I work on a college campus, and thus, I am exposed to a great variety of strange sites and rituals.
This morning, I had forgotten something at home and needed to walk down to a local store to replace the item. It is a beautiful morning and I love coming to work early. The summer heat has not settled in for the day, the sun streams through the ancient tree canopy in broken beams and people are just beginning their daily chores.
As I stroll through the campus, berating myself for having to make this track in the first place only because I was rushing out the door this morning, I find myself slowing down. My mind quiets and the scenary around me takes my breath away. Often, in our overly busy lives, we forget the small things that can bring us joy. We spend so much time being completely focused in every waking moment on such minute things. Life demands us to act in this fashion. We forget about how much someone in our life means to us, how we take our good health for granted until it disappears, how each day is a gift that we often wish away in our eagerness for the end of the work day or week.
I start to look at the premature acorns that have fallen from the oaks around me, laying sporadically along the brick pathway, thinking that another season is coming closer to the end. All of the complaints about the summer heat will soon fade away, replaced by complaints about how cold the weather has turned.
At this point, I hear a strange sound that breaks my reverie and slows my step. I glance around, looking towards the only other people I can see in this part of campus. Two landscapers that were working on a project, though they appeared oblivious to the noise. I begin to move forward again and as I pass a tree, I notice an individual walking up and down an adjoining pathway. He is making puckering noises, kissing the air as he tosses a white object forward to the grass. As I follow its trajectory, I see that the recipient is a ground squirrel. The squirrel stuffs the prize into its mouth before hopping slowly away to the nearest tree.
As I watch, more and more squirrels descend from the trees, eager to retrieve a piece of food for themselves. Most approach slowly, though they do not display signs of wariness. No fast flickering of their tails or warning barks, only their cautious approach. One pauses beside me, glancing up to see if I was the source of the call and food. After determining that I was not, he continues forward towards the man. I begin to walk once more, glancing over to watch this strange ballad of man and rodent. I pondered why this tradition began...had the gentleman sat outside to enjoy his breakfast one day and shared his meal with a curious squirrel, was he always a lover of animals and just continued the tradition here at work or was he trying to raise a squirrel army to take over the world?
One may never know...
Japanese Crane on the Door
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