Home - An Essay
I trace my ex-boyfriend John and I’s break-up back to the day that I refused to pick up a baby grey squirrel one of his cats had drug into the house and was torturing in the corner of the dining room.
He wasn’t home and I had just moved into his house a month earlier. I totally freaked out. I called John on my cell phone and breathlessly told him I didn’t know what to do. “The cats are torturing a baby squirrel! I don’t know what to do!”
He arrived, angry. Annoyed that I hadn’t handled the situation myself. He walked in and went directly to the squirrel, picking it up in his bare hands, cradling the frightened animal.
“You don’t understand,” I said later. “There’s no way I would EVER pick up a wild rodent!”
From his expression, I could see that he understood my misgivings, but I worried that at the same time, I’d instantly become one of those people in his mind - a person who wouldn’t rescue a baby squirrel, a person who didn’t care about animals.
(I never told him that it was worse than that - that the last time I had got that close to a squirrel was when I ate part of one at a wild foods potluck.)
As it turned out, this wasn’t the first baby squirrel that John’s cats had caught. Once, before we’d begun dating, years earlier, his cats had caught two baby grey squirrels and he’d rescued them. He’d set up a whole room in his house with branches and nuts and raised the squirrels- a girl and a boy- to adulthood.
However at first he hadn’t known what to do with the infants. He’d called the local Audubon society and asked if they would take the squirrels. They’d refused because the squirrels were Eastern Grey squirrels - an invasive species in Oregon.
John had scoffed at this designation. Why did it matter at this point, he’d asked. The native species, the Western Grey squirrel, was obviously not succeeding. The Eastern Grey was dominant. So why not protect it equally as it was already, inevitably, irreversibly here to stay?
I privately disagreed. And in fact, took it personally that John would favor a non-native species at the expense of our native Western Grey squirrels (of which I remember ever having seen zero of. ) I felt this was proof that he was one of those kind of people. The kind of person who didn’t value what I value. What do I value? Sticking up for the undersquirrel. Yes. I always stick up for the undersquirrel, especially if it is a native undersquirrel.
But really I wasn’t so sure of myself then as I now make myself seem. I wrestled with the conundrum. Do we fight the good fight against insurmountable odds, or do we accept the status quo, or at least accept the new status quo? I couldn’t decide if John was just more realistic than me. Maybe he was right; maybe I should just accept things as they are and not try to return to an imagined golden age where everything was perfect and the Western Grey roamed free.
But then I thought, perhaps if he’d been raised in Oregon he would’ve behaved differently.