WHAT I LEARNED FROM A SQUIRREL
Native American elders say that we can learn from all entities in the natural world – birds, animals, trees. My Anishinabe teacher says, even rocks! Several years ago, during a dark period in my family’s life together, I found myself going outdoors for time alone, time to be educated in larger things. What follows is my journal entry from one of those days.
Sunday, December 15th: this morning I took my coffee down to the council ring to greet the day, to sit quietly and see what I could see.
I sat on the cold damp stone and looked toward the water and the light. From some place of deep silence, words formed: Behold, I give you the morning – I give you the new day. I watched the sky change from mostly ashen with a faint pink glow at the base to wide alternating bands of gray and of blue. I heard and saw cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, crows. When two mallards flew over, wings whistling, I dubbed them “this morning’s pair-a-ducks”! As each of my hosts appeared – for I am a guest in their home when I go to the woods – I thanked them for trusting me with their presence, and promised to do them no harm.
The gray squirrel was my teacher this day, and there was indeed a paradox. I watched this nimble creature run up the trunk of a tree by the edge of the water, then leap from branch to branch. I felt the beauty and grace of this most ordinary activity. There are many, many squirrels in the world, and many, many trees, let alone branches. Each squirrel knows only her small part of the woods, and at any one time, knows only the tree she is in and the distance to the next limb. Yet she moves between them instinctively, with skill and assurance, and so it is beautiful. I who can see the beauty must remember the squirrel and strive to be like her, to trust my leaping and climbing ability as I travel the branches of my life.
If I can do this – if each of us can do this, in our own place and our own way – might there be someone watching somewhere who will find it beautiful, and draw inspiration? Might we all be teachers and learners, takers and givers, for each other? That is the lesson, and the paradox, of the gray squirrel.
This, I believe.
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