The Thing About Rodents and Metaphors

I write a lot about animals that I like, dogs and cats and in particular my dogs and cats because I have an active relationship with them. I know them well, I observe their behavior, we interact. I find them interesting and I love them, probably this is connected. But I live in a place where there are a lot of animals, many of which I enjoy, all of which I am pleased to share geography with, at least in a theoretical way, but not all of whom I like. It’s a complicated part of being alive: I don’t want these creatures to go away, but I want them to stop doing things that annoy me. This is perhaps a metaphor about control of one’s life and accepting those things that are out of your control.

Squirrels are part of the order rodentia, making them a part of  large group that includes mice and rats and hamsters and that kind of critter. They are sort of adorable in their clever, up-to-no good way of scampering about. The squirrels where I live are fat because we don’t have a cold season to speak of and they don’t ever run out of food. There are plenty of bird feeders and garbage cans around, but also natural food sources so you get a lot of chubby squirrels that don’t look particularly troubled by the challenges their mid-western brethren might face. For a while we had a large hanging bird feeder, metal roofed on the top with four openings around the base. I caught a very fat squirrel lying on top, gently swinging back and forth with one paw periodically reaching down to scoop a handful of seed that could be lazily munched. The blue jays stood around screaming at the squirrel, I’m pretty sure the squirrel gave them the finger as he reached down for another scoop. It’s this kind of thing that is adorable. But I also stopped filling the feeder because I didn’t figure that the squirrels needed more food.

Then there is the less adorable thing where they steal your stuff and it is less adorable because I like my stuff and I am in fact not buying it for a bunch of spoiled squirrels that really have it too damn easy anyway. Also the squirrels get bored apparently so they stand on the tree branch near the family room window and chitter away until the dogs start going berserk. Then the game is on of squirrels jumping from branch to branch and dogs racing around the yard barking and barking and barking and the dog’s heads might explode because they just can’t get the squirrel and the little bastard is right there chittering away, and so on. That is less adorable because I have to corral a barking dog back into the house and get it or them (I have three) to calm down and just ignore the squirrel which really is hard to do if you are a dog. Or a person dwelling on a nagging issue, that’s where this metaphor of control pops up again.

I like to hang prayer flags from my front balcony. They are pretty and peaceful and I enjoy the color off the front of the house. But the squirrels again. It would seem they too like prayer flags but perhaps only in the sense that they make nice blankets in their little dens. I thought I had outsmarted the squirrels by tying the end of the flags tightly away from a tree but turns out they are pretty good jumpers. Three strings of flags, all gnawed through on one end and then systematically each flag removed down the line until nothing but a nub of string remains.

I don’t want the squirrels to go away, not really. They are good entertainment for all of us in the house. And I want them to leave my flags alone. I don’t think that is going to happen, maybe the squirrels sit around thinking how they would like me to leave their yard alone and stop tromping through it and digging up their stashes of acorns in all the potted plants. That’s not going to happen either. So we all have to accept, and live together, and maybe only enjoy our flags for a week or so before they disappear. That’s a metaphor too.

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