“I’ve trained all my life not to be distracted by distractions.”
I commute to work at least three times per week. When I am not distracted, I notice things. Recently, I was concerned by the number of squirrels that did not make it across the road. I counted too many as the pavement swept by.
Ever since I was a little kid I have had the reflex to repeat a silent prayer in my mind whenever I come across an injured or dead animal. I have no idea how or why this habit started. I would see the creature, close my eyes, and offer a blessing for peace. I still do this. But now that I am the one driving the car and no longer in the back seat, I can only offer a blink and a prayer.
Needless to say, on one recent morning commute, there was a lot of blinking. It made sense that this was happening: it was fall; animals were preparing for colder weather. Winter was coming! Squirrels in particular were busy packing their cheeks with acorns and racing to store them. (They can run up to 20 miles per hour.)
I wonder if they know cars can stop them. I wonder if they time their sprints. I wonder if they are simply distracted by their instincts. I wonder why I wonder about them.
I can be a highly distracted human. Meditation has made this perfectly clear. One thing that helps me return to myself is nature. It has always been this way. I find comfort in the habits of animals and birds. When my personal life gets complicated and getting in bed seems like the only logical solution, I often look to wildlife.
Could it be that these squirrels were distracted, too? Could it be that it was because they were responding to the needs of the day and the season that they overlooked the danger of crossing a road? My initial thought was of instinct, which they seemed to be at the mercy of. They could not possibly reason their way into a more successful way of getting their nuts to the nest…or could they? I didn’t think so.
Until I saw her.
She was up on a wire running across the street, using her bushy tail as ballast. She would make it across the road that was becoming a memorial to so many others. I could feel my chest flutter. This could not be luck. This was not simply instinct. This was genius!
And this is what I love most about the natural world. It is all around us. Sometimes we are moving through it; other times, it is moving past us. Either way, its lessons are always there. For me, on this particular commute, it brought my attention to my own distractibility. It’s why the milk ends up in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge. Part of the deal of being in this ‘earth suit’, for sure. But, like most things, also workable once attention is brought into the equation.
Like these racing squirrels, we get carried away by our habits, especially as a new school year begins and the calendar reminds us of what lies ahead. Make your plans, but be in the needs of the day. Cross any roads with care and, on occasion, take the wire less travelled, like our heroine the Route 119 Squirrel.
PS..the internet tells me “Memory and abstract thought are two hallmarks of intelligence that squirrels have proven they are capable of.”