I love to be organized. I really, really love to be organized, and planning ahead with lists in hand is what I do best. But somehow, looking eye to eye with a squirrel in the middle of my kitchen was not on my 'to-do' list.
I was going to do a cooking segment for ABC and had to be on the set early the next morning, so having everything prepared and in the car the night before was my plan. In the kitchen, I was designing and organizing my cooking presentation. Parsley, dill, cilantro, onions and garlic were expertly chopped and bagged and my spices were packed into gleaming glass bowls. I was happy, in sync and running on time. Being this organized requires planning ahead (which I'm good at) and problem solving (which is a gift). Things were progressing smoothly.
What happened next did not fit into my plan. Or my brain, for that matter. I happened to look over my shoulder and spied a large, furry animal in the middle of my kitchen. What??? When had we acquired this gigantic black cat? I did a double take and realized that this was not a neighborhood cat in front of me but an enormous black squirrel, who returned my shocked gaze by looking at me squarely in the eye and wagging its bushy tail.
I screamed shamelessly and bolted for the front door. Once out of the apartment, and fearing the squirrel may be rabid, I had to gather the strength to reenter in order to warn my kids of the wild animal in our midst. One by one the kids ran out the door. We all stood in the apartment hallway wondering what to do next. We decided to open the front door, hoping the four-legged interloper would make a hasty exit. In the meantime I called animal control, but they said we needed to call 911. While waiting for assistance we remained in the hall, 6 pairs of eyes locked on the open front door. Fifteen minutes later the brazen creature sauntered out the front door and down the stairs. With a collective sigh of relief, my kids and I entered the house, and to our amazement the squirrel had not eaten any of the food that was on the counter. Our apartment was none the worse for this unexpected guest's surprise visit.
A week passed and I wondered, "Why did a squirrel come into my home? Is there a message? What am I supposed to learn?"
Here is what I found out:
Black squirrels are relatively rare --about 1 in 100,000. Squirrels love being around humans and are found everywhere that people live. Squirrels are one of the few 'wild' animals that when comfortable will eat food out of a human's hand.
Is a squirrel considered a bad or good omen? Traditionally it is said that, "Happiness will be found soon after seeing a squirrel." Wise elders taught that squirrels are good teachers and that we should watch them and learn from them. They are charming, playful animals who like to put on a show which brings joy to the viewer's heart. Squirrels are great problem solvers, and we can learn to be resourceful like them and also learn how to quickly change direction if needed. Squirrels always plan for the future, being one step ahead of the seasons. They also teach us that in order to avoid danger we need to learn to climb higher and higher and not to stay on the low ground. Squirrels, who are the masters at preparing and planning ahead, also make time to socialize and play. Squirrels are often seen with a buddy frolicking, jumping from tree to tree and walking the high wire on telephone poles. Squirrels have the knowledge and insight to do what needs to be done in a timely manner, but they find still find the time to mingle, run around and have fun.
So if a squirrel had to enter my kitchen is there a message for me? As I scurry through my busy life I have never stopped to watch a squirrel. The next few days I took the time to observe squirrels in the neighborhood. I decided I have a lot in common with squirrels: I plan ahead; I am organized and good at problem solving, but there is one quality that I have forgotten to include in my adult life and that is to be playful and have fun. It is important to remember we can have fun and frolic no matter what age we are, and taking time to play does not mean we can't also take care of what needs to get done. Having fun and playing helps us be calmer and makes the people around us also feel better. Now, I don't think you will find me swinging from tree branches or walking the tight rope, but you may see me skipping down the street or running through a meadow barefoot!