An endless summer has pockets of awareness that gratify the present and enhance memory for the future. We seem to remember best what we let ourselves most feel. Episodes of creature contact open the moment and bring contentment for me, stretch out this glorious season.
I'm talking of squirrels. There are two in the neighbourhood who regularly visit the Cottage. Seymour and Daisy. No, I didn't name them. They named themselves and whether it is a concession to what humans might have called them or whether it is truly what they call themselves, I don't know. But the names come from them. Try it. Be still around an animal (it also works with human babies) and create a vacuum for its name. Something will come. It always does. What fun and revelation.
A cat once told me its name was Aloyisus. It took me ages to locate the name and find out its spelling. The owned/owner of the cat called it Sparky and claimed it was a distant type of pet. You might call him Aloyisus, I suggested in that jokey tone that allows for not being embarrassed if not taken seriously. He didn't take me seriously. I didn't find the cat at all distant. Room for thought and experimentation, here!
Daisy is friendly and a tail-groomer extraordinaire, but Seymour is a character, progressively interacting. He engages in that low to the ground paws spread supplication pose when treats are offered but his beauteous plume relaxes into waving swirls as if to belie the guardedness. And give him a nut and he sits and nibbles, sideways, nearest eye glossy and gleaming. When he will sit facing me with both eyes visible I will know he really trusts me.
I like to tease him and I think he likes being teased. One unshelled peanut. Glory. Firmly in jaw. A second one. Dilemma. A few seconds of a scrimmage to try and stuff another husky peanut into an already full mouth. Stand with one peanut between teeth, one grasped in hands. Serious consideration. Offer a third at this point and smoke practically comes out of his ears. Off he will scoot with first peanut and then return for the next and the next. I cannot resist the small drama of decision.
"Why not eat one or two here," I inquire. "Are you sure you will remember where you buried them?" I may intuit names but so far I have received no answer to these questions.
And this query over location is not without foundation. At times Seymour will bury a peanut where I can watch and this is fascinating. I love to see him part the grass of my meadow and poke his head between the tufts. But he never has buried one there. He comes back to garden and tilled earth.
First the hole. Not a dog-paddle motion, as one might expect, to excavate. No, it's a breast-stroke endeavour. Very fast and very effective. But, for some reason, he tries many places with a few dabs before being satisfied and actually digging a hole.
Then, head and shoulders disappear as he positions the nut. Next comes a most intriguing manoeuvre. Seymour uses his head like a battering ram to pound that nut into the earth. Bash, bash, bash and then some. A few quick swipes to fill in the hole, pat it flat, spread some grass or sticks or stones over it, poke in a stick to mark the place...well, almost.
He scampers back for the next peanut. His nose is covered in packed dirt and I want to brush it off but it doesn't seem to bother him. So amazed at what it took to 'larder' that first peanut I offer him a pecan, shelled. This he loves (I know, because he quivers) and will sit, almost fully facing me, and nibble it down. A hopeful look for more of same but I make the empty palm gesture so he goes back to the second and third peanuts still waiting on the kitchen floor.
This morning I had to come in to check on some baking and when I went back outside to my snack on the table there was one cherry out of its bowl with a single bite taken. Some dirt floating in my tea. The dining companion was not in sight.