Thursday, March 17, 2016
I live in a neighborhood of squirrels. It is the squirrels' neighborhood, and I and all my human neighbors are mere aliens, landed in our houses like spaceships, separate from the world as if the very outside air is hostile to us. I think I live in a neighborhood of humans, but that's an act of simple human prejudice. I look around and see house after house, I see cars, I see roads and sidewalks and all creations of people, and of course I think it's a neighborhood of humans. But I don't actually see many people. I see squirrels.
There in the trees and the grass, on the roads and the roofs and the high wires and fences. There is a squirrel sleeping on a branch and one coming out from under a shed. Any objective count will tell you it is the home of squirrels. The squirrels, who are far better at being objective than people, would also tell you that it is the home of squirrels, if they could talk, which maybe they can and maybe they can't. A census taker too would tell you it is the home of squirrels, but only if they deigned to count squirrels, which is really the key here.
Through the windows of houses I can see a few sad dogs looking longingly on. A cat or two wanders a porch. Rarely I pass a neighbor by, or see one sliding past me in the glassed in bubble of a car. Perhaps flesh to flesh contact with Squirrel Neighborhood would pollute that delicate driver. The squirrels wind under the wheels of the speeding car, only rarely making a tragic mistake. We won't count the squirrels that made a tragic mistake. Birds come in waves. Sometimes there is a storm of crows, sometimes a bucketful of thrushes on a single tree, but go ahead and add up all the numbers, count up all the creatures. We will count that guy we can just barely see through a window, making pancakes in his little kitchen. We will count this stoned looking raccoon, perched over a storm drain in the middle of the day, worrying us. We will count the bunny meditating in the grass ignoring the wind. We will count me and that cat and that old man and the weird thing he has at the end of his leash. We will count everyone.
It is a lot of counting.
And every time it's the squirrels that come out on top. The squirrels predominate no matter how we add it up, no matter how we stack or divide. They win even when we figure that we might have counted the same squirrel three or four times, which is easy to do. This is the world of the squirrel.
And so it's a good thing they don't seem to mind any of us much.