There are times in life when we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to step back, try to let go of our anger and take a deep breath.
Sometimes we have to admit that our continued struggle against a particular foe is pointless. We have to release our determination to “win.” We must, at those times, admit that the war is over. We must learn to embrace our enemy.
For example, let me tell about me and Rusty. We have been at odds for months.
It all started when a bought myself a clear acrylic bird feeder that sticks on my picture window. I loved watching the birds! I used to have a long feeder that hung out on a pole in front of the house. It was great.
Right up until the April night when a bear ripped it out of the ground and walked away with everything except the steel pole, which was bent all the way to the ground.
I was delighted when Amazon and I worked together (again!) to find me a window feeder. I was so excited with it that I bought another one! And my grandkids and I have spent hours watching the lovely little birdies that flock to the window for food.
And the feeders were set way up high. The bottom of my window is a good 10 feet off the ground, and the feeders are three feet up the window. No bear could get into those things!
I relaxed. I was thrilled with my cleverness. Take that, Mother Nature! You’re no match for a smart Nonni, are you?
Ah, the joys of birdwatching from the comfort of my living room!
“Look, Ellie! I see a chickadee! And a male cardinal! And a junco! And a big, fat squirrel…..” WHAT?!
The squirrels recently discovered all that beautiful birdseed in my window feeders. At first I was completely baffled. How the hell did he get up there?
Aha. The lilac bush is close enough for them to jump onto the windowsill and the up to the feeder.
I wasn’t having it, though, oh no. If I could outsmart a bear, I could outsmart a little rodent, right?
First try: I hung a string of brass bells on the window, touching the feeder. Clever, clever old lady! I watched the window carefully. I was smug. I saw him approaching…..
The cute little red squirrel hopped up onto the window and “jangle, jangle, jangle”! He froze. The he reached out one little paw and jangled it again. He grinned at me through the window. Then he jumped up, ate 30 dollars worth of seeds, and hopped back down. He rang the bells at me on his way out.
Next attempt: I left the window open just a crack. My dog Lennie has a voice that can break glass, I’m not kidding. His bark is so high pitched that it makes my teeth hurt. So, I figured, let the mighty hunter dog scare him away. I sat back, ready to triumph.
“Rusty” jumped up onto the lilac. Lennie growled. I smiled. Rusty leapt onto the window ledge. Lennie barked. I covered my ears. Rusty scrambled up onto the feeder. Lennie jumped at the window, knocking over a picture and two wooden trains. BAM! CRASH! HOWL!
Through the cacophony, I heard the sound of chewing. Rusty was in the feeder, happily gorging on the sunflower seeds. I wrestled Lennie back down to the floor, the two of us panting and growling. Why wasn’t the squirrel afraid?
“What the hell?!” I yelled at him. “Why aren’t you scared?!” He stuffed another handful of seeds in one cheek, knocked on the glass with his tiny knuckles and winked as he strolled away.
He rang the damn bells on his way out.
A couple of days went by. I refilled the feeder every four hours. I would NOT give up my birdwatching.
I googled “squirrel proofing” for ideas. I plotted. I planned. I armed myself with a spray bottle and hid behind the curtains, waiting for him to show up.
He jumped into the feeder. I flung open the window and sprayed him right in his tiny face. Bam! Take that, you little red thief!
He jumped, seemingly in a panic, into the lilac. I stepped back. “VICTORY!”
He jumped back into the feeder. I flung open the window and spayed him even harder, aiming for that little black eyeball. Direct hit!
He jumped into the lilac and down to the ground. I stepped back. I waited.
He jumped back into the feeder.
This went on for a full ten minutes. Back and forth. Jump, grab seeds, spray in the face, jump down, jump back up, grab some seeds, spray in the face. Finally I ran out of water. I slumped to the floor in defeat. Rusty boy cleaned out the feeder.
The other day I covered the lilac with a sheet and attached it to the window. No squirrel.
Then the wind kicked up, the sheet billowed in the air in front of the window. Ellie shrieked in terror, Lennie barked in reaction to her shriek, Johnny burst into a wail when the dog barked.
Rusty took the opportunity to jump into the feeder.
I put a full bowl of bird seed on the snowy ground in front of the house. I sprinkled seeds on the snowbank. I have thrown almonds at the squirrel. I’ve yelled at him. I have moved the feeders three times.
This morning I woke up to see this.
So I am admitting defeat.
We are no longer at war with the red squirrels in the feeder or the huge gray squirrels who have eaten every suet cake all winter.
I am embracing their furry cuteness. I am learning to admire the courage and tenacity of these wild creatures who are determined to survive.
The truth is, if I had to work that hard to live, I’m not sure I’d make it.
So come on, Rusty. I’ll put Lennie outside for now.