Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fate Happens

I will try my utmost to capture digital proof, but based upon past experience you are just going to have to take my word for it - our squirrels have perfected the art of dual, synchronized, seed stealing. I knew it was bound to happen.

I saw it going-down the other day when I went outside to perform my early morning bird and tree-rat rituals. If you care, the series of actions performed according to a prescribed order are: (1) put sunflower seeds into the two small horizontally hanging feeders (theoretically too small and constricted for anything larger than a chickadee but in reality...); (2) replace the corn on the metal spike of the only cafeteria section deliberately devoted to the squirrels; and (3) empty the bird bath and refill it with fresh water. Repetitive, orderly behavior is believed by some to delay the inevitable - whatever that means.

Before I begin, I try to notice what is happening at the feeders lest I throw open the door like a proverbial bull and totally frighten away a Bachman's Warbler (or some other rare species) on its only-ever appearance in our yard. This time I spotted the familiar pelt of gray draped along the house-facing side of our bottle feeder. Thinking, "same old, same old" I continued through the door until I spied either the early signs of an inevitable age-induced decline into Diplopia, or a second swatch of fur hanging on the other side of the plastic container.

It was the latter. I stopped immediately and, as silently as possible, backpedaled into the family room to notify Mars. She affirmed that I did not need to proceed directly to the Ophthalmologist Ophthalmologist. Instead, we were both witnessing yet another step in the evolution of Cirque du Squirrel performance art.

There was also a second sighting later in the morning. Once could be an aberration. Twice is definitely a trend.

Interestingly, in recent weeks, there had been quite a bit of squirrel squabbling at the feeders. While previous generations of the furry little critters totally understood their place in the pecking order and waited if not patiently, then at least nonviolently, while their betters gorged their gourmand urges - the latest gang-of-gray seems unwilling to cede any territorial or other rights to their peers. And is quite willing to fight for their right to party. So they do.

While lying in bed listening to Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep, Mars and I are frequently disturbed by the chomping sound of multiple sets of rodent teeth on the seed bottle's metal hanger and/or the scratching noise of more than two pairs of little clawed feet fighting to hang on to the slick polymer surface - plus occasional squeaks de combat.

Later, sitting at breakfast in our family room-with-a-view, we see the pushing and shoving that generates the above to-dos. And the agitated and angry cessations in violence that usually leave both of the pugilists unsatisfied and wanting more.

But now calm prevails.

It's like that stuff we believed in the sixties - "Give peace a chance" - somehow, suddenly, actually worked - like we of course knew it would all along. Obviously the squirrels - who basically concern themselves with only two things (and one of them for just a few seconds) - inevitably realized that they got just as much food for themselves when they shared the feeder as when they dined alone. After all the feeding perch has two openings and the tree rats have only one mouth.

The question now is how far Siegfried and Roy (the nom momentanement of this dynamic duo) will carry this togetherness. As George Carlin once asked, "If one member of a synchronized swim team drowns, do they all?"

Will the squirrels slowly climb down the wire hanger in unison, each perfectly matching the downward movements of its living mirror image?

Will they chew at the same rate and inflate their cheek pouches to equally skin-stretching diameters? Will the pile of discarded hulls under each one be of the same size?

When they dismount, will they fly away at the same moment, propelling them equidistantly into the air before crashing to the ground with one simultaneous thud?

And most importantly, is this new behavior to become the destiny of all squirrels? Or was it merely a one shot fluke, executed by two squirrels each so self-absorbed in its own digestive needs that they totally failed to notice the other.

Who knows! Evolution, like predestination, can only be seen in the rear view mirror.

"I'm a believer that things happen. Fate is what happens." (George Carlin)

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