Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Squirrel Eating a Nut Sitting on My Lap

It is a strange thing to be in a state of wakeful sleeping.  Aware of the moment, the second of happening and yet at a loss for all of the connections, layers and interwoven memories of one's life.  Whenever something happens in life that stirs my memory into a wakefulness I am always so delighted.

That has been an interesting challenge with this TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury.  The eclipse of my life, it is all still there and yet only partially seen.  A glimpse now and then. 

I've always loved animals.  After the brain injury, isn't that funny, before the brain injury, after the brain injury... how one's life can be defined by a second, rounding a curve in the road, someone speeding into my lane and then, all is changed?

If there was a wounded bird I would take care of it and feed it and teach it to fly again, using a downward motion with my arm as it rested on my hand.  There are even pictures of me doing just this. 

It was only natural that animals would heal me and bring me back to life.  My llamas and donkeys and dogs and dingbat cats have all helped me to take one more step through the haze to another awakening.

This past year, one winter day, after a fresh snow, I was walking along the driveway and I noticed drops of blood at the base of an Elm tree.  It was the tree the squirrels would run up and down, as they scurried and foraged for the seed they sought. 

I watched them from my kitchen window.  While washing the dishes I watched them chase each other.  Suddenly, I was grief stricken.  Which squirrel had been wounded?  Was it one of mine?  Even thinking that was strangely possessive and still, that is how I felt. 

Then I saw it.  There was a little blood on its back and left ear.  I started setting out peanut butter on a piece of bread, broken up into manageable pieces.  And then discovered how inexpensive the sunflower seeds were.  And so when I fed my Akita and cats in the morning, I would put on a jacket or cape and spread a few handfuls of seed on the driveway, to make sure that there would be something for them to eat without too much effort, so the one of two that were regulars of the Elm, would be, fed. 

All through the year, the winter, the spring and summer and fall, the wounded squirrel healed.  She would often brave the uncertainty and run out to greet me.  To stand and look at me and then to help itself to some fresh seed.  This past summer I started buying fresh peanuts and I'd dry them in the oven and put them in a glass jar after they were room temperature and I'd throw a few out everyday.  I noticed the precious little squirrel was beginning to feel more and more comfortable while I stayed out and sat on the stoop beneath my side door.  I can't explain it really, but for some reason watching this squirrel gave me an incredible sense of joy. 

Slowly, it would come closer and I would gently lob a nut towards her.  And slowly, her trust became stronger and we became comfortable and calm around each other.  Her ease was so matter-of-fact by the end of the summer that I thought, one of these days she is going to hop up on my lap and I must return the same quiet calm she has extended to me.  She began to take a peanut out of my hand.  She was so gentle.  So sweet.  She would stand beside me and eat and watch me.  And I would be ready with another nut and watch her right back. 

And then the day came.  In the late autumn she hopped up on my lap and took a nut out of my hand.  At first she ran down my leg and ran off a little bit she would come back.  I never gave out more than four with a few handfuls of sesame seed because well, I couldn't afford it and because I didn't want to interrupt her natural foraging. 

And then the day came when she would touch my hand and hold it there, just for a second, after she took her nut.  A sweet gracious gesture.  And then one day, she hopped on my lap and enjoyed eating her peanut and our company.  I would tell my family about this squirrel and while they believed me they often asked, we want to see the video.  It took a few tries to get the setting right for the lighting and for her to feel comfortable enough with the camera to stay on my lap.  But now, this is an everyday occurrence.

So here is the sweet little squirrel who has become my friend. 

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