Have you ever squirreled anything away? I have.
In the year prior to my 50th birthday I squirreled away every $5 note I received. By the time my birthday arrived I had stored over $1000: enough to purchase a charm bracelet to mark the achievement of a half-century. Now, almost a decade and a half later, it would be impossible for me to repeat the process. From using cash for most purchases at the dawn of this century, I now use mainly card and rarely carry cash. How quickly and, unless giving thought to it, almost imperceptibly the changes occur.
To some, the differences in the seasons in the part of Australia in which I live are subtle, with the changes almost imperceptible, at least when compared to the four distinct seasons occurring in many other places. However, changes do occur and are obvious to those who are attuned to them, especially the Indigenous Peoples of Australia.
I was reminded of this when listening to A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold, a book recommended and referred to numerous times by Charli Mills. I second her recommendation.
The book is divided into twelve chapters. In each chapter Leopold describes the subtle differences that occur from month to month in the environment around his home. I marvel at the detail of his observations and the knowledge that he gleans from subtle changes. In March he says,
“A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese.”
He then goes on to say,
“I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving season to her well-insulated roof”,
“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?”
Sadly, I think many of us, myself included, are aware of the fluctuations in temperature and the coming of the storm season, but not so attuned to the habits of animals and seasonal variations in plants. The majority of our native trees are evergreen and, in our insulated and insular cities, changes in the natural world are less obvious. Indeed, many seasonal changes are obscured by artificial means.
In cooler climates animals have adapted to the changing seasons in various ways. Some migrate; some, such as squirrels, store food for the winter; and some hibernate.
While some Australian birds, moths and other animals migrate, I am not aware of any squirreling away large stockpiles of food to see them through the cooler seasons (please inform me if there are any I should know about); there is but one native Australian mammal hibernator, the mountain pygmy possum.
I have been thinking of this in relation to the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. While Anne Goodwin, blogging at Annecdotal may have instigated her thinking about squirrels, Charli included the metaphorical as well as rodent variety.
Until visiting in London in 2014 I had not seen a squirrel as they are not native to Australia and, until checking just now and finding this article, was not aware that any had been introduced here. I saw many cute grey squirrels in parks and gardens in London and I was quite fascinated by the tiny creatures.
© Norah Colvin 2014
However, I was disappointed to find that they are not natives to the UK either, but introduced from North America in the 19th Century, and are doing just as much damage to the native fauna as are many introduced species here. At least when I visited Hamley’s, the most amazing toy store, the only toy squirrels I could find were red, the native kind.
© Norah Colvin 2016
The squirrel toy was purchased to add to others collected as mementoes of countries visited; and joined my panda from Beijing and hedgehog from Belfast.
© Norah Colvin 2016
© Norah Colvin 2016
In a couple of months, I am accompanying my grandchildren and their parents on a quick visit to Los Angeles and New York. I am determined to expand my soft toy collection, but am wondering which animal might be an appropriate choice. If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear it please.
Meanwhile, back to Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a squirrel. It can be about a squirrel, for a squirrel or by a squirrel. Think nutty, naturalistic, dinner or ironic. Go where the prompt leads and don’t forget to twirl with imagination.
I decided to go with the theme and make my own toy story.
They knew when she left – airplane tickets in one hand, luggage in the other – that it meant only one thing.
“Time to plan,” announced Kanga, the original and self-proclaimed leader.
“It’s too crowded!” moaned Little Koala.
All stuffed in the box inhibited thought.
“Right. Everybody out,” said Rabbit, taking over.
Squirrel, last in, was first out, twirling her tail.
Soon everyone was out, exchanging opinions. Inevitably disagreements erupted. Ever patient Kanga quietened them.
“We always make room. We will adjust. We will welcome the newcomer. Once we all were different. We still are. But we learn to get along.”
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.