The Nature of Things

I first noticed the squirrel barking at me one day while I headed back across the street from Mae’s house. He was in the pecan tree, tail flailing, looking in my direction. I stopped, asked him what he wanted and received more barking and tail flailing as an answer. Over the next few days this attention seeking would become a regular activity of his. He stood on his back legs with his long, orange belly showing, staring up at me, measured steps bringing him closer and closer. What did he want from me? Over the past fall and winter, he had frequented Mae’s yard and porch. You see, her yard is a squirrel’s dream with a giant pecan tree that produces large, soft-shelled pecans. Now spring, the pecans had stopped falling a while ago and the canister used to store extra pecans on the porch was beginning to run dry.

His leisure activities were interesting. He picked fights with birds on the roof of Mae’s house and he had even taken a liking to luring my cat up the Redbud tree in my yard by barking at her while sitting on a branch. After she follows him, he climbs higher and higher until he can get onto the roof of the house. He continues to bark at her, his poufy tail darting every which way, daring her to climb higher. Once she does, he jumps onto a lower branch, climbs down the tree and onto the lawn, barking and bouncing around in the grass, having a great time at her expense. She falls for it every time. The crazy antics of this particular squirrel became well known. My kids named him Robert. There was an ongoing rumor that Robert was a few nuts short of a fruitcake.

Last week, I saw Robert rummaging around the yard, finding his hidden pecans, then digging and hiding them once more. I grabbed a cracked pecan and sat down on one of the large concrete flowerbeds underneath the tree. I called for him, making kissing sounds while I held the pecan out in my hand. Robert came. He got spooked a couple of times and ran up the tree, but soon after returned to try again. Patient, quiet and still, I waited. And then Robert crept up and his little mouth with its big teeth took the pecan from my hand and ate it.

Since then Robert has been fed by all of my kids, my husband, my neighbor and her grandkids. He has been on my porch, at my door looking through the glass for us, either wanting more food or just teasing my dog. I have often thought about what Robert does when he isn’t around the house. Where does he go? What does he do? Are there other people that feed him? How long will he stay around our house? Does he have a mate? I don’t think it would be hard for him to get one with his unending supply of food and I imagine him saying, “Baby, have I got the place for you!”

I am delighted with this newfound relationship with him. I see the same delight on everyone’s face when they witness the actions of the fearless squirrel that happens to be smart enough to learn to take food from a human. Smiles all around. Sometimes he places his little paw on my finger when he gets the pecan and I am one of the luckiest people in the world.

A few days ago, I ended up in a place that I hadn’t been in almost 10 years, in a hospital room, taking part in bringing a new life into this world. Though the mom and I were not particularly close yet, upon hearing the news of the baby that was due, I bought and made things for her to celebrate the event.

Then one day she called me, upset. She and her boyfriend were having problems, they had been for quite some time. She was unsure if she wanted him at the upcoming birth of their child but did not want to go through it alone. So, I volunteered to be there with her, to make sure that she would be taken care of. She took me up on the offer and two days later I arrived at the hospital as she was being given a room. A few hours later her boyfriend arrived as well, but he was not the willing participant she had hoped for.

I focused on her and only her, talking her through her contractions and reminding her to breathe. One contraction after another, the pain worsened each time, as it does. Five hours later she writhed about from inconsolable pain, pain that even the epidural did not help. The time had come. As she started to push, her eye caught the boyfriend sitting in a corner of the room on his cell phone.

“I want him out!” she yelled and the staff followed her order. An hour later, exhausted, she pleaded for the labor to be over, saying she couldn’t do it. “Yes, you can,” we all assured her and she finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Winter Reign, who weighed a whopping 10.5 lbs., cried in protest, as babies do, and was then placed in her mother’s arms.

The new mom thanked me many times for being there so she did not have to be alone. I thanked her in return. I had the honor of cutting the cord.  I had the honor of holding her hand and being present during one of the most important moments in her life. I had the honor of stepping up and stepping in to help her. I had the honor of witnessing it all. And I will forever be grateful.

As I held Winter the next day, sound asleep after her first bath, I considered the situation surrounding her birth and I started wondering what her life would be like, who she would be. No matter what might become of her parent’s relationship, her mother loves her fiercely. Right now, that’s all she needs. Winter will be fine. With her in my arms, her little hand wrapped around my finger, I quietly sang to her Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”.

“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘cause every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Bob Green Ingersoll wrote, “Nature is but an endless series of efficient causes.” Thinking back on Robert and Winter now, I know this is true.

So much in this world is chaotic and difficult at best. All of this activity swirls around us and it can be hard to escape, hard to focus on what is important. Then one day, a squirrel intent on finding a new food source decides to trust me enough to put his paw on my finger for leverage when taking a pecan. The next day that same finger is grabbed by a beautiful baby, born into this world blissfully unaware of the circumstances surrounding her.

No matter what, life goes on. It cares not of all the chaos, for it will adapt, change, endure. It is up to us whether we stop and appreciate the endless series of efficient causes.

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