Tuesday, March 6, 2007

When the squirrels came to play -- jcarolek

In the backyard of my house in James Store, VA, in the middle of the woods, on a little over six acres, I cleared a space for my gardens. One was to grow vegetables and the other was to be a strawberry patch.

In due time, with soil properly worked and seeds and seedlings acquired, my vision of bounty was beginning to take on a reality. I was excited. I worked hard and tended my vegetable plants and my strawberry plants. And everything thrived.

Then the guests arrived.

Well, to be honest, I think they had been living there long before I moved in and set about taming my land, but to me, they were visitors. They were so cute. Their frisky nature and bushy tails made me LOVE living in the woods. They came by on a regular basis to help themselves to my strawberries.

I am a nature lover, and squirrels are as cute as they come. But eventually, I began to see these “visitors” as major league freeloaders! I began my campaign to keep them away from my strawberries, so that I might enjoy the fruits of my labor. But, it was not meant to be.

Day by day they got bolder and bolder until one day, as I went out to try to harvest a few berries, they literally held their ground and screeched at me. I don’t know if you have ever experienced a squirrel screechfest but is not a pleasant sound. They were not frightened of me when I strode forth into the strawberry patch to start picking. They defied my every move. I came away with only a small bowl of berries and these jokers made me feel guilty for claiming even a portion of what was mine!

That season taught me a lesson. I still had my strawberry patch the next few years, but I did nothing to tend it and allowed the squirrels to have their time with it. Eventually, it became overrun and the plants ceased to flourish. The bricks that had outlined the patch were picked up and the plants mowed down, rejoining the patch with the rest of the “lawn.”

I learned that all the work in the world will not prevent the intruders from spoiling my harvest. Though they are cute and sassy, their confidence that they had the right to commandeer my strawberry patch, using it as they saw fit and disallowing me any pleasure save that of watching their games, made me not even want to grow my strawberries. In the end it is a resounding, “So what” that I hear from the corners of my mind. But that little voice, the one that speaks for the one that sees things as they could be, keeps trying to get me to plant that strawberry patch. It just wants me to give it one more try to see whether the squirrels and the humans can both enjoy the playground and the bounty it produces.

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