A Hillsboro Squirrel

That conclave of people over there
looks dangerous, methinks, and so
perhaps it would be best to find a
place with more cover so that they
do not try to hunt me.  Perhaps you
may think that a tree outside of a
bunker-looking government building
in a city of nearly 100,000 souls is not
the best place for a large Western grey
squirrel like myself.  But it is not so bad
a place.  The rent is cheap, the acorns
pleasant, and many of the people that
one sees are not too aggressive.  Most of
them are too busy, in fact, to notice me, and
that is a good thing as far as I see it.  But
sometimes when I dash from place to place
in search of something tasty to eat, I have
to cross the sidewalk, and there sometimes
one of those big scary people will look at
me, and I have to wonder if this person is a
curious soul who is anxious like me, or if
the person has something against squirrels
and does not think that they should be
allowed to live unmolested in a large and
rapidly growing suburb that is not nearly
as enjoyable for me and my kind as it was
when the land was mostly farms and fields
and the occasional copse of trees where me
and my kind could make our homes
undisturbed by suburban sprawl.


Yesterday I happened to go to the courthouse, and after the hearing I chatted with some people outside and a large gray squirrel ran from one side of the sidewalk to the other.  Being a person who has had many a close encounter of the squirrel kind [1], I must admit that I thought it was quite an excellent moment to watch a squirrel, and being somewhat sympathetic to squirrels, I thought it worthwhile to write something from their point of view.  For a variety of reasons I find it perhaps easier than most people to imagine life from the point of view of small forest animals.  For one, such animals (like skunks) are often very anxious animals who nonetheless manage to find plenty of places to eat and live on the margins of human society despite the hostility that their presence sometimes invites from people.  This is not to say that the life of a suburban squirrel is easy–walking across a road can be a hazard and can threaten the fate of becoming roadkill, and not all people are as tolerant to squirrels in close contact as I am, seeing them as pests who destroy structures and who can bring disease.

Even so, squirrels can cope in such environments and the fact that the squirrel I saw as a large one suggests that this squirrel had been able to find enough to eat and live safe enough for long enough to have reached a goodly size.  Living near humans means the possibility that some humans will be generous, and if some people will only cast a male (or female) gaze towards such noble and humorous little people, so it is that many people will likely ignore the squirrel and not pay attention to it at all.  Around a courtroom, after all, people are busy and consumed with their own concerns of life, not least the result of the hearings that go on inside the building.  Those who are anxious about their own business are perhaps ill-suited to be playful and humorous when it comes to looking at squirrels and perhaps are not prone to imagine what life is like for a small and wild rodent trying to make it in the downtown area of a county seat in suburban Portland where there are nearly 100,000 people within the ever expanding city limits.  In such a world a squirrel must be able to make it around people, and be able to cope with the nervousness of life in such circumstances.

After all, the farms that once defined life in Washington County are rapidly giving way to tracts of overpriced homes and condos and apartment buildings for the technological workers who work for Nike and Intel and other companies like that.  How anyone has the money to pay the rent or mortgages for such property is beyond me.  Even the property taxes alone must be pretty stiff in many of these areas, apart from the cost of housing.  Yet just as finding housing can be difficult for people, so it can be difficult for squirrels as well.  Sometimes it is worthwhile for people to develop some empathy for other creatures besides ourselves, seeing as we are often so narrowly focused on our own personal concerns and so ignorant and unthinking of what is going on for others whose struggles may not be so unlike ourselves.  So it is, I think, with the noble squirrel I saw yesterday scampering across a sidewalk in front of the annex of the Hillsboro County Courthouse where I go as a CASA for the hearings of families involved in the foster care system.  Many of us are creatures whose living conditions are perhaps slightly less than ideal, but we have to make the best we can in the world we live in, whether we scamper about on four legs with fluffy tails or whether we walk on two legs and do not see the squirrels running around because we are lost in our own thoughts about how to make it in the world we happen to live in.

[1] See, for example:





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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1 Response to A Hillsboro Squirrel

  1. Pingback: Things Observed Through Pattern Recognition | Edge Induced Cohesion

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