Sitting Still

I spent one quarter in law school.  I should have known the first day that it was a mistake to undertake it.  Two professors told us a story about a Japanese Master and his student.  The Master brought in a fish for the student to study.  He said he would return in an hour to see what his student could tell him about the fish.

He returned; listened to the superficial comments of his student (colour, size) and said he would now leave the sutdent for two hours.  Well, this went on and on until we were all looking at each other wondering “what’s the point” as by now the fish stunk (I think it went for three days for the poor student) so I shall always equate the law with stinking fish.

I have returned to London from three months in the Midwest.  It is too busy, too dirty, too – everything.  I am an observer; but sometimes the world is just a wee bit too much to observe.  I knew within a day of arriving I would need to go to my spot in Holland Park to see my friends.  I am a squirrel whisperer.

I have been gone three months.  Before; I would come here a few times a week.  It all started with a mince pie and an inquisitive squirrel.  Squirrels love mince pie.  So do English robins.  Squirrels make mournful faces when robins get the mince pie.  Robins eat from my hand. They sing for their pie.  I was enamored.  I watched everything for hours, and the fish didn’t stink.

Today I am apprehensive.  The park ranger told us that in the summer, they dissapear.  I didn’t think I could bear it if they didn’t come – I needed to see them as much as I needed the peace of the park.  I walked the long way in, because in the winter it was almost as if an alert went out and they were ready when we got there.  I wanted to make certain they knew I was coming, even if I could barely wait the extra minutes it took to get there.  I don’t see anyone on the way, but notice that they have pigs now returning the land to a meadow.

No one was waiting when I arrived at the “magic spot”.

I sat there with the nuts I had bought fresh, and my Pret latte.  I had missed that, too.  I just sat, looked, listened (the sky was full of bird sounds), and waited.

The first one that came, I did not recognize.  But he came right up on the bench and very gently took the nut offered from my hand.  I watched him, relieved that some part of my favorite haunt remained.  I had named a number of them by their faces or habits.  I name my ones in the Midwest too – but they do not eat from my hands although they show up when I get home.  “Dirty Nose” is my favorite….she gets pretty close and likes to watch me in the yard when I work.  She reminds me when she is hungry.

This one looks like “Mac” who my daughter has named for a squirrel with white eyeliner all around her eyes.  MAC is her favorite makeup line.  But she is not yet 12; so how does she know this?

This one ran to the ground; and ate.  Then came back.  By then another had showed up; a very soft gray one who didn’t bounce; she walked.  Across the path.  She very gently put her warm paws in my hand to choose her nut and no claws at all.  However; while we were chatting – Mac had jumped up on the bench and instead of going in the nut bag; had ran off with my chocolate croissant.  Then ate it on a fence post and returned about 15 minutes later a little wired.  Name Change: “Hammie”.

More showed up.  One from the winter, “Gimme Gimme (that nut)” walked over on his hind paws.  No mistaking that one!  Another tried to butt in and he jumped a couple feet straight up and landed on his back paws again.  I am impressed.  He hops for his nut and grabs with his paws; lightly.  No claws.   I think he recognizes me.

Soft grey squirrel is vicious when another invades her personal space.  She is now stuffing two at a time in her mouth; but always gentle with me. She noses until she finds the two she likes the best.  Twice when I wasn’t looking; she got into my lap.

Then I see Buster; who looks like his ears have been boxed.  They are a little scrunchy and somewhat pinned to the back of his head.  He seems to look crabby.  He isn’t.  He seems shy; wanting me to drop the nut. “I am not afraid of you; it is a matter of dignity”.  But when I have not given him one for awhile; I hear a scurrying on the fence behind me.  I look over and he reaches out a paw.  Dignity gone?  Nope.  He just wants his share.

A green parrot lands in the tree in front of us.  Squawk!!!.  There are a lot of wild parrots in London with the mild weather.  Noisy and aggressive – they are not a favorite but still to see the bright green tropical birds in the dead of winter on bare trees is a sight. A cow bird sits on the bench next to me, slyly watching me with one eye.  I am so happy to be there; I decide the bird can have the “one nutters”.  He fluffs his feathers attractively.  I throw one; he lands on it as soon as it hits the ground.  Then squeaks a little when I have not paid attention for awhile.

I see my robin in the trees.  I hear the singing; but no visit today. Which is good, as Hammie has made off with the croissant.

Speaking of Hammie; a psycho squirrel show up about now; running along the fence and launching the front part of his body towards me with arms extended.  Must be Hammie on chocolate.

Chip and Dale; two small young squirrels; run for nuts then run for each other.  Up the tree; down the tree.  Eat hanging upside down.  What goofs!

The last visitor is another I do not have a name for yet.  The top part of his back is short haired; the bottom part is long.  Like he hasn’t finished molting.  He would rather I put the nut down for him about a foot from me.  But then, he sits next to me eating it; watching me with deep brown eyes.  He doesn’t leave the bench in between.

People walk by commenting on how I attract squirrels.  All it takes is sitting still (with nuts).  None of them sit with me.  They keep going.  Secretly I am glad; this is my little piece of the day.

I can observe and put into memory a number of things in a couple of hours: sounds; colours; touch; wiggles; expressions – and nothing stinks.  I am a lucky person.

But where is Napoleon?


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