Monday, February 2, 2015

Arboreal Pirate

Large agile hands reach
with elongated fingers
to grasp the Sky,
and drink the Winds.
Ragged harp and violin voices
to the Winds’
like an orchestra tuning up.
like Hawks in the distance…

“In Sunlight
on a branch
I sit!”,

Songs, like Prophecies…

“Lean Times Around the Corner!”,

Like the latest headline,

for the Needs of Tomorrow!” I warn.

"They pass me by or Flutter their feathers…
Seeming to heed me not.
While I,
Secure in the knowledge
that Life will find a way,
even if it is the slenderest branch,
dare to live
by leaps of faith!

Scurrying from
root to crown
with gathered wisdom,
like acorns in my pockets.
I find my balance in the
shifting Winds.
Chewing over potentialities,
as I set my stores for Winter.

Driving off marauders 
now and then
with a lively debate.
While Time,
Predators and Opportunities
like Wind-born seeds,
or Hawks in the Distance. "

“Too many times we stand aside and let the waters slip away, till what we put off till tomorrow has now become today. So don’t you sit upon the shoreline and say you’re satisfied. Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide.” The River Garth Brooks

“With audacity one can undertake anything, but not do everything.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“Home is where we tie one end of the thread of life.” Martin Buxbaum

There are roughly 1650 species of squirrels found around the world. They are generally separated into three categories; ground, tree, and flying. For our purposes I will discuss the Eastern Gray Squirrel specifically and squirrels in general. Sciurus Carolinensis is a tree squirrel found commonly in the Eastern and Mid-Western United States. This species has been introduced in the Western United States, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, and also in Great Britain where it has spread across the country and largely displaced the native Red Squirrel. They prefer habitats of mature woodlands with diverse undergrowth greater than 40 hectares, although this lively Creature Teacher has been known to attempt nesting in some pretty odd places including; barbecue grills, chimneys, automobiles, and underneath porches.

During spring, summer and autumn, squirrels have their peak activity about 2 hours after sunrise and 2-5 hours before sunset. During winter, their peak activity drops to 2-4 hours before sunset. Breeding occurs from December-February and again through May and June. Gestation is only 44 days and an average litter is between 2-4 babies. Wild chases during the breeding seasons are a common site, and an established part of the mating ritual for squirrels. Females select the strongest and most capable of the males to mate with, but seldom mate with the same squirrel more than once. This is nature’s way of curtailing inbreeding and ensuring a more healthy survival.

The young are born naked, except for their vibrissae, cat-like whiskers around the mouth and nose. They are virtually blind for the first 6-8 weeks, and are cared for in the nest by the mother until they are independent. Weaning begins around the 7th week and is completed by the 10th, although adult size and mass is not reached until about 9 months. The maximum lifespan of a squirrel in the wild is about 12 and a half years, although a female squirrel in captivity lived for 20 years!

Adult squirrels normally live alone, and lactating females are especially aggressive and avoided by others. During severe weather, a squirrel will share it’s nest to conserve heat, but once the weather passes, these guests are no longer welcome. A squirrel’s eyes are located high on each side of their head and while this allows them a wide field of vision without turning their heads, their constant scanning for predators means that they almost never notice what is right in front of their noses. An important point to remember for those called by this Creature Teacher! With patience, squirrels are quite bold enough to eat out of our hands, so we should also remember this when feeding them in this manner! Never hold your edible treat between your fingers, but rather on the flat of your hand, as when feeding a horse a carrot.

“A squirrel leaping from bough to bough, and making the wood but one wide tree for his pleasure, fills the eye not less than a lion,—is beautiful, self-sufficing, and stands then and there for nature.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“They made little rafts out of twigs, and they paddled away over the water to Owl Island to gather nuts. Each squirrel had a little sack and a large oar, and spread out his tail for a sail.” Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin

Have you ever watched these audacious Creature Teachers?
Squirrel is willing to leap with faith and attempt any maneuver. In his twinkling eyes, nothing seems insurmountable. When you feel stuck, and ready to give up…think of Squirrel however you know him best…red, black, tan, striped, or even flying! The type of squirrel that you are drawn to, or that appears in your life could easily influence the message they are trying to give you.

Squirrels belong to the Order Rodentia Family Sciuridae, and contrary to popular belief they rarely contract rabies, although they can carry other diseases. This family includes the three types of squirrels, marmots, woodchucks, and chipmunks. Sciuridae translates as “shade-tail”, and while squirrels are a rather vocal lot, a majority of communication is conveyed through body posture, especially tail motions. Tree squirrels have scent glands in their feet which helps them to mark their territory, and when exceptionally nervous, they can leave wet squirrelly footprints on dry surfaces!

