September 7, 2007

The Girl Who Runs With Squirrels

This post on Cute Overload has prompted me to write about an urban nature experience I had last Friday. (That's a baby squirrel licking someone's fingers, by the way. A baby flipping squirrel.)

I met Tony and Dan for our weekly lunchtime Chicago Underground Comedy pow-wow near Tony's work. We had a lovely outdoor chit-chat, stuffed our faces with burgers and ice cream, and then parted.

I headed back north, impulsively stopping at Lincoln Park (the actual park area, not the neighborhood) for a few moments of reflection. It was a gorgeous sunny day. I felt like sitting in the cool share under a tree, feeling the breeze across my face, and letting all of life's recent changes wash over me. So I did. I sat down and leaned up against a huge tree that canopied over my head and overlapped with other trees. I closed my eyes. I breathed deeply. I tried not to think.

Through all my years of caring for cats, dogs, birds, mice, horses, and every other kind of domestic animal you can think of (for those of you who didn't know me in my former life, I was a quiet small-town Indiana pet-sitter for many years), I've guess I've developed a way of being very quiet and small and nonthreatening when needed, to inspire comfort and trust in even the most skittish of creatures.

That's part of why, a few moments into my bucolic interlude, my peace was interrupted by the skitching of little mammal feet on dry bark. Many, many little mammal feet. From the tree I was leaning against and several others, a small army of squirrels slowly ran down the tree trunk and skipped across the grass. Some simply ran up other trees. Several traipsed around on the ground, looking and listening. But three of them inched, tiny step by tiny step, toward me.

Early on after moving to the city I realized that the urban squirrels and raccoons are a different breed from the suburban ones I knew back home. Suburban squirrels are like little furry ninjas. They sense your presence, and they disappear. Not urban squirrels. These little guys are boldly inquisitive.

I made little friendly clicking noises at the squirrels, and sat very still, trying hard not to giggle with surprise as three of them came closer and closer and closer to me, like my cats do when they're hoping for treats, and then they touched my legs. They touched their dinky little paws on my bare skin, and then, at the sound of a sneeze from an old woman on a bench nearby, ricocheted off me and back up the tree.

Thank you, nature. Thank you for demonstrating to me again the amazing power of adaptation. And thank you for my dose of cute.


Timothy Carter said...


That is awesome. I love it when I can make friends with a cat, but I've never tried to befriend squirrels. Cool story.

Jerell said...

Urban squirrels wear red bandanas and carry around shives. Suburban squirrels wear blue bandanas with teardrop tattoos.

Bella Rossa said...

Glad you like my tale of urban adorableness, Timothy. I know I was in the mood to be receptive to that kind of experience, but it was seriously pretty cool.

Jerell - thanks for the tip! I have heard that, in some parts of Chicago, there have been problems with underprivileged squirrels hassling tourists on the El. That's why I play it safe and stick around familiar territory as much as possible. Well, and also because I'm a wuss.

carol said...

I'm jealous.

Bella Rossa said...

It could happen to you, dear Nudle. Just be vewwy, vewwy quiet. :)

Coaster Punchman said...

"I've guess I've developed a way of being very quiet and small and nonthreatening when needed, to inspire comfort and trust in even the most skittish of creatures."

This is why we love you stopping over at CPW! :)

Bella Rossa said...

I will tame you with my quiet and pure love, little Coaster Punchman.

Grant Miller said...

I'm like a dog. I hate squirrels.

Bella Rossa said...

What kind of dog?