Wednesday, June 24, 2015
So, I’m outside smoking a cigarette this morning, and chatting with Mama Squirrel as she partakes of the buffet I set out for her every day. I tell her how glad I am that she is enjoying her breakfast of sunflower seeds, and every now and again, she looks up at me and says “Thanks” in her silent squirrel tongue. I respond with a “You’re welcome” in my own crude attempt to mimic her clarity.
As I watch her eat, it occurs to me that I wish the whole of my life could be defined by little acts such as providing her with a meal every day. Not by the hurtful things I’ve done and said; not by the illusion I try to maintain about and even to myself. Not about the sadness that sometimes fills me, but which I cannot bear to express. And not about the many times I’ve failed those who should have been able to rely upon me. Unfortunately, that wish is beyond my reach, as I have been and still am too often unkind. Still cling to and share silly self-illusions. Still feel the need to be – or at least appear – centered, grounded, and filled with only joy. And still sulking at the things I should have done, should have achieved, and the trusts I should have never betrayed.
Sometimes, I wonder (only in my most private thoughts, and never aloud) whether I might actually be a sociopath, striving to manipulate my universe and everyone in it for my own benefit. It is within that wondering that I perceive my greatest failure.
But as I continue to watch Mama Squirrel enjoying her meal, the only feelings that I can sustain are those of gratitude that she trusts me enough to continue eating, altogether unconcerned by my presence. She doesn’t know that I’ve killed and eaten many of her kind through the course of my life, and enjoyed the acts. She doesn’t see my failures, my unkind moments, my illusion, or my betrayals. She sees only that large being who provides the food, and poses no threat.
And in this brief moment, my wish is fulfilled, for she doesn’t see the selfishness, the deceit, and the rage by which I sometimes define myself. She sees only love, kindness, clarity, and all those other things that are easier to behold when one’s belly is being filled. And in this moment, the love, kindness, and clarity are all there is to me. Not the product of any enlightenment on my part, but rather the gift, given by a trusting creature, as thanks for a simple act. I came out here to feed her, but it is I who have been most nourished. Perhaps the ugliness inside me is only a part of the illusion I paint of myself, borne of and perpetuated by the illusion that the ugliness is what defines me.
I’ve come to realize that if I were truly a sociopath, I wouldn’t be worried about it or feel regret. I wouldn’t care whether I had been unkind, unjust, deceitful, or even cruel. I would simply continue being those things, giving thought only to whether they were serving my needs. Those things are still within me, and rear their heads more often than I’d like. But so long as I can win the trust of one who is not inclined to trusting, and yearn to be ever more worthy of that trust, I’m not really a lost cause after all.
Mama Squirrel is finished with her breakfast now, and rushes to return to the sanctuary of her nest in that single oak in the north pasture. She scurries along the ground, stops, and turns to look at me. I like to tell myself that this is her way of leaving a tip, of acknowledging the kindness of her meal. But in truth, her wordless trust is all the thanks I could possibly need, and falls far short of the debt I owe her for simply allowing me into her little circle. For telling me that the shadows and demons are not the whole of who I am. And, in these brief moments, for granting me my single greatest wish.
Thank you, Mama Squirrel. I'll see you tomorrow. Same time, okay?