Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I brought my camera to work Tuesday morning, hoping to get a photo of the albino squirrel my coworkers have been telling me about. My daughter and I walked into the woods near the Sanctuary, a cedar and fir timber-framed building a few hundred yards from the office. We heard a high-pitched "chip-chip-chip-chip-chip" from the treetops, then saw a frantic squirrel battle: rolling, chasing, biting, tumbling, falling. The albino squirrel was being told, in no uncertain terms, to get off the turf of his reddish-brown cousin.

S/he eventually made to an apparently undisputed tree, where s/he settled down for a snack of fir seeds. Near the horizon, a stocky buck whom I had never before seen skirted the edge of the forest. "Come closer if you'd like to have your pictures taken," I called out in his direction. Robin and I walked back to the office, where the cook offered us breakfast.

We were sitting in the dining room enjoying fruit and oatmeal when Robin said, "look, he's closer!" The buck, who had apparently heard my invitation, was standing right outside the dining room window. He sauntered past, then stopped near the Apple Tree Garden at the bottom of the hill to graze. I looked into his white right eye as he passed, wondering what compels humans to shoot people like him. It's hunting season on Whidbey Island and I wonder what role that played in his sudden appearance in new territory. 

I've been wondering lately if the wild creatures are trying harder to reach us. The whale Tahlequa, a member of the Southern resident orcas, carried her dead baby for 17 days. I would not have been surprised if her thoughts were along the lines of, "she died because I cannot eat. I cannot eat because you've killed the fish. I need you to see what's you've done." 

Buck encountered another one of my coworkers yesterday, appearing as if out of nowhere within feet of her. I'll let her tell her own story (she'll do so, on the Whidbey Institute's news page, soon). Let me just say that yes, the animals are talking to us. They might be saying, "we're here too. Let's work together for a change." 

I ended the day with "Leave it to Beavers," recommended by my dad and available on Youtube. It's another good reminder that much of what humans take for granted—in this case, fertile landscapes—is a gift from our animal kin. 

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