Hum-ho, ho hum. An early autumn Monday. It is what some folks now call the shoulder season, not summer, not autumn. The rain is not heavy but drizzles down steadily. It is one of those penetrating precipitations which leaves one wet and cold to the bone. I’m sitting in my house coat while my clothes rattle around in the dryer after a bit of tinkering on my vehicle…under the shelter of a roof! Jack and I went for our walk, he is content for the moment to lay by the door, snoozing and watching for the old mangy grey squirrel which pelts along the top of the fence with yet another hazelnut in its mouth. A fence post, which it often floats over in a single high bound, is also a perch for it to sit, flagging its tail, I am convinced, in an effort to attract Jack and raise his fury. Squirrels clearly have a sense of humour. I wonder if they laugh.
The problem with grey and black squirrels, is that they are, like most people here, including myself I’ll admit, an invasive species. The native red squirrels are a rarity now, bullied away from their turf by the newcomers. The larger invasive squirrels carry a virus which is deadly to the local reds (Now there’s an old familiar story!) and are also able to overrun prime food sources. You have to go into the deep backwoods to find red squirrels now. They can thrive on coniferous seeds and whatever other small things they evolved to consume. The larger grey and black squirrels seem to prefer the nuts of hardwoods, generally found close to human habitation. How the big guys first came here is probably a tale of accidental transport as well as a few escaping or being released by new-coming humans. People love to mess with natural balance, and one way or another, we’d prove to be the culprits in this story, an old repeat performance.
When I hunted deer, I preferred to find an active game area and sit and wait, sometimes calling deer and other wildlife to come within sight. Often, a red squirrel would sit on a limb somewhere above me and begin its scolding call, announcing my alien presence in the woods to all creatures within earshot of at least a mile. I would often have to give up my post and move on. At the time, I never thought I’d miss that insistent, incessant squeaking flagging alarm. Some days, I wanted to blow the annoying little rodents out of my life. Funny how things change! This former farm boy and woods ape, once able to kill any critter without remorse, now even tries to move spiders and wasps in preference to just squashing them.
With the first rainy onset of autumn, nature responds. Fish and fauna begin frantic reactions to the promise of winter ahead. The rain raises stream and river levels. That triggers a response from salmon which have arrived on schedule to re-enter fresh water to spawn and then die. It is a magic, bittersweet drama but fish are not philosophers and simply do what they are programmed to do. Imagine if people followed a similar life cycle and pro-creation was a final act instead of the life-long convoluted dance of intrigue with all the complexities of our existence. Most of our lives orbit around our gender differences and the many-textured fabrics we weave to disguise the simple reality of our need to reproduce. Call it what you will, in the end, that is the rendered-down reality with the romance factors removed. Writers have tackled the concept and created characters who evolve from being frail and decrepit to being young, vital bounding creatures filled with all those bubbling hormones. (Remember Benjamin Button?)
Phew! I think I’ll follow Jack out into the woods for a walk. The rain has eased, maybe we’ll see a red squirrel. My latest short video, about the first wave of this year’s spawning salmon, is now posted on YouTube. Here’s the link:
We did go for a walk, despite the threat of more rain. To Jack’s extreme delight we detoured through an area new to us. It was a deer haven with wide, well-trod trails, an abundance of feed and cover. Yes, I still move stealthily like the hunter, and see with the same woodsman’s eyes. Even with Jack crashing along, I could have taken four deer within a half-hour. Watching us ease through this lovely place, a juvenile Barred Owl flew from tree to tree on silent wings. The rain began again as we returned back at the truck. It was not a bad Monday, not at all.
“Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Roger Miller