Genius In A Jar

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In all of life, there is what has become standardized or otherwise known as ‘the norm’. There seems to be an accepted way to behave, to live and to think. Clusters of beings who seem to adhere to these behaviors and patterns that are familiar and shared among them tend to gravitate toward each other and form societies. It is frequently referred to as ‘hive mentality’ when these behavior patterns are born of the same set of beliefs. Once a belief becomes ones own personal truth, unless the believer can be convinced that another way or concept is better, rarely does one deviate from this.

Then there are those individuals who seem to question everything, not for the sake of being contrary, but rather to find something that makes sense to them. Being that I was born with this tendency, I fully understand it and often find difficulty in comprehending the attractiveness of being any other way. Oddly enough, us renegades and rogues, also tend to gravitate toward each other and form a sort of silent alliance. Unbound by unnecessary introductions or explanations, we just ‘know’. Our numbers are small because there are fewer of us and we often attempt to hide it to avoid ducking stones as we are driven from the villages that we occupy. So, we carefully observe and imitate, making an effort to be accepted by the majority as to not appear to be as anti-social as we feel.

But, sometimes the need to be true to our own truth compels us to quit trying to fit in. We learn to make peace with our uniqueness, strut proudly through the gates and leave the village behind. We meet other sojourners along the path, and even if we have a lot in common, we don’t feel the need to construct our own villages comprised solely of us ‘idiots’. We have come to enjoy the pleasure of our own company,  entertained by our own minds that run rampant to explore the infinite expanse of our vivid imaginations. With no one to judge beliefs we choose not to share, we bask in the joy of our own sense of freedom. Dear reader, if you too understand not just these words, but also the beauty of individuality and the mysteries we discover when left to our own unfettered devices, you will enjoy getting to know Albert.

Birds flock, Wildebeests herd, Wolves pack, and the Deer and the Antelope play. We look skyward as honking ‘V’ strands of Geese migrate and marvel at schools of Fish who seem to flow as one entity. Throughout all of Nature each species has its own standards, behaviors and beliefs that have become accepted as ‘the law’. However, just as with humans, there exists among all of Nature’s children, the ‘outlaws’.

Our deck is small, but serves its purpose. Connected to the open concept kitchen and dining area by a sliding glass door, it overlooks the back yard. In the Summer, my herbs grow in baskets attached to the rails and there is room for two chairs, a small table and about six pots of various sizes where I grow peppers, a bush pickle, and scallions.  In the course of my culinary exploits, I can harvest exactly what I need right outside my door. Heading into Samhain, when things die back and go dormant, I put a small tray of seeds out there and a suet basket. Of course, the Cats enjoy being entertained by the Birds who come for a meal, but the Squirrels really intrigue them. As you may have read and recall from previous posts, I tend to name my garden guests. For some reason, all the Squirrels answer to the name, Samwise, after the loyal and true friend of Frodo from the works of English author J. R. R. Tolkien.

They do what Squirrels do. They eat liberally of the food I offer them, burry it in the yard and in my pots, perform anti-gravity stunts in the trees, and look adorable. They play, ensure their survival by whatever means necessary and at times, feud within families and with neighbors. They reproduce and teach accepted behaviors to their young…just like us. And yes, at times, discover that they have given birth to the weird kid.

When they come to the deck, they notice the Cats watching them intently, and even though they know that they are safe, they keep their distance from the glass door. However, one day I noticed a baby Squirrel out there, nose to nose with my Kitten, Mac. To them, the glass served as a barrier that prevented them from doing what they wanted to do, which was get to know each other. Staring into each other’s eyes, they’d notice all of the things that made them different, but also, what they shared. “You have fur, I have fur, but why are your ears so much bigger.” ” Never mind my ears, look how huge your tail is, dude.” They seemed to have no idea that they were supposed to be enemies or most likely, just didn’t care.

Watching them interact became a source of enjoyment and wonder. One tiny paw would reach out and press against the glass and soon another would respond in like manner. There would be rolling and playful behavior, and most likely, a bit of frustration over having to endure this inability to touch and smell and even taste. “Why do you taste like fish?” “I eat fish, and obviously you eat seeds and dirt.”

With the onset of colder days, he came to the deck less frequently. I didn’t think much of it, assuming that he had gone off to join his family, if they had not disowned him for being a Cat lover. There were preparations to be made, and this little guy was about to discover his first Winter.

Then, one day I noticed something as I enjoyed my daily connection with Nature from my front stoop. I have a Squirrel feeder that my brother made for me that consists of a wooden frame that supports a large, empty, glass pickle jar.  It’s suspended from a low branch of my flowering crab tree, enabling me to reach it and keep it filled with sunflower seeds, peanuts and corn. There are two holes on each side of the frame that allow access into it and then the Squirrel can move down into the jar to get the food. The food stays safe and dry and so does the Squirrel.

In addition to empty sunflower seed hulls that were now spread over the entire bottom of the jar, there was also a wall of leaves that covered the sides and top, making it no longer possible to see inside the jar. Slowly and quietly, I approached, until I was right up to the feeder. Between the spaces of  bronze Autumn leaves, I saw tufts of gray fur. This is the fourteenth Winter we will be in this house and never has this been done before.

Dry and warm, with access to food and water from the nearby heated pond, this little guy is totally sheltered. Out of reach from predators, he can survey his surroundings through the glass before he ventures forth to eat, drink, or get some exercise. Glass, that he has learned, serves as a barrier.

This is the work of a genius. He is a free-thinker who has followed his heart and listened to his inner voice and has, thereby, found comfort and joy in his own little world. Perhaps, ensuring his survival by doing his own thing, being apart from those who do the predictable and time honored. And, even though the traits of  Samwise are virtuous, brave and honorable, this particular Squirrel seems to have more in common with the most famous genius of all, Albert Einstein.

My attention went to the swaying of branches in the corkscrew willow yesterday, as the familiar little Squirrel jumped into the crab tree, crawled into his jar and adjusted the leaves around him. I drew in close and bent toward the jar, “Good for you, Albert”, I said. “There is a difference between being alone and being lonely and when you follow the beat of your own drum, it will inspire you to create your own dance”. He stirred slightly and a tiny paw stretched out and pressed against the glass. “By the way” I told him, “Mac says, hello”.

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