The day started as all the other ones. We woke just before the sunrise, ate a small meal, straightened our living area, and prepared to go out to gather provisions.
We headed in a different direction, as he thought we would have more success in an area we had not examined to this point. I was nervous, I do not like new, but he reassured me, and we headed off.
Within a very short time we had gathered more than we had done the whole day prior. Rushing back to carefully store it, we were excited and happy. After several trips back and forth we began storing items in our reserve areas, one can never have enough in the event of bad weather. There are times when you just can’t get out and reserves are necessary.
Having managed to put up an amount that would normally take a week to gather, we had time to relax and enjoy the warming sun.
I ran on ahead, and he followed. Sometimes he would race past and hide. Sometimes, he just followed wherever I led. It was enjoyable.
I ran on, he followed, we came to the edge of the grassy area and I continued on, dashing to the small area before the next expanse of grass and woods. He followed behind. We were happy.
I started to go towards the woods, crossing the hard packed ground, and then, as I stared to run, blackness…….
I was out for my morning walk, on the return trip, listening to my iPod. The podcast was a debate between Christopher Hitchens and the Reverend Al Sharpton regarding Hitchens’ Book “God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything”.
Hitchens had just answered a question regarding man’s need for ceremony and rituals.
I noticed two squirrels running along on the opposite side of the road, and then crossing to the center island. I knew with certainty I was about to see death visit.
The car came around the corner, the lead squirrel, as they are want to do, dashed into the roadway, tail raised, and was struck. It briefly waved its paws in the throes of death and ceased moving. I was sorry to see such a thing, not that I am a fan of squirrels but this particular one had not done anything as far I as I knew to warrant such a termination.
What struck me was the reaction of the other squirrel. It peered over the rise of the center island and spied its former companion. It rose on its hind legs and from where I was watching his front paws appeared to be almost folded, as if in prayer, almost ceremonial. He (or she, since I have no way to tell from my perspective) paused a moment, started to return from where he had come, turned around once more as if to reassure himself that the body was unmoving, and headed off.
I suppose every living creature has some manner of dealing with death. Is it ceremonial? I don’t know. But there was something there, in the way the squirrel paused and looked at the other.
Death visits, and demonstrates its ultimate power to those of us watching.
Some people would see meaning in the actions of the squirrel, sorrow for the loss of the companion, sadness in continuing on alone, resignation to the realities of life and death.
I think he was thinking, if there is such a thing as squirrel thoughts, “Great!” More nuts for me!