Dubious Distraction

They have been hanging on the tree for over a week now, three burnt bagels tied with love, set out for squirrels and birds alike. While the birds came almost daily, flitting about for a bit before seeking out the much more bountiful feeders stocked with seed, the squirrels seemed to ignore the treasures. Until this morning.

Our annual fake spring was abruptly interrupted by single-digit temperatures and snow flurries, leaving me feeling more Sunday funky than usual. This past week has been a bear and I am still not able to fully process what is going on around me. There are so many moving parts and so many big emotions, exacerbated by the unpredictability of the future, near and far off. There is so much that I can’t control and so much that feels like it needs tending to, so much that needs to be controlled. So much to feel.

So I focused on the squirrels.

My family was all in various stages of Sunday morning zooming (religious school: a time that used to offer me a few incredible hours to have brunch with a friend, attend a yoga class, go for a solitary walk or just sit in an empty house and prepare for the week ahead, but now had me on the other end of “zoom school” assisting the learners and feeling empathy for the teachers). I stood at the window digesting the falling snow and the implications for my plans to restart my walking commute to school each day when I saw him (I’m giving the squirrel a gender with absolutely no evidence….he also has a name, I’m sure).

He was scrambling back and forth across the different branches, seeming to eye the hanging bagels and the bird feeder in the middle. He got closer and closer to one of the three and I swear I saw the moment he completely committed to this mission. His tail flicked and he hung bravely upside down, reaching repeatedly for the prize. He finally got his paws on it, clutching it firmly. I was impressed by his persistence. Over and over, he grabbed, pulled, twisted, and bit before retreating to the stability of a larger branch, presumably to gather his energy and reset his focus, before heading out again to do battle.

As I watched this morning show, drinking my coffee and snapping pictures, I forgot about the snow. I forgot about covid. I forgot about Florida and Texas and the governor of New York. I forgot about the students I didn’t know who were trying to learn from home and about the students I should know better who were trying to learn in school. I forgot about the plans for full reentry, with giant plastic barriers and concerns about contracts and safety protocols. I forgot about the upcoming building renovations and the proposed cuts to my English department. I forgot about the tensions in my life, professional, personal and private…until right now, when I tried to write about the squirrels. I wish I had the stability of a larger branch from which to perch, a place to reset my focus & gather my energy for the week ahead.

The giant stretch!
Prize firmly in hand.
In the thick of the battle.
Off with the bounty.


4 thoughts on “Dubious Distraction

  1. This piece of writing – and the brilliant photos that accompany are the healthy distraction that we all need to remind us to slow down – it will be ok. I loved the incredulity in your writing, as well as the clarity of description. Sorry about the return to winter – Spring will be here soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this! It seems that we have parallel lives – you are not alone in your worries and preoccupations. I love how you reasoned through making the uncertainties more bearable by giving yourself a break with the squirrels. So entertaining! I guess they are a fine example of perseverance and flexibility too, right? Lastly I love your kindness in sharing your bagels with them, and sharing your terrific photos with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love catching myself completely engrossed in something that seems insignificant when I’ve just been incredibly anxious about ten million other things. I love that this little friend offered a…getaway? A distraction! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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