Sitting at a sun-bleached table in an urban garden, notebooks and laptops spread between us, Caroline and I commiserate over recent chaos. Cars breaking down, reliable people flaking, confirmed gigs falling through . . . all for no discernible reason, except our own crazy-making. A scratching sound from somewhere below prompts us both to pause and look. We discover a disheveled squirrel (which would make an excellent band name, btw) sitting on its muddy hind legs,  eyeing us from its dirt-crusted face. “That’s the dirtiest squirrel I’ve ever seen,” Caroline marvels, “squirrels are usually so neat.” I chuckle in agreement. The squirrel scampers away, flicking its matted tail at us, expressing his own commentary on our rudeness.

“Confirmation,” I muse to myself. “These times are truly squirrelly.” Turning back to the blank page before me, a light bulb appears before my eyes, just like in the cartoons. The muddy squirrel has reminded me of another critter encounter just this morning.

I’d been sitting at my home office desk, chatting with Handsome, my feline office mate. I’d say he’s my muse, but the way he sprawls over my laptop proves he has no interest in supporting my work. We squabble like a couple of old fusspots every morning about who controls the keyboard—and who needs to go find all the lost rubber bands.

This morning’s discussion came to an abrupt conclusion when we heard a dull thud then frantic scratching. A squirrel, its sharp claws digging into the frame of our third-story window, stared at us with a shock equal to Handsome’s and mine. Before my deskmate could get his paws up on the sill, the squirrel leaped away, then stood on the opposite slanted roof, scolding US for scaring HIM. Handsome and I stared, rapt, until Squirrel darted away. “That was wild!” I exclaimed to Handsome. His only response was to give his paw a thorough licking, to let me know he really didn’t want to catch a squirrel today, anyway.

Two squirrel encounters in one morning? That’s extraordinary, even by my “read-too-much-into-everything” standards. But this is not my first squirrel rodeo. I wrote an entire chapter in Love Earth Now about another squirrel who pelted me with bits of acorn flesh. Which was both as disgusting and hilarious as it may (or may not) sound. That, even “squirrellier” event sent me straight to my trusty copy of Animal Speak by Ted Andrews, searching for meaning in squirrel encounters. I recall that squirrels can speak to us about industriousness, being the masters of preparing as they store all those tasty nuts away.

Which makes me groan. “It means I need to get busy,” I mutter. After goofing off for months, I’m lumbering back into a writing routine. It’s time to get back to work, to dig in deep, even if it means getting my paws muddy. Just as soon as Handsome lets me use the keyboard, that is.


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