, I am even-handed if not completely lucid, which means sliding the screen slightly as the squirrel tries to force its nose through the opening until its jaws close on the peanut and pulls it through to its side.

It's exhausting for them, I'm sure. I get tired just watching them.
Thank goodness the weekend will be here in a moment, I, too, need a day of rest. Amen.
-bill kenny

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