As a Creature Teacher, this is a reminder that we leave an impression behind us even when we aren’t aware of it, and we affect the world around us with all our actions. So tread lightly! When they are preparing to bury a nut for later consumption, they crack it and then clean it by licking it and rubbing it on their face. This also helps to scent mark them which makes them easier to find, even under a foot of snow! Being clear and direct with our intentions in daily life will bring a new focus and feed us through our lean times in ways we might never imagine.

Early spring is usually the hardest time for these creatures as their buried nuts have begun to sprout and there are no fresh ones to take their place. This is also when most squirrels are attempting to have or successfully raise their litters! Most squirrels are known for their nut-gathering and storing habits. Squirrels cannot digest cellulose and rely on a high protein, high carb diet, although they are omnivores and will eat various fruits, seeds, insects, eggs and even small birds or mammals, frogs or carrion as well as the traditional nuts. Neither peanuts nor sunflower seeds are good for them though as it inhibits protein absorption and can lead to a metabolic bone disease. For those who enjoy feeding these furry friends, I urge you to be especially careful in selecting your treats.

Because their teeth grow continuously, (their incisors grow of about 6 inches a year!) squirrels need to chew to keep them sharp and a reasonable size. This is usually what causes them to be thought of as “pests”. To keep a squirrel out of your attic or from chewing on things in your yard that you’d rather he didn’t sink teeth into, try strategically placed bundles of cat or dog hair. This tells the squirrel that a potential predator patrols there and will help keep them away. Hot pepper paste is also useful. Power outages are another common problem caused by squirrels. Twice squirrels have been responsible for power outages that have shut down the NASDAQ stock market!

According to The Dreamer’s Dictionary, teeth symbolize the (often unconscious) assimilation of knowledge that we might later understand and make use of this knowledge. An archetypal image of a dreamer’s sense of confidence and
competence in the waking world, our teeth can represent a sense of embarrassment and “loosing face” as well as communication in general. Bared teeth can be seen as aggressive, yet a generous smile is practically contagious. The Squirrel’s relationship with his teeth reminds us to work diligently at how we assimilate knowledge, how we feed ourselves (literally and figuratively) and how we communicate.

Squirrels are quite skilled at getting into hard to reach places, getting what they need and getting back out again…sometimes just in nick of time! Squirrels have also been known to co-operate with others that have the same sense of adventure, curiosity, and willingness to bond with others that may be radically different from themselves. Anyone who has ever watched a squirrel and a crow team up against a dog guarding a potential food source knows just what I mean! They, like crows, will warn other creatures of hidden hunters or other predators too.

“Learn to adjust yourself to the conditions you have to endure, but make a point of trying to alter or correct conditions so that they are most favorable to you.” William Frederick Book

“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.” ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse.” ~Seneca

Squirrel often appears when action and boldness are required. However he also teaches us that Adaptability and Steadfastness in equal measure are essential to survive through the harshness of Winter. Like the ever-mindful Boy Scout of Nature, “Be Prepared!”, could easily be his motto. He often appears to warn us that we will need to save up for the lean times headed our way. Have you ever seen a squirrel looking for a nut he buried before the snow fell? He also reminds us to “Gather only what you need!” Fortunately, Squirrel’s forgetful thrift benefits everyone when a new tree grows from his absent-mindedness!

Are you hoarding unnecessary things, spending beyond your means, or hanging on to memories and emotions better laid to rest? Squirrel says, “It’s better to forget where that nut is buried, than it is to still be worrying about it when you need to leap from that branch to the next Tree to escape the Cat you didn’t see sneaking up on you!”

“Tact in audacity is knowing how far you can go without going too far.” Jean Cocteau

“Every great advancement in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.” John Dewey

“Hear the words of prudence, give heed unto her counsels, and store them in thine heart; her maxims are universal, and all the virtues lean upon her; she is the guide and the mistress of human life.” Akhenaton, King of Egypt, 14th century

Bushy-tailed Squirrel can help you find your balance between daring and prudence, or how to balance your needs and desires to reach a happy compromise. Practical and bold, Squirrels and Squirrel people tend to be homebodies too. They seek secure places in which to build their homes as they will depend upon it, as Squirrel does, to survive the metaphorical harsh weather and the many clever predators encountered in life. Thus, Squirrel often appears when there is something in your home that needs attention. It could be something as simple as needing to spend more time at home, it could be that you need to find a new home altogether, or perhaps it is something in between.

