A squirrel, a truck, and a scandal

This morning I chased a squirrel away from our birdfeeder three or four times in less than ten minutes. The birdfeeder is outside our kitchen window, roughly twelve to fifteen feet above the ground. Every time I chased the squirrel, he leaped (or leapt) toward a large oak tree several feet away from the house. Of course in leaping he plummeted several feet down before reaching the tree. Each time, though, he managed to cling to the trunk before scampering away in one or another direction, only to return again to the birdfeeder when he thought I wasn’t watching.

Other bloggers might try to make some Life Lesson from this event, something about leaping to safety or clinging to the tree. What ran through my mind this morning was completely different. Each time the squirrel jumped, I saw him follow the same parabolic arc. I learned about that arc in high school math and physics. Every unsupported object near the earth is drawn by gravity toward the earth. The speed of the fall accelerates, so unless the object is falling straight down, its path will be a parabolic arc. I remember the physics teacher explaining that if an archer shot an arrow at a monkey sitting in a tree hundreds of yards away, and if the monkey dropped from the tree at the instant the arrow left the bow, gravity would pull the moving arrow and the dropping monkey at the same rate. If the archer had aimed directly at the monkey, the arrow would reach the monkey, and its path would be a parabolic arc.

It’s unlike me not to try to find some Life Lesson about the leaping squirrel. Usually I’m good at creating analogies from any situation. I remember one event some years ago. Several of us were riding in the bed of a pick-up truck. I noticed how we could see the road behind us, where we had been. We could see other places where we had not been. We could not see where we were going. Life is like that: we observe where we were, and we see what might have been, but we know far less about where we are going.

I was thinking about that analogy as I drove to my counseling appointment. I brought a book with me, because I usually have twenty or thirty minutes to kill in the waiting room before the counselor is ready to see me, and I don’t care much for the television news shows. Around the middle of the session, my counselor remarked, “You look tired? Did you sleep poorly last night?”

I frowned. “Not that I recall.”

“Well, is something bothering you today?”

I thought for a minute. “I can’t think of anything that’s bothering me.”

“Are you angry or irritated about something?”

“No, I’m sure that I’m not.”

“Are you not feeling well today?”

“I’ve had a little minor sinus pain, but nothing serious.”

The counselor then changed the subject, and I didn’t think much about the exchange until I was driving to work after the session. Why would my counselor think I might be troubled or angry? I glanced at the book I had been reading: In the Arena by Richard Nixon. In the pages I read in the waiting room, the former president had discussed Watergate: myths about the scandal that people have written and others have believed, what really had happened so far as Nixon knew, the mistakes he had made, and the double standard he perceived in the way he was treated compared to the treatment given other American politicians.

I can be intensely involved in my reading. I suspect that, without knowing it, I had carried Nixon’s Watergate problems into the session with me. I may be wrong about that, but it’s the best theory I can find.

Other bloggers would try to combine the leaping squirrel, the ride in the pick-up truck, and the Watergate scandal into one neat package. It would be quite a trick, but I’m sure it can be done. I’m sorry to say that I’m not having that kind of day where things knit together into one neat package. Feel free to share if you can combine these anecdotes into one Life Lesson. J.


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