Mr. Grey and the Apple Tree

squirrel close up


Once the fullness of ripe summer apples appeared on the tree out back, squirrels and rabbits and even deer wander in for a mid-day (or midnight) snack. I’ve startled many a deer as I’ve come and gone in the later part of day. But those deer merely stood there blinking at me and I back at them before we both returned to the business at hand.

There’s been this one grey squirrel who’s kept me in stitches all season long. It’s HIS tree, by golly, and he’s worked up quite an attitude when another scampers up the long trunk in search of a feast. Mr. Grey gets all twitchy, his bushy tail quivering, then lets out a series of startling, short-lived barks before sending the intruder back down from whence he came.

Of course, the rabbits love the apples, too, and they spent the majority of their lazy summer days under that tree snacking and snoozing, snacking and snoozing. Mr. Grey, on the other hand, kept hard at work up above, flitting from limb to limb like some pelt-covered over-sized blue jay. He certainly didn’t care for the rabbits much either, especially when he was way out on that limb bowed down so far you couldn’t help but think of Wyle E. Coyote just seconds before the limb gave way and he went soaring across the stream-split canyon. Mr. Grey had worked hard to free those little red orbs from their woody tether and they were “Mine! All mine!”, not some fluff-tailed flat-footer’s.

One time I happened to glance out at the old red table right below that tree and there splayed up top was this pile of thick fur lazily swaying to and fro with the breeze. I kept watching a while and it never moved, not in the slightest. I thought, “Oh, no. A dead cat?” I tip-toed back there only to discover Mr. Grey belly-up spread-eagle, snoozing like an over-fed granddad on Thanksgiving day. (How could I not laugh at such a sight?)

This morning Mr. Grey is still in that tree though sparkling, gem-filled frost coats those turning leaves and the stiffening grass below as morning rises just behind him and the neighbor’s pines. It’s a beautiful sight: that certain slant of early light and how it makes all things glow in the truest of colors, colors you can’t see any other time of day. I think of life from the perspective of that silly squirrel, searching out one last morsel, one missed offering. And then I wonder what his winter will be like; did he stuff himself so full and hide so much away he worries little about our approaching freeze?

We’re much the same, I think, stuffing our summers so full of life and comings and goings and anything weighty enough to carry our desires and each hungry need. It’s a saddening thing sitting here now thinking about that squirrel and me and the cold season ahead. There’s some sense of nostalgia, a tad bit of loss as if saying goodbye to an old friend, and there’s this finality to it all though there’s really no end, no sad demise, no forever goodbye.

There is only a pause, a rest, a slumbering time when we and time and all things in between get a moment (for that’s all it really is) to slow down and catch our breath, rest and reflect. Renew. This momentary melancholy lifts at the thought of a long winter’s nap, a hibernation from ourselves and our busy world and all we strive to cram into our needy little bellies. This mood slips away like frost under a warming sun when you realize nothing has ended and nothing has died. Not really. That tree will fill and grow dotted red once again, and Mr. Grey will be right there, sunning his bloated belly in the mid-day sun.

There is a time for everything,
     and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8