….but they will eat raisins, if there’s nothing else on offer. And given the choice, they prefer peanuts to walnuts. At least, these are the anecdotal observations I’ve made of the three representatives of their species with which I now have a nodding acquaintance. I feel it’s a privilege to be able to watch these animals every day, and learn more about them.
Like many other people, I’m finding these weeks of enforced isolation to be a time of getting back to nature, as much as I can in my urban yard. I discovered years ago, though, that even so small a habitat can contain the necessary elements to be certified by the National Wildlife Fund as a waystation for birds, butterflies, amphibians, and small mammals. In fact, our neighborhood gained enough participants to receive one of the first blanket certifications in Ohio. Talk on the street often revolves around who’s new in our feral cat population (they all have names, and we’ve done trap, spay, and neuter on a few of them), what the possums are up to, where the groundhogs and skunks are nesting, and who’s planting which flowers this year. Our short rows of houses form an oasis of sorts in the urban desert that surrounds us.
That’s what it’s about now, I believe. Our homes truly have become our castles in this spring of 2020. No matter whether we’re doing our jobs from our living rooms; or we don’t have jobs to go to and are desperately trying to survive in our houses or apartments, hoping we won’t lose them; or even if we must continue to go out to work every day, our homes are more than ever refuges from the chaos that reigns now. Our backyards or balconies, or in some cases, just our windows, constitute the only view that many of us can have of the outside world. That situation makes for a laser focus on the things that are vital to us. We’re connecting with our friends and families on levels that perhaps we haven’t for a long time. We’re being forced to abandon many wants in favor of actual needs. We’re noticing the weather, hearing the sounds that are newly audible, like birdsong, appreciating the greens of new leaves, the pale colors of early flowers. In some of the most severely polluted areas, skies are clearer than they have been in decades, so we can breathe in clean air.
In this quiet interval in our lives, an experience we’ve never had before, we’re paying attention like we’ve never done before. We’re staying put in our personal shelters, contemplating what matters, and being grateful for the little bit of the outdoors we have access to. I never thought watching squirrel behaviors would be a regular afternoon activity, but I’m glad I’ve gotten to that place.