A squirrel nearly fell on me in the park the other day. He zoomed right past my face and lit with a shocking plop on the sidewalk. It had that awful something-is-terribly-wrong feeling.
“The first lesson of history is modesty,” *I leaned over and said to him. “This is no way to show off.” I was trying to calm myself. It is nature’s first lesson too, I went on in my mind. A squirrel plopping from at least thirty feet makes quite a sound so you’ve got both sight and sound as well as history to deal with. He lit splayed out, belly down, eyes as wide as sunflower seeds. He was staring in fear.
“You’re alive,” I said to him. “Take some breaths.” He began to pant. “A few,” I cautioned. He twitched his head, then again. Then he couldn’t stop twitching. “You’ve got a concussion at the very least,” I said. “Stay quiet.” A tiny twig had dropped beside him. “Look at that. You went too high.” I looked up at the Scotch Pine. He’d probably dropped thirty feet.
“Velocity. I’ll call you that. I’ll take you home if you’re crippled and I’ll bury you if you die.” I hadn’t advanced into his space. The message from his was “Watch yourself. The second lesson is endurance.”
A beautiful morning in the park and there I stood. I wasn’t ready to make the sign of the cross over him. I didn’t know exactly how for one thing, but I was asking myself what his support network might be. You can see that I’m not a first-generation Facebooker (for want of the right phrase) or I’d have photographed him and saved myself the trouble of googling Fallen Squirrel.
It’s not that I don’t know a lot about squirrels or harbor a great fondness for them. I grew up in the forest. My grandfather had a pet squirrel he named Croppy and he baked that squirrel cakie-bread—that’s what he called it—and Croppy came to the kitchen window every morning at 10:00 for his cakie-bread.
Suddenly Velocity was up—a few more shakes of the head, a size-up of the tree and four feet on it. Slowly, with long stops, he made it up to the first branch and a place from which to properly contemplate the other lessons of history.
*Will and Ariel Durant