When I saw the small brown mound in the road, I knew immediately what it was. “Oh, no,” I cried. The squirrel. Although it had no distinctive markings, I knew it was the one who lived in the trees in my yard.
She was a brassy young thing, not afraid of me or my dog. She’d scamper across the driveway and stop at the bottom of a tree, her mouth stretched by the fat pecan she carried. A bold little thing, she’d look us straight in the eye. Ripples of energy ran through her body, ending in quick flicks of her tail. “I’m alive,” she seemed to say, “catch me if you can.” Then she’d scramble up the tree leaving the dog and me open-mouthed and speechless, stuck to the earth. She defied gravity as she ran about, playing tag in the trees with her friends, teasing my dog, planting loquats and pecans in all my pots of flowers. I’ll miss her.
I parked the car in the garage and got some paper towels. I couldn’t let her lie out there on the street. Her little body was nearly weightless in my hand. I carried her into the backyard and found a spot under her pecan tree. I buried her there. Her little face was composed in death, her body neat and tidy. Her friends came by to watch for a moment and then ran off to play. They seemed to understand the laws of nature better than I. I was acting as if I’d lost something forever. They knew that nothing is lost. Everything changes, is always changing. That’s the only constancy in life. The memory of that little squirrel exists still in me and in the dog. (I’m sure that’s what she dreams of.) The elements of that little brown body are changing, nurturing the pecan tree, which in turn is nurturing the squirrels, who will in turn…The never-ending cycle. And for a brief moment in time, a little brown squirrel, my dog, and I shared in the miracle of being alive together in the cosmos.