Can I Forgive the Squirrels?

Squirrel relaxed and resting on the railing of our deck

This morning, I watched out my window as a squirrel climbed into the branches of the peach tree, going up and down several branches until she or he stopped at a bagged peach. She nibbled through the small branch it hung from, cutting the branch right off. I could see the leaves and twigs fall to the ground, even though the squirrel was hidden by other branches. Then, she took the unripe peach in her mouth–still in the bag–and carried it down and away from the orchard to some other roosting post in another tree. I didn’t yell or bang on the screen or try to stop her, as I have done on other mornings, because all the peaches have already been destroyed.

Over the last couple weeks, I had to remove over twenty of the bagged peaches after birds or squirrels left bite marks and the fruit had dropped off its stem, to the bottom of the bag. Some of the peaches had only a c-shaped mark that made me wonder about curculio. A couple seemed untouched. But I had seen the squirrels in the trees going after them. Then, a couple days ago I discovered that virtually every peach in a little protective bag had dropped to the bottom of the bag, and all of the peaches that I hadn’t bagged had disappeared completely. The peaches were all still green and hard, nowhere near ripe. I had just read about people using a spray made with peppermint oil and cinnamon sticks to deter squirrels, and was about to try it, when I discovered there were no peaches left to save.

Green peach with a bite missing, dropped to the bottom of a mesh bag, with another nearby.

I’ve been grieving the last few days. I put so much effort into this peach tree all through the spring and summer. Pruning it carefully. Six holistic sprays with beneficial nutrients. Three “Surround” kaolin clay sprays. Picking off leaves with peach-leaf-curl one by one. I was so hopeful when hundreds of little peach-lets started growing! I thinned the peaches so that none was too close to another. I put 80 little protective mesh bags on individual peaches. I even bought toy snakes and an owl to try to scare off the birds and squirrels. None of it stopped them. I had gotten only 3 cherries from the cherry trees, but the peaches seemed to be the saving grace for the little orchard I have been tending so carefully. Last year Margy and I had been able to eat only one ripe peach–and it tasted so good. So this year, I tried all the things to care for and protect them, imagining that taste in my mouth. And now they are gone.

I’ve also felt deeply shaken in my capacity as a permaculture gardener. Here is this little food forest with 2 cherry trees, one peach tree, and two baby apples. And no food. (Well–the raspberries did fine–but I already knew how to tend raspberries. And there were a few blueberries on our young plants. We thought we might get some hazelnuts but the squirrels also grabbed those before they were even close to ripe.) I do come away with a deep respect for organic gardeners and farmers.

But I have been harboring much anger and hate in my soul for these squirrels, and I feel very troubled about that. The original purpose of tending this land–this small place on the earth–was about finding our way home to earth community. Putting into practice the desire for healing the broken relationship between our society and the natural world. But when I try to grow food, so many critters become my enemies. Well, they probably don’t share the enmity–they probably think I run a fabulous restaurant. But meanwhile, I am watching them and hating them.

This morning, after the squirrel ran away with the bagged peach, another squirrel started playing with a stick on the path in the orchard. Literally playing–rolling over and over, turning the stick this way and that, chewing on it, then rolling over again. In a very cute way.

There is a lesson in this, I am sure. So I am trying to grieve, to let go, to open my heart. But I am still not sure I know how to forgive the squirrels. I am trying to listen to the deeper lessons.

Prophecy, # 2

To be a community of prophecy we must see what is happening, say what is happening and act in accordance with what we know.

Right now, there are so many layers to see, and sometimes what is on the surface may be important to us, but is actually being used as a smokescreen for something else that has been hidden. We’ve got to really search for the meaning underneath events, for the important truths hidden behind the drama.

For example, a week before the inauguration of Donald Trump, Representative John Lewis stated that he would not attend it, because he felt that the interference wielded by Russia cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election. Trump immediately attacked Lewis in a tweet, said he was all talk and no action. The media rushed to defend Lewis, bringing out interviews about how he is a true American hero in the cause of Civil Rights. It might seem that they were trying to speak real truths in the face of falsehoods.

But later I read an article in Daily Kos, an online news journal, that gave me new insight about this. The writer, Dartagnan, pointed out that Trump is an expert on creating flashy outrageous distractions via his tweets, and most of the media follow along—so no one was paying much attention to why the Russians may have been trying to influence the election. Dartagnan uncovers the deeper story that much of the media ignored. He writes:

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on [January 13], Trump confirmed that he’s “open” to lifting sanctions imposed by the US against Russia… The media are lazily treating Trump’s statement as if [the most recent sanctions] are the only sanctions “at issue.” But they’re not.  The far more significant sanctions are the ones [the US] imposed [in 2014] for the Russian invasion of Crimea.  In particular, imposition of those sanctions put up a roadblock to a $500 Billion dollar oil deal between ExxonMobil and Russia for jointly developing oil and gas properties in the Arctic.

.The Russian “state-owned” Rosneft corporation, [is] run by Igor Sechin, ….Putin’s “de facto deputy.”  Sechin was specifically sanctioned by the Treasury Department in 2014 as a response to the destabilization of Ukraine and the deal was blocked by those sanctions. Putin knew going in to the 2016 election that if he could install [someone] like Trump those sanctions would very likely be lifted in a heartbeat, with billions of profits going directly to Putin and his cabal of oligarchs, all with enormous financial interests in the project. …The deal was in fact authored by [Rex] Tillerson, which gives us a clear rationale why he is the perfect person, from Putin’s point of view, to be our Secretary of State.”

Our capacity to exercise prophetic witness is dependent upon our ability to see through the smokescreens put up by the new administration, and dig deeper for the power deals that are being conducted, and for whose benefit. It means turning to news sources whose reporters are willing to dig deep to uncover the issues beneath the surface.

Understanding the implications of the Exxon-Russia deal makes me wonder if most of Trump’s more outrageous statements are merely meant to stir up his base, and inflame his opponents. Perhaps he doesn’t really care what happens to women, or people of color, or GLBTQ people, or Muslims, or even immigrants—not that he can’t generate a lot of damage. Damage has already been done.

But it also may all be a distraction to syphon off the energies of resistance, while he quietly goes about consolidating the power of the super rich and multinational corporations. It may really be about generating outlandish profits through a complete corporate takeover of the land and resources of this country. That could be fatal to the environment and the capacity for all of us to have a future on this planet.

I am not saying that we should ignore what is happening to people who are vulnerable to this new climate of hate. We must continue to speak and act in solidarity with all who are targeted. But to be a community of prophecy we must open our eyes on many levels, and reveal what is meant to be kept hidden.

Sun through Trees