While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

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How to train a squirrel.

Start with a peanut.  A peanut in the shell is best because it requires the animal to slow down and work, rather than stuffing the nut in his cheek pouch and running away without so much as a ‘Thank you!’.  But even before the peanut, you must get his attention.  This is not as easy as it would seem.  You may have noticed many squirrels running throughout your garden in a seemingly pointless search for something they buried but is now lost.  In fact, this is just one little animal.  They move so quickly and haphazardly that they appear to have a large troop of friends helping with the search – which, incidentally, never proves successful.

Anyway, start with a peanut.  When you see the little squirrel bounding up your garden path, place a peanut directly in his line of sight, and quickly move to the side.  The peanut will get his attention and he will charge ahead.  He will not see you.  With the nut in his tiny, guilty paws (which will be covered with fresh mulch), he will become fixated on cracking the shell.  He will not notice you as you move near him, with a few more peanuts in your hand.  Come as close as possible, then place one more peanut in front of him.  This may startle him enough to result in a frantic, singular movement of jumping up, spinning around, and landing a short distance from where he started.  But, if he sees the second peanut next to the peanut he dropped when startled, he will immediately come closer to you.

Now he will be doubly fascinated with the job at hand, and will pick up both peanuts and attempt to crack two shells at once.  At this point, move a slight distance away from him (preferably towards your neighbor’s garden) and place one more peanut in front of him.  Watch the creature’s unmitigated joy at seeing one more nut.  Now he will try to stuff one peanut (shell intact) into his cheek pouch while picking up the third nut.    As you move, with stealth and purpose, up the path, place more nuts in a direct line out of your garden.  He will follow you; rather, he will follow the peanuts.

With cheek pouches stuffed almost to bursting and little paws frantically trying to run and hold peanuts at the same time, you will toss the last peanut into your neighbor’s garden and watch the squirrel work through the problem of one more nut, some distance away, in his mind: ‘do I run for it or am I good here?’  At this point, you will be disappointed to realize that your squirrel is so satisfied with the stash in his paws and cheeks that he will not wander over into your neighbor’s garden, but decide to stay put in yours.  And now you realize that the squirrel has you right where he wants you.

He trained you well.


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Perched on a gust of wind.

Perched on a gust of wind.

The past two and one-half years have brought more turmoil, betrayal, and change to my life than I have experienced since childhood.  The only part of my life not permanently touched is my health – I seem to be made of iron, with a little bit of rust.  All other facets in this adult life – relationships, work, creativity, religious/spiritual beliefs, social – have been altered in some capacity.  Beliefs I once held as resolute are filled with doubt; some relationships I once considered safe and reciprocal are now dangerous and profoundly dishonest; institutions once seen as cohesive and ethical now seem corrupt and easily bought.  The slim confidence I once placed in my ability to understand and respond appropriately is gone and replaced with an intense desire to avoid interactions as often as possible.  However, my garden has never looked better.

I think most, if not all, adults experience a crisis of whatever at some point in their life.  That’s a comforting thought that I hold onto.  When the struggle becomes intense, I go out for a hike.  If the struggle is overwhelming, I hike up every hill in a 7-mile radius and return home so exhausted I can’t speak.  That helps.   Occasionally wind kicks up and pushes against me with such force that I end up behind the place from where I began.  It’s an odd sensation.  Occasionally I can talk myself into gratitude and deep joy but words, whether spoken or held inside, are just a string of syllables that can be turned into nonsense as easily as into song.

Maybe this is a result of an extended spring.  Maybe a result of finally maturing.  Maybe it will pass now that I have faced it.

If not, it’s a long way down.