We’ve got cul-de-sacs and barbecues…


{Cooler weather is coming– well, periodically at least. It still warms up, as it did today at 70+ degrees. That, of course, is bonfire weather; and even if you’re not in an area that’s particularly hospitable to bonfires, you must at least make an effort (but do try not to leave it burning like this one so critters like Shetland and Pony can stumble across it, of course!). In my case, this amounted to rambling over to the nearest park and cooking paella over the grill. The rather sportive nature of the winds today made it interesting to actually keep the young fire going, and to keep from having one’s hair and clothing set alight once it did start. In hindsight, a billowy skirt was a poor decision. But the firewood was dry and the weather fine, and the smell of smoke will air out eventually.

The one thing that did dampen my spirits a little was the discovery of a squirrel’s tiny corpse under a tree as I was searching out branches for the fire. It was quite whole from what I saw, though perhaps it had been struck by a car in the nearby parking lot and made it that far. I tried not to dwell on it too long and gathered my firewood elsewhere. It’s always alarming and unpleasant to find a dead animal in an unexpected place (or any place, of course, but it’s rather less surprising in the middle of a road or some similarly hazardous part of the world).

That said, I find myself unpleasantly alarmed quite often in my new neighborhood, as something — maybe the higher density of wildlife near the streets? — results in quite a number of tiny corpses on the lovely residential sidewalks. Squirrels, chipmunks, nestling birds, and various bits and pieces no longer identifiable as anything but “former animal” pop up far more frequently than I’ve been accustomed to in the past. For several days after a storm I found myself crossing to the other sidewalk on the way to work, to avoid a medium-sized bird carcass that apparently went unnoticed by the owner of the home outside of which it lay. It slowly turned from flesh to bones and then dust at last.

This has certainly taken a macabre turn, but it is nearly Halloween after all. I’ll close with the more upbeat observation that the short-tailed squirrel, whom I’ve christened (with spontaneity’s typically breathtaking lack of creativity) “Stumpy,” appears to be doing quite well for himself this year. So far as I can tell his domain encompasses a block or two in the vicinity of 7th street, and with all the local sciurine fatalities I’m always pleased to see him alive and well and growing fatter by the day. I assume it was a close call with a car that claimed part of his foxy brush, but it could well have been one of the yowling half-feral felines in the area as well. He now gets around with a distinctly bouncy gait, and these days looks for all the world like some sort of marmot with his plump body and brief tail.

Unless this is a common injury in the area, Stumpy in his current state has been around since nearly three years ago at the least; not too shabby for a fox squirrel with a gimpy tail. I always walk carefully when I see him to avoid accidentally driving him into the street. Of course, at this point he’s probably better-versed in the ways of the road than I am, but we humans do love to feel a little bit important when we can…}


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