Monday, July 8, 2013

The Tree and the Squirrel

Some … are born without any sense of time. As consequence, their sense of place becomes heightened to excruciating degree.
                                                                    -Alan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams

The backyard buzzes with the bustle of the usual morning hub-ub. Larks sing their songs and mockingbirds repeat them. Moles furiously undo yesterday’s work and start new tunnels. Worms travel to the cooler patch of grass. The speckles of low-sun light filter through tree leaves as they practice their tai-chi in the wind.

On the hunt, an old squirrel looks for breakfast. He jumps half a foot, stops and cocks his head slightly, apparently listening, and sprints to the next spot two feet away. His belly is as curved as his cheeks, but his quick step implies this morning’s mission is for something beyond the next meal. An acorn, round as the sun, sits near a young oak. The Squirrel, feeling the prideful sense of jackpot, quickly grabs the acorn and begins inspecting it for wormholes.

The Tree watched the squirrel climb down his neighbor’s branches and whispered, “You can leave any time. Any time you’d like.” The Squirrel twitched his whiskers in response. “Leave? Why would I wish to leave?” he asked.

“What is the point of staying here when the earth is cold and the light is muted? Every year I grow taller, and every year I lose my beautiful leaves.” The tree paused. “The birds tell me the trees in the South are always green. They never sleep. I must be missing out,” said the Tree.

 “Silliness,” said the Squirrel, evaluating an even rounder acorn. “It’s not in a tree’s nature to leave. The place a seed picks is the place a tree lives.” Squirrel cracked open the acorn, and contemplated this while chewing the insides. “Well, how would you get there? To the South?”

“Wait for a storm, perhaps. I could loosen my roots with enough rain and the wind could take me away.”

The Squirrel paused his chewing. “How would you know if you’re heading South in a storm?”

The Tree could not answer this question, and so it did what trees did best, responding in silence.

Another acorn, 30 feet away, caught the Squirrel’s eye. That acorn, he thought, would be worth at least two meals. Quickly, he bounded away from the younger oak to the shade of an older oak, to pick up the newly found treasure.

The Tree considered the conversation, and what it means to be a “tree.”