Today, I had to school a squirrel named Leroy
There is this squirrel that runs the fence and arbors in my orchard, in order to get up in the plum tree and take a bite out of every plum he can. Communicating with Leroy comes with challenges, because I don’t speak Squirrel and he doesn’t speak English. He just might comprehend it though. Either way, I had to have a talk with him the other day to school Leroy on the protocol of my garden, how it grows and its multiple purposes. I started by calling out his name and probably waking everyone within a ten block radius. I got hecka pipes. It also helps for some of my neighbors to think I’m just a little cray, cray. The boom in my voice sure caught his attention, as he stopped mid fence when I said squirrel. Leroy perked up on his hind legs locked onto my eyes and listened up, before scurrying away.
I know his species is born toothless and blind, and probably there is this instinct is to play catch up once the teeth and sight arrive. In a behavior parallel to Leroy’s, there are children who pull fruit from my trees and use it to pitch at the windows of the houses behind me. The destruction of other people’s property seemingly has become fair game. They also don’t recognize that this fruit growing in our yards is food that you bring to the table. I went on to explain that this is real food, just like the kind you find at the grocery store and asked if they would pitch the food from their tables at somebody’s windows. The last time I caught the gang of three, I recommended they make lemonade and enjoy it. I’m also going to give their family some recipes for making lemon bars, cookies and popsicles.
Like gophers and humans, squirrels can be very invasive. While I don’t want to disrupt Leroy’s cycle and right to life, I’ve got to come up with a strategy to prevent him from destroying this fruit from which I make plum juice, nectar of the gods plum mojitos and sauce for my vanilla bean ice cream. I’m also clear that “hood rodents” have very different survival instincts. While I don’t want the PETA people demonstrating outside my home, short of calling in UN Peace Keepers, I’m hoping to come up with a strategy for détente that allows for Leroy and me to coexist respecting the fact that we both maintain residency in the same space and love the plums. I’m going to ask my neighbor if I can coat the top of the fence with oil to prevent Leory from scurrying across it and getting up in my tree.
A friend told me that while in Holland attending a film festival, her husband took a side trip to purchase tulip bulbs. When he returned home, he proudly got on his knees and planted them in the yard only to watch the squirrels dig them up before they’d rooted in the comfort of the soil. The apple tree I planted last year now has fruit on it about to ripen. If Leroy or his chipmunk and marmot cousins, or any other members of his clan, take to biting up my apples, then all bets may well be off the table. While I’m unequivocally opposed to Squirrel Wars or calling on the drones, Leroy and his crew simply can’t invade the nation of my garden. They are more than welcome to cross the borders, enjoy the fruits that fall to the ground while basking in the sun and meditating beyond the sounds of urban gunfire piercing the otherwise stillness of the night air.
Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator, poet and urban gardener. Her orchard and garden are filled with citrus plum and apple trees, herbs, orchids rescued from dumpsters and heritage roses. She spent more than thirty years in higher education, serving on the faculty at UC Berkeley and Mills College and as an administrator. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, This Week in Palestine and in several curriculum projects including Breaking Barriers for the Commission on Major League Baseball. She blogs at www.daphnemuse.blogspot.com.
©Daphne Muse, Oakland, CA 2013