As anyone who’s spent multiple weeks unemployed can attest, the long stretches of free time afford you a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with your couch. Spending so much quality time with my sofa has led me by extension to grow accustomed to the parade of wildlife visible outside the couch-adjacent sliding glass doors to our balcony.
It’s not like I spend all my ample free time idly staring out the windows (is it sounding like the lady doth protest too much?), but it’s hard not to notice the wide variety of various critters that frequent the nearby trees and telephone poles. I’ve seen cardinals (Indiana’s state bird), blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, carolina wrens (who do NOT, by the way, say “cheeseburger” or “teakettle,” no matter what the internet claims), and so many chipmunks — who thoroughly enjoy scampering back and forth across the balcony for seemingly no reason for hours on end — I’ve lost count.
But the animal that has me most intrigued is one that’s both familiar and mystifying: a squirrel. Now, before you start laughing at me and my fixation on a creature that most correctly write off as commonplace, boring, and annoying, consider that this specific squirrel is easily the size of a small cat — not including its mammoth tail — and therefore the largest such critter I’ve ever seen. The first time it materialized, it shook the neighboring tree branches so severely that I thought it was a much bigger animal on the prowl. I can spot it a mile away by the telephone wire vibrations it causes as it bounds along.
This squirrel has become so familiar that I’ve started to mention it to others, which is where my sanity can (and perhaps should) be called into question. When my parents came to visit last week, I almost-proudly pointed it out to my dad while we chatted out on the balcony, and just yesterday I saw it out my neighbors’ window while we were playing Mario Kart, and they smiled politely (and most likely uncomfortably) while I told them how often I spot the not-so-little guy. It wasn’t without some sheepishness that I realized that my penchant for distraction when it comes to this creature can best be compared to a lovable if dim dog.
Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit, but I’m hoping that the subsequent shame that follows this revelation about my nature-watching habits can help me shake my preoccupation with this damn animal. Sure, it’s freakishly large and amazingly ubiquitous, but in the end, it’s just a squirrel. It would do me well to continue channeling Dug and his less-than-affectionate opinion of these creatures. I don’t exactly wish this one dead, but I do wish him to stop demanding so much of my attention. After all, who else is going to spend quality time with my couch?