Thursday, April 12, 2007

Small Victories and Hunting Squirrels


"Country Outing" by Rob Blackard
Courtesy of allposters.com

I
had a message on my answering machine this past weekend letting me know that a library book I'd requested via an inter-library loan had arrived. I love, love, love the fact that inter-library loans exist. I don't know if its my taste in reading or what, but many times, the books I want are not carried by either of the county libraries nearby where I live. Inter-library loans, however, allow me to browse libraries from all over the country! Your library can do this for you too! I am not a big book buyer. If I know that there is a book that I love and that I will refer to many times, I will purchase it, but if I just hear of a book - a good review or recommendation - I prefer to check it out at the library first. When people talk to me about simplifying their lives, decluttering, or when I have done workshops, I often mention this. Books are truly treasures. They are often one thing that people don't mind spending money on, because, after all, books are good for you! They are often things people are afraid to part with as well. This is where libraries come in so handily. Other than your reference books and a few treasured books with sentimental value, why not donate some of your collection to the library? I know that is tantamount to heresy for some, but think of the library as your storage unit, if you will. It will likely be there when you want it and other folks can benefit from your books in the meantime. Those inspiring ideas, that beautiful language, that well-formed sentence will be appreciated by someone new instead of collecting dust on your shelf.

Now... where was I?

So, I get the call to pick up the book and I know I need to pick it up right away, because usually the loan time on inter-library loans is shorter than those from your local library and often they are not renewable. But I had just been to the library a few days earlier and I really have not been wanting to drive as much - certainly not for one-item trips. The library is approximately seven miles from my house. A bike ride would be easy for me, but would my 10-year-old - and more importantly, my 7-year-old - be able to handle the 14 mile round trip?

I thought.
I considered.
I asked them both.

This was on Monday and we were just starting school. Let's see... sitting at home going through our regular routine or having an adventure and taking a bike ride to the library which meant going over a bridge over the interstate and having all that traffic whizzing under our feet. Which do you think they chose?

I had a backup plan too. Grandma's house is about 5 miles from us and we would pass by on the way. So we packed our lunches and I reasoned a pit stop at Grandma's for lunch and rest and a bit of play with the visiting cousins would make the trip an easier one. And if they were really pooped, someone was there who could give the girls a ride home.

So off we went. And here is the small victory: Not that they loved it (which they did and which I expected), but that they were not tired at all! They kept exclaiming, "This is AWESOME!!" And Eve (my younger) kept pointing out all the cool things we would have missed had we taken the car: a large, loudly rapping Pileated Woodpecker, a Red-Shouldered Hawk, a pair of birds feeding each other on a wire, and the cool temperature change and freshness of the air as we passed a stand of trees. I had told them that I wanted them to write about their bike trip for school the next day, so they were being particularly astute in their observations.

There was one stretch of the ride that bothered me. It was the only part of the ride that required us to ride - on a sidewalk - along a busy highway. Sidewalk or no sidewalk, it frightens me. One false move of the driver and, well, the answer was obvious. One doesn't realize the violence of cars until they are moving at 50 miles per hour past you. And that certainly isn't the fastest we travel. While I appreciate the ability to travel long distances in a shorter amount of time and with a certain level of comfort (getting more and more comfortable every day, it seems, with the amount of stuff you can have in cars these days), I don't really like 'em much. There is a whole host of reasons I have, but one of the greatest is how they hurt people and animals.

Today, on our way to Grandma's again, this time in a vehicle, I noticed a little dead squirrel on the road. Sometimes I wonder if people purposely hit them. I know they are not the greatest loved creature in the world, but I think they are quite charming. Some day I'm going to have a bumper sticker printed that reads, "I Break for Squirrels".

I can't help wondering if the one on the road I saw today... or yesterday... or a week ago... is one that would frequent our yard for seeds and nuts (yes, from our bird feeder, but I don't prefer birds to squirrels, but enjoy them equally) from the feeder or the ground. I wonder if it is the one that likes to travel along the screen on our lanai and chirp loudly at our dog and three cats that love to watch it so intently. Or the one that loves to come within 2 feet of our dog and scold her and which is obviously playing with her or teasing her or both.

I wondered those things and then I began counting squirrels. Our neighborhood is somewhat older and has far fewer deed restrictions than the newer neighborhoods springing up everywhere. Those are the same type of neighborhoods portrayed in the movie, "Over the Hedge." You know the ones: matching, green, chem-lawns, everyone keeping their grass the same length, perhaps a golf course in the background somewhere. We are surrounded by those types of neighborhoods here in FL, but ours is not like that - thankfully!! So, in my highly un-scientific count through my neighborhood, I counted 12 squirrels breakfasting on various lawns. I mentioned it to the girls as I counted and we began squirrel hunting. But, unlike the squirrel on nearly every lawn as we road through our less -cultivated neighborhood, we couldn't find any as we began driving through Grandma's neighborhood (a golfing neighborhood). The girls were getting pretty disappointed. "Does that dead one count?" asked Eve. "No, but that's another to add to that count," I answered. :( We discussed the possible reasons for the lack of squirrels. Pesticides perhaps? I don't know the answer for sure and perhaps our counting was just a fluke today. We did end up seeing 3 more squirrels as we arrived closer to Grandma's.

I think we're going to have some fun with a clipboard and tally-marks in the car now, counting different wildlife we see on our travels. The girls had a blast at this simple game and maybe our data will begin to show us things. Maybe not, but we'll be more aware while we're in the car when we're not on our bikes - which I hope to be more and more. It's been a good week. A good week with a few small victories.
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