The Black Squirrel

He was an unusual visitor. A squirrel. Not that squirrels aren’t common in the Adirondacks, but this particular squirrel was a black squirrel, not the gray type that inhabit most of the North Country. In fact, the black squirrels with whom I am familiar live in the suburbs of New York–especially in affluent villages.

So what brought this one black squirrel to the rural area of Brant Lake? That sighting raised a number of questions: Was he lonely? Can a black squirrel find happiness with a gray mate (as opposed to a playmate)? I had heard of a horse of a different color but never a squirrel!

However, my real concern was the fact that of all the squirrels sharing the land where I live only a black squirrel could successfully attack my birdfeeder. The common variety of squirrel tried to scale the pole to which the feeder was attached–like children on a climbing wall–but before they even reached the halfway point they slid to the ground. Soon discouraged, they hung their head between their tail and slunked off–whatever slinking may mean!

Then he came! Blackie! He climbed the trellis from the terrace hopped onto the gutter and with one final burst of energy landed safely on the birdfeeder with a little sound that sounded like “I told you so.” He spit a large sunflower seed in my direction. A spit of spite. Gorging himself on birdseed, he spent the summer and early fall enjoying a gourmet delight and waving his bushy tail to frighten off any approaching birds. Even the crows flew away when the black squirrel ruled the feeder.

Then, as the leaves fell and a touch of winter invaded Brant Lake, the black squirrel abandoned the bird feeder. Mystified, I wondered why. Had he become tired of sunflower seeds and reverted to French cuisine, or had he ordered in for his meals? On one hand I appreciated the fact that my bird seed was not threatened but, on the other hand, I felt rejected.

The mystery was solved on a day when the last of the oak leaves began to fall, accompanied by a barrage of acorns. And there was the squirrel, gathering the acorns, scampering off and hiding them in a hollow refuge on the far side of the oak tree. This would be his supply of food to sustain him over the winter. No more daily scrounging for seeds. Now Blackie was planning for tomorrow. In the harsh winter soon to invade the North Country this squirrel would be prepared.

And as he worked on his storehouse I concluded that in these difficult times there are two ways to live your life. Satisfy today or plan for the future. What is your approach to life or are you a combination of both?


9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dan,
    While halachically, blue is considered the Jewish color symbolizing the sky and the balance between white and black, a contemporary MIDRASH might identify gray as the true Jewish color because of its moderating effect between white and black, Traditionally, Jews have lived in the gray world, recognizing that there are no simple answers. In your analogy, in which both gray and black colors are needed, gray is the most common and rightly so if the meaning of the MIDRASH is to be accepted. Just a thought.


  2. Dear Dan,
    It’s always good to hear the latest from you in Brant Lake. Squirrels must be the animal of the week! Just today on a walk in Central Park I stopped to say hi to one of the generic gray variety who was perched on his hind legs staring at me. We looked at one another for a moment, then she approached and came right up to my foot. I froze, thinking this bold critter might bite, but a moment later she scampered away.


  3. I remember black squirrels at
    our neighbor up the road in Princeton, at Drumthwacket, now the Governor’s mansion. As a child, I had been familiar only with the gray variety in Central Park and was very impressed with this exotic manifestation.


  4. There are several more of this stripe on the other side of the lake. We see them with some regularity crossing the road and waiting for the car to pass while looking from the hillside.

    There is a herd of them in City Hall Park in Manhattan.

    We only see red ones in our neighborhood on the lake. I think they are trying to blend in with the chipmunks.

    I think they all do a better job of recognizing the beauty and benefits of diversity than people do.


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