Monday, March 14, 2011

Johnny Appleseed

If I didn't know better, I'd think the squirrels  understood our conversations about cutting down their tree. Its roots have buckled the driveway and are beginning to crack the brick wall that holds up our front yard.  It is an old tree in danger of splitting anyway, and our tree man tells us we need to cut it before the new spring root growth causes further damage to the wall.  While I understand the wall issue,  I was resistant to  losing the tree,  first because it is a beautiful tree, and second because of the squirrels' nest it harbors. I had hoped to witness the whole season of birth and caretaking by the family squirrel from my morning coffee window.

Then wonder of wonders, a few days before the scheduled felling of the tree, my brilliant squirrels up and moved!  One morning, not two but three squirrels worked together making multiple trips up and down the trunk of the pear tree carrying clumps of dry leaves in their mouths and leaping into the neighbor's magnolia tree across the driveway.  The magnolia leaves, being evergreen, dense, and opaque offer much better cover, so yay, the squirrels will be safer from hawks there, and it lessens the sting of losing the pear tree.

On the day Johnny Appleseed arrived with his trucks and saws and cranes and ropes, he said they would take great care with the nest in case it was still in use.   To my surprise and delight, the workmen were beyond careful.  They roped and cut and set the branch down gently in the yard, and seemed happy to do so.   They confirmed the nest was abandoned, but it did my heart good to see them so respect it.  Not to my credit is my surprise that men who operate such heavy equipment would exhibit enough tenderness of soul to preserve a pesky squirrels' nest.  But in a world so full of bravado and aggression, the tender moment uplifted me.

The tree was in full spring bloom on the day of its death.  I grieved its loss.  We filled the house with its stinky blossoms.  dkm


Jane Robertson said...

So many hopeful, wonderful happenings in this post. That the squirrels knew it was time to move - and that you had the pleasure of watching the move (I wonder who the third squirrel was??). That the men took such care with the nest (this reminds me of the Urban Search and Rescue teams in Christchurch who have painstakingly worked through broken buildings with the greatest care to find survivors and bodies) - and that this reminded you that men with machines still care!! And very sad (but life-affirming too) - the tree still blooming to the last.

'Tenderness' is a beautiful word. Such lovely writing.

Anonymous said...

aw gorgeous squirrels. I wonder if the third squirrel is a hired 'moving man'. Payment made in nuts.
I hope you still get to see the baby squirrels, but I'm glad they are in a safer place now.

Jane Robertson said...

I wondered if there was trouble on the domestic front (3 squirrels) :-D

Anonymous said...

I thought maybe the buck squirrel collected another wife so needed larger accommodation. But then I read that the female red squirrel is very promiscuous and can have several partners in one day. Are your squirrels red, Deb?

dkm said...

Thoroughly enjoying this discussion! I'm only guessing, but since one of the three was a bit smaller than the other two, I'm wondering if the young were already out and about. It looked fully grown, just smaller. I read that they can be birthed as early as December in Georgia and are independent enough to leave nest in three months. That timing fits with earlier observations of hawk stabbing at nest in Dec and chased off by housefinches, the finches huddling under the nest for warmth during January ice storm, more activity around nest in Feb, and the moving trio in March.

I'm no photographer, but next post will include a few shots of the nest taken across the days from Feb snow to tree cutting day.

The species we have are called fox squirrels.

Sarah said...

I'm mourning the tree. It was so beautiful.

dkm said...

Ha ha, Sarah Pepper!

You must have known this would make me laugh---given your bitter teenage complaints about the rotting flesh smell of the pear blossoms :-)

Nicole said...

How smart they are :0
It makes you wonder,...
Maybe the Finches overheard your conversations about it and told the Squirrels?