Home is our refuge, our place to relax and re-energize and we should treat it with respect putting only the best of efforts into the atmosphere. After a hard day there is nothing quite so comforting as closing the door behind me, taking a deep breath and saying, “It’s ok…I’m home now.” If something or someone is disrupting this atmosphere of safety and well-being, it is time to take action! Remember though, it isn’t the building that makes a home. When a squirrel’s nest becomes flea ridden or otherwise infested, they will leave it for another, which is why there are always more squirrel nests than squirrels in any given area. Squirrels typically have two useable homes at all times, one leafy nest in the higher branches, and a more secure one usually in the fork of a tree or convenient hollow.

“A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.” Unknown

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” John Howard Payne

“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

“A place for everything, everything in its place.” Benjamin Franklin

He’s not all warnings, cautions, and practical advice though. Where there is one squirrel, there are bound to be two and it’s only a matter of time before they begin to play. Anyone who has ever watched in delight as two squirrels chase each other must know in their hearts that Squirrel plays just as diligently as he works. As wise as the fabled King Solomon, little Squirrel will sit on his sunlit branch in quiet meditation, content in knowing …

“TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, A time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, A time to get and a time to lose, a time to keep and a time to cast away, A time to rend and a time to sew, a time to keep silence and a time to speak, A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecc.3)”

It is difficult to know “when” is the right time for “what”, so now is always good time to think about this wise, adventurous, agile and bold Creature Teacher. When you are having trouble finding your balance or hesitating between the many choices that Life offers us, think about all that Squirrel can teach us and how it applies to your life.

Balance, Trust, Confidence, Preparedness, Adaptability, Faithfulness are all Squirrel Lessons. When working in harmony, amazing feats of daredevil acrobatics can be achieved. Disharmony might bring rash words or impulsive behavior that might make that leap of faith through the air your last! Beware being too chatty, impulsive words and actions, procrastination, nervous or unfocused energy, clinging to things, thoughts, or emotions. Have you lost sight of your goals? Are you moving in too many directions at once? Maybe you just plain aren’t spending enough time at home! Squirrels are infamous homebodies.

Now is always a great time to clean house, either physically or spiritually. Throw away the trash, give away the useful that you no longer use and make room for something new in your life. Make a plan, set goals, and finish what you start. Each day, be grateful for all that you have achieved as well as all the gifts in Life, and try to help someone else along their way who may be struggling. Take the time to reflect upon the past year of your life. Celebrate the good and try to bless the not-so-good and lay it to rest as best you can. It is so much easier to move on in a good and healthy way if we aren’t weighing ourselves down unnecessarily.

I certainly don’t like to repeat Squirrel’s more painful lessons, although I’ll admit I’ve felt that “splat!” on more than one occasion in my own life! This is usually when I realize that I’ve been traveling too fast to keep up with myself and make good judgments. Sometimes it is a real effort to slow myself down too, take the time to sit in the Sun, still my own chatter, and simply contemplate all of my choices. How does Squirrel appear in your life?

“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” Tad Williams

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” Hal Borland

“Home ought to be our clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.” Kathleen Norris

“Feel my squirrelly wrath!” Foamy the squirrel from

Key Concepts: Balance, Knowing when to be boldly audacious and when to be cautious, Practicality/Prudence, Conservation/Storing for future needs/Gathering/Preparation, Trust in Creator, Faithfulness, Confidence, Strength through Adaptability, Balance, Cooperative effort, Home and the creation of Sacred Space, Audacity, Gathering Wisdom, Silencing inner chatter, Energy, Socializing/Playfulness, Mindfulness

Associated with: Solar, Trickster and Fae energies, Hestia/Vestia, Ceres/Demeter, Ratatosk, Odin, Ianuaria, Cernunnos, Pan, Techalotl, Hima, Krishna, Greenman/Oak King, Lugh Lamfada, Apollo/Helios, Ra, Duir, Janus, Zeus

Potential Balancing energies: Fox and Canines like Wolf, Dog, or Coyote. Cats from Domestic to Lion. Trees like Apple, Rowan, Sequoia, Pine, or Cacao, but especially Oak. Fungi. Birds from Crow to Hawk, Eagle and Owl. Fleas, mosquitoes, Lepidoptera, flies and other insects. Spiders. Frogs and other Amphibians.

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