Photo by Brennan Garcia / Shutterstock

— By Jessica Friedman —

I first encountered Skeeter two summers ago, when my husband and I first moved into this apartment. The apartment didn’t have a screen on the back door, but I liked to keep the sliding door open for air when the weather was nice. One day, I heard what I thought was a bug trapped inside, pinging against the glass as it tried to find its way back out. I went to help the poor thing to freedom, but what I found was not a bug—it was a squirrel in the middle of my kitchen floor, looking for all the world like he’d been caught with his paw in the cookie jar. We both just kind of stared at each other for a few seconds until I laughed and he ran away, feet Flintstoning against the linoleum as he made his escape. 

Anxious to retain our security deposit, I promptly purchased a magnetic screen to hang over that door to keep bugs and squirrels alike out of the apartment. (Not that I would have minded their company, but I doubt my landlord would have been so welcoming…) It seemed to do the trick, and while I would occasionally spot my squirrel friend sunbathing on the back deck, he never again tried to venture over the threshold.

That was, until this Spring. I was working away at my desk when I heard another strange noise coming from my kitchen. I went to investigate and found him trying to get through the door. He was tugging on the magnetic screen and trying to figure out how to open it! The interior door was closed, so had he succeeded in making his way through the screen, he couldn’t have gone much further. But it was sure fascinating to watch him think through it and try to solve his puzzle. 

In the weeks since our state issued a stay-home mandate, I have seen more and more of my squirrel friend, whom I have lovingly taken to calling Skeeter. It seems that, at least for the time being, he has given up on his efforts to gain access to the other side of the screen, but only because he has discovered that it makes a highly entertaining plaything. I’ve learned to recognize the tell-tale sound of him climbing up the screen and hanging from one paw at a time as he swings back and forth.

Whenever I go to watch him play, it’s evident to me that he’s not climbing on the screen for any other reason that the pure joy of it. And I think he enjoys the attention, too. He always seems to make more noise before I go to watch him, like a kid trying to get his parent’s attention while swinging from the jungle gym. And in a world that is so full of frustration and despair right now, I’m more than happy to take a few minutes to let myself get distracted by a joyful new friend. 

Jessica Friedman's profound love for nature and animals stems from summers spent exploring the woods around the cabin her grandparents built in Ontario, Canada in the 1940's. Those hours spent climbing trees, watching for bears in the blueberry patches, and floating on the lake with the loons set a foundation of respect for the natural world that still influences her life today. She currently acts as Earthfire's Digital Media Content Manager.

New Coworkers

— By Dawn Harrison —

As with the rest of the world, we are getting used to the changes that are happening around us—and working from home is definitely a departure from normal.

The adoring, soft-eyed look from my cat Willow as she sits atop my chest, positioning herself to be as close as possible to every part of my face; the cocky, half-lidded stare of Tommy, who sends a message that I am his person and will not be moving any time soon; and the tentative, asking face of Lolo the foster, who wants so much to claim my lap as her own, if only for a short time—these are the faces that have replaced my human coworkers, much to the satisfaction (and sometime irritation) of my feline companions.

Two cats sitting on a woman's lap

Lolo and Tommy sitting with Dawn

Changes can be good or bad, depending on how you approach them. It’s easy to view our current situations from the human standpoint—being, as we are, human. But for my cats, I think it’s altogether a different change happening. After all, this is their house. I say that somewhat in jest, but also, largely, not. They are home 24/7, so in reality, this house is more their home than it is mine—or at least it was, up until a month or so ago. They are adjusting to having me home much more often, and approaching it from very interesting angles. Specifically from under the chair, on my keyboard, on top of my feet, and what seems to be their favorite: sitting on my chest, tail in my face.

Sometimes I want to forcibly move them because I am trying to get work done or need to use the restroom. But when I tell them to get down and they look at me with those expressive cat eyes, I cave. After all, this won’t last forever, and the emotional connection I get from them—especially now—is worth every inconvenience. (I also know that they will likely decide that I am no longer the best perch in the house within 1 to 59 minutes, give or take—it’s all just a matter of time.) Plus, they have claws, which serve as a very good reminder that they are, in fact, in charge.

Of course when I want to have a companion come and sit with me, they are quite disgusted by the disturbance. Who am I to interrupt their sun bath in the middle of the day when I’m supposed to be safely away wherever it is I go? If the censure in their face at these times isn’t enough to dissuade me from doing the unthinkable act of picking them up and relocating them, their claws make it very clear that the change is unwelcome.

So I choose to approach these changes as a time of fluidity, making a connection with my furry companions when they allow it, and learning a new skillset: how to be a piece of cat furniture. It’s all in the way you approach it.

Dawn Harrison is the Office and Ranch Manager at Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. With a diverse background ranging from accounting and customer service to animal caretaking, her true passion is to help enrich the lives of animals, one being at a time.

The Golden Bells of Life and Beauty

— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —

The deep winter snows have finally melted in our high mountain valley. And there they are! Tiny golden bells of life and beauty, fragile yet strong. Such a delight and relief to see irrepressible life show itself.

Two images showing yellow and pink flowers

The Flowers of Spring | Susan Eirich

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.

Innate

— By Ann Loyola —

What we hold is lighter than the breath we carry through

the layers of our years.

Snow geese know the streams of their migration and accept.

Starlings flash in dreamscape murmurations, each movement symbiotic with the sky

as the roots of silvered trembling aspens quietly entangle and regenerate.

We time the pause between our heartbeats as we make and remake plans

inscribed on the faded wings of butterflies.

Ann’s history with Earthfire began 20 years ago when she signed on as a part-time fundraising consultant. She was on-hand for the birth and official IRS nonprofit designation of Earthfire Institute. After 18 years serving as Marketing and Development Director at a rural hospital, she’s come back to Earthfire as Assistant Director. Ann enjoys skiing, bicycling, fly fishing, and horseback riding.

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