Nugget finds sustenance in the caring hands of Jean
— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
Her sleek, incredibly agile body stretches to the limit in her reach for the bottle, for sustenance, for Life. Nugget, an orphaned 5-week old squirrel, wriggles and chitters in rage. It is the wrong nipple! Nothing is coming out! Her communication across species is crystal clear. She is not happy.
Realizing my mistake, I change to another nipple with a larger hole. After a suspicious few sucks and initial satisfaction, she settles down to that lovely, even rhythm true to babies of all species; eyes closed, paws gripping and releasing; gripping and releasing, in rhythmic bliss. This, is heaven. This, is the whole universe. To me, a blip in my busy day; a chore to do.
Shocked, I catch myself. This is the whole universe to her. I need to acknowledge that and enter into it with her. But this should also be a delight. This should be a highlight of my day as well. I re-focus and allow myself to quiet. All the pressure of the human world and its demands and deadlines and regulations; of getting things done, of running an organization with never enough resources……..not relevant. Or at least secondary. Nurturing and enjoying Life, in this case in the form of a vibrant, demanding little squirrel –this is the elemental, visceral, sustaining core of life. This is where we need to operate from.
How can we get so lost? Even in my situation, living with animals in a cabin on wild land; even then meeting the demands of a human-constructed world intrudes. Into my own mind! And my captured mind directed my feeling, thoughts and actions! Away from who I am and what I truly value. I think this happens to most of us, more than we realize. None of us is immune to the energy around us.
I recalibrate. This is what is important. I begin to focus on Nugget and her demand to live, profoundly grateful for the grounding she offers simply by her very existence. Driven by an urge to share the wonder of this little being with my fellow humans, I get a camera and take pictures:
I don’t know the cause of Nugget’s situation. Two men found her on the ground, eyes still closed, and brought her to their friend, Elissa, who cared for her for two days. Then, as a genuinely loving person, Elissa realized she was falling in love, wanted to keep her, but understood that it wasn’t right. That Nugget “needed to be a squirrel.” She called us.
Elissa brought her in a beautiful cloth basket, snuggled deep into a warm fleece blanket. So deep we had to pull it apart until we found her. Leaning over the basket, Elissa said with ultimate tenderness, “Good-bye, little nugget.” Nurturing energy poured from her. As she left, we spontaneously hugged; two women who had never met before and spent no more than a few moments together, bonded immediately by the urge to fulfill the needs of this little creature, and by a recognition of being part of something far greater than both of us.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.