Digging through the dirt, I keep finding them.
Acorns buried by squirrels fill the garden beds where I am planting flowers. Some have been there a while and are beginning to sprout. These acorns are far from any oak tree, carefully squirreled away and left— until I dig them up. I find myself wondering why the squirrels buried them. I wonder how many acorns were buried and never enjoyed.
Perhaps I am shortchanging the squirrel and there is actually an elaborate inventory system for the “Filing Of Really Good Edible Treats” (FORGET, as it is known in squirrel parlance). We humans are too dense to understand that the acorn is not forgotten— it was buried for some dire emergency that did not arise. The acorn I just pitched into the compost bucket was a sort of insurance policy in the event that 2011 turned out to be the first year in squirrel memory that oak trees didn’t produce acorns. It didn’t happen, but you can’t be too safe. Better put a few in the flower bed just in case.
Or maybe they are not to eat at all but were put out of temptation’s way. If you leave a lot of tasty acorns lying around, you are just inviting marauding neighbors. Better to bury the bounty and keep your riches out of sight. I have seen my dog, Milo, do something similar with an especially tasty bone. He seems terribly worried that the next-door poodles will come storming over to take it from him so he buries the bone in the backyard and forgets about it entirely. He doesn’t get the treat, of course, but he has a lot less worries.
Or perhaps (and I can’t help but think this is the most likely) the squirrel does not have an inventory and is not worried about theft. Perhaps the squirrel is just so accustomed to seeking provisions that he doesn’t know when to stop.
This is where the squirrel and I might have something in common.
In an earlier incarnation, I was a person with a respectable job who spent a lot of time worrying about whether I had enough acorns. When my life changed completely, the new person I was (single, unemployed, living in a poor country) had a remarkably different attitude about what was really required to live and what I should be setting aside for provisions.
I was glad, of course, that I had a few acorns in the garden bed as I have been nibbling on them ever since. When my good friend Andy, who does my taxes, listed my profession as “lollygagger” on the IRS forms I was embarrassed at first. But as I thought of all the time I had spent gathering acorns, I became less and less certain it was really necessary. Instead, I started thinking about what provisions in my life I really wanted to set aside.
The nagging insecurity about whether I had enough acorns tucked away was replaced by a concern that I was not spending time in a way that was meaningful. I stopped worrying about whether my acorns were safe when I started thinking more about relationships I had neglected. I felt guilty for not replacing my former busy life with a new, busy squirrel life until I finally admitted (first to myself and eventually to everyone) that I enjoy my new life. I am willing to have less— in order to do less.
I’d share my ideas with the squirrels, but I’m afraid we’d have a lot fewer oak trees.
Till next time,
Carrie will perform an evening of selected columns called “Solstice Sun” on Friday, June 22nd at 7:30 pm at Café Wren in Luck. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased at Café Wren or any Inter-County Leader office. Seating is limited. For more information contact Café Wren: 2596 State Hwy 3, Luck, WI 54853 (715) 472-4700 www.cafewren.com