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Tragedies, tiny and large.

Yesterday, when I got home from an all-day English Department strategic-planning meeting, I saw a dead squirrel. Someone had driven over it. This was distressing, because I've gotten attached to several neighborhood squirrels. Also, if one of these poor bastards is going to die, it should be in the talons of a hawk or something, not a senseless death beneath the mindless wheels of a car.

When I parked my scooter, I picked up the little dead thing from the road and placed it in the grass beneath a tree in front of my house. It was still warm, flexible, but very dead. I spent a few seconds examining it to see if this was one of the regulars, my "outdoor pets," but it showed no markings I recognized.

I wonder if its siblings will perform another squirrel funeral like they did last time.

And then, this morning, I witnessed another little urban-wildlife tragedy. A few days ago, I put a big, clear-topped, metal live-trap on my back porch. See, I've apparently been breeding mice by feeding the squirrels and birds. Baby mice are about some of the cutest things you'll ever see, darting out of cover just long enough to fetch a seed, than darting back under cover like a furry lightning-bolt. Heck, I've even made videos of the tiny things, and will share them soon. Just need to upload.

This morning, I saw that the live trap caught two little mouses since I checked yesterday. One had been dead for a while, the other had just died and was cuddling it, nose pressed on top of its dead sibling. The point of "live trap" is that you're supposed to be able to catch and release them (preferably in another neighborhood).

Finally, about two weeks ago, my grandmother Violet McKitterick died. She had been sick for a long time, living in a nursing home, but getting frequent visits from her five children, their partners, and even grandchildren. She hasn't been fully cognizant for a few years, but she seemed to enjoy the company. I thought I'd share a few of memories of my Grandma Vi:

When I was a little boy, especially before I started school or in the summers, I would often stay with Grandma Vi during the day when my parents were at work. I always looked forward to spending time with her. She was so kind and patient, letting me play with Matchbox cars all over the floor, or take apart old clocks or other things so I could figure out how they worked – even if they never did again.

Grandma Vi taught me to paint when I was barely old enough to hold a brush. I remember once, while she was doing rosemaling on the kitchen cupboards, I sat at the table and painted scrap pieces of wood in a similar style. One of these is still around somewhere. It says, "Violet is very beautiful."

In the hot summer when I had trouble falling asleep, Grandma would sometimes gently brush her fingernails along my back, giving me goosebumps so I felt cooler. It was such a comfort.

When I discovered she had played the accordion, I was so proud! It seemed like such a magical and complex instrument that surely she had to be a musical genius to be able to make that thing work.

Most of my earliest memories of Grandma Vi and Grandpa Harvey together were of them laughing and chasing one another around the house. She would laugh and say, "Oh, Harvey!" then giggle and swat at him. This ritual often ended with them scurrying off to the bedroom. They seemed so happy together. I still think of that as a model of how two people in love behave toward one another.

In other news, I'm still SWAMPED with new-course development. Sorry I've been away for so long! Now I've got to get back to work.



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry about your grandmother.

I share your interest in the little local creatures. I wrote a story about a patron saint for city squirrels because I was so distressed about them getting hit by cars.
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)

Oh, I love the idea of a patron saint for city squirrels! Or maybe a God of Urban Wildlife, who could push them off roads when about to be struck by a vehicle.
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:58 pm (UTC)
That was my first "unlikely patron saint" story, and possibly my first story sale. I've had four published so far; the squirrel and one about sea turtles are animal/nature while the other two are more... ghostly. I'm working on a little e-book collection to reprint them and include a few that I've not yet published.

I even have a soft spot for turkey vultures. There are few creatures that I don't find fascinating to watch. Well, OK, I don't want to watch most of the "wildlife" on reality TV.....
Jan. 19th, 2013 01:04 am (UTC)
That's so charming!

Ever seen a condor? Ugly, beautiful creatures. When I turned 8 years old, my dad and I climbed a little mountain near Ventura, California, and saw a few of them circling. I even found one of their huge feathers! That was such a big deal back then, because they had almost gone extinct and were just making a comeback.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I have a lot of them with her. One of my earliest memories, period, was staying at her house, riding her collie-dog Cooper like a horse. Because of the yard and house where this took place, I had to have been about three years old.
Jan. 18th, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC)
Sweet group of memories! Thanks.
Jan. 19th, 2013 01:05 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed them.
Jan. 18th, 2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
My sympathy on the passing of your grandmother, Chris. She sounds like she was quite instrumental in your creativity.

It seems to me that many more squirrels either get hit by cars or fall from their tightrope/powerline bridges than get picked off by hawks, at least in town.

And they don't always get hit; we had one that ran full-tilt out into the road as we were driving by, BOUNCED OFF THE WHEEL, took a step back, and then zipped under the car, out and across the road!

Speaking of hawks, we have a hawk that has been hunting right in town, from what my husband says; he makes a point of keeping a very close eye on our Yorkies, because apparently this bird is big enough to take one of them, he thinks!
Jan. 19th, 2013 01:09 am (UTC)

Yikes! Squirrels be CRAZY.

I suspect the Yorkies would surprise that hawk....
Jan. 18th, 2013 08:06 pm (UTC)
Sorry about your grandmother. :(

Jan. 19th, 2013 01:09 am (UTC)
Thank you.
Jan. 18th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the loss of your grandmother, Chris.

Thanks for sharing this entry. It made me think of my own grandparents (sadly, all long gone). Maybe we should all write more often about family memories.
Jan. 19th, 2013 01:19 am (UTC)
Thanks, Gary. I'm glad you enjoyed hearing about my grandmother. Yes, I think we all ought to do more reminiscence about the important people in our lives, especially the elderly or those we can't see any more. Heck, we all ought to write more memoir. This is the reason I still love LJ.
Jan. 18th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
What lovely memories of your grandmother! (and riding the collie)
Jan. 19th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
Thank you! I loved that dog, and she was VERY patient.
Jan. 19th, 2013 02:26 am (UTC)
You have a good heart, Chris.
Much sympathy both for grandmother and your squirrels.

Jan. 21st, 2013 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: You have a good heart, Chris.
Aw, thank you, Paula.
Jan. 19th, 2013 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you for these sweet memories. I enjoyed imagining you as a happy little kid. ; ) I also enjoyed hearing about your kindness to mice and squirrels. You would surely get an invitation to the Animal Sanctuary of my dreams.
Jan. 21st, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
I love remembering being a happy little kid, because most of my memories from childhood aren't so happy.

I hope I get such an invitation! I'm a little worried, though, because I've accidentally killed a few mice in my "live traps." I think the little guys starve to death in less than a day! I've taken to putting lots of food into the live trap now, and it worked! Yesterday, I freed TWO little mice: A spring-loaded juvenile (BOING out into the reeds in the wetlands south of town) and an adult. Maybe that helps. I buried the two dead ones in the garden's rodent graveyard.
Jan. 19th, 2013 05:48 pm (UTC)
What a lovely story about your grandmother, you were so very lucky to have her. I'm sorry about her passing.

A few years ago my morning drive to work was ruined when I came around a corner and hit a small squirrel who chose that moment to dart across the street. I stopped and moved him to the grass and hoped upon hope that he was just stunned. I cried all the way to work. Alas, when I came home, he was still lying there. I was heart-broken, and I'm not even fond of the little buggers. All I could comfort myself was in knowing that the blow was quick.
Jan. 21st, 2013 07:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Rae. I was lucky! Most of my happy childhood memories revolve around life at Grandma Vi and Grandpa Harvey's place.

I'm so sorry to hear about your little tragedy. Sometimes, there's nothing we can do to avoid it, they're so anxious and dumb when scared.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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