I love everything about fall except dead squirrels.
In our thickly treed Southwest Portland neighborhood, the leaves are poised to turn. Pumpkins swell proudly in the garden. The thermostat reads a perfect fifty-eight degrees and my feet celebrate a glad reunion with wool slippers.
Fall invigorates, with its crisp air and vibrant color, welcoming the return of hearty meals and sunsets before bedtime. But just as we are being delivered the bounty of the harvest, snuggling into sweaters and smacking our lips in anticipation of savory soup and scrumptious pie, there is murder all around us.
Vehicular squirrelicide is approaching its annual peak.
Within a half-mile in any direction from our home, and yours, there lies a flattened fluffy-tail. Instead of playing games spotting scampsters among the foliage on our walks, my children and I now stand over carcasses in the road. Tiny bodies knocked to their deaths, furry bellies up, front paws outstretched, reaching towards unfulfilled destiny: that morsel of food just beyond the pavement.
Squirrels are at the height of their busy season, this brief time between food-a-plenty and not-a-crumb-in-the-cupboard. Feverishly, spastically, they hurriedly hoard.
Or try to, anyway.
No matter how many of their mothers and lovers we spread across the asphalt, squirrels continue to strive. Though by comparison they enjoy a life as one of the only, somewhat, socially accepted rodents among humans, adversity is no less a part of their existence than that of the rat’s of their order. Dogs chase them, lawn-lovers curse them, feeders of birds damn them to hell. Annoyed we shake fists, irate we aim guns, vengeful we step on the gas. And why? For squirrels have the audacity to live in their natural habitat, swaths of nature we have claimed for ourselves.
Yet squirrels remain assertive and maintain their right to the land. They are stalwart, adaptable, brave even.
And talented, oh my. If their simple existence doesn't merit reverence, perhaps we might conjure up a little respect for their acrobatic abilities. Behold the high-wire act, the vertical climb, the branch-to-branch, death-defying aerial maneuvering.
How does a creature so nimble have such little talent for the timing of traffic?
Why are nuts always on whichever side of the street a squirrel is not?
I wish I knew.
Stay safe out there, squirrels. Though the world would rather run you over, you keep at it--bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, no less. I salute you and I will swerve to miss you.