When I was a little girl
and lived in the city
I was excited by the squirrels
that would run along
my mother's clothesline
from the apartment windows
to the small area of trees
at the far end of the courtyard
that we called the “backyard.”
Sometimes the squirrels
would come to my grandmother's
kitchen window sill
where she and I
would feed them Ritz crackers.

When my grandmother died
we moved to the suburbs
where there were enough squirrels
to be considered a nuisance,
along with other kinds of wildlife.
Squirrels lost their appeal
as I grew up and were
just rats with fluffy tails,
who mostly went unnoticed,
except when I'd hear them
scamper across the top of my roof,
and say a prayer that they didn't
decide to make a nest there.

These days I watch the squirrels
through my window as they
jump from branch to branch
and gather food fallen from the trees.
Sometimes from my chair
I'll see one sitting on
my front porch awning,
seeking treats collected in the gutters.
Today there were two
fat, black squirrels on the lawn,
nibbling whatever gifts
the trees had blessed them with
after the storms we've had.
They kept their distance from each other,
minding their own business.
Now and then, they'd pause
to look at each other,
and when I stepped outside
to collect the mail,
they looked at me quizzically,
as if wondering what I was doing.
I had no intention of disturbing them,
but when I got within six feet
of where they were sitting,
they scurried away,
side by side and six feet apart,
as if Mother Nature had warned them
about social distancing
in these trying times.
And who am I to say she didn't?

~Elise Skidmore ©2020

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