Well, I have lived in the same place for 25 years, and never before have I found gray squirrels in the house. Until this fall. About 20 years ago there was a red squirrel that got into the attic and made a huge commotion very early every morning. Drove me nuts! I had to hire a contractor to cover the holes under the eaves where the squirrel was getting in -- and it had to be when the squirrel had gone out for the day so it wasn't trapped in the house. Yes, I survived that squirrel adventure.
But my dealings with gray squirrels, until now, have been mostly in the garden -- where they plant walnut and oak trees, dig holes looking for nuts, eat the underside of the branches in the maple tree to drink the sap as it leaks out, or chatter at me as I garden.
The first gray squirrel in the house was just 6 weeks ago on the first night of fall when I came back from my trip to Montana -- I wrote about it in the post "Things That Go Bump in the Night" on Sept. 25. And that squirrel was clearly a young one, not yet full-sized. It did some damage, running around the dining room and living room in the middle of the night trying to get out of the closed windows, and finally it ran into the study. I closed the door with the squirrel inside, opened the window, and in the morning it was gone.
I had forgotten about that squirrel until last weekend. On Saturday afternoon I was in the kitchen making apple crisp, one of my signature autumn dishes. All of a sudden there was a huge commotion coming from the other side of the basement door. It sounded like an animal, too much noise for it to be a mouse or bat or bird. Probably a squirrel again. Same one? Maybe, maybe not.
When my partner got home we went into the basement together, and sure enough, there was a large gray squirrel sitting on the bookcase eating the jade plant. It had made a mess of the plant, in fact. Seeing us, the squirrel ran behind the desk, then into the furnace room. I closed the door, and the animal left the same way in came in -- through the walls up to the attic, and then out. I think so, anyway. And this was not the same squirrel as before -- it was a much bigger critter.
Over the past few days, as I pondered the 2 gray squirrels in the house, I wondered about the metaphorical significance of this visitor. After all, to suddenly get 2 visits in 6 weeks from an animal that I have never seen IN the house before -- this got my attention. So, what does squirrel mean, anyway?
I went to my trusty source of information on the metaphorical teachings of animals, the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. In this book, 44 animals and their habits are described, along with ways of applying the gifts of the animals to our lives, what Native Americans call 'animal medicine'.
In the Medicine Cards, Squirrel signifies 'gathering', teaching us to plan ahead for the coming winter. Squirrel also teaches how to gather and store energy for times of need, to reserve something for future use. The message may be that I should honor my future by readying myself for change. The message could be to lighten my load, and get rid of an excess of things that I no longer need. These "things" can include thoughts, worries, pressures, stresses, or gadgets that no longer work. And squirrel has another lesson which can aid me if I observe what is obvious, and which can prepare me for anything. It has to do with the safe place in which to put my gatherings. Jamie Sams and David Carson write, "This safe place is an untroubled heart and mind, and that which is gathered to put in this place is wisdom and caring". They further suggest that "the energies gathered will set your heart and mind free, so that you will know that all will be taken care of in its own time. Apply this to your fears about the future and they will vanish."
Thank you, Medicine Cards, and thank you Squirrel. I needed that!