Issues with Squirrels
I thought going back to my site sit would be scary. I've walked past the tree a few times, and it's lost most of its leaves. Its silver branches and a some auburn, dead leaves (mostly on one side of the tree) are all that remain of the lush, green tent I used to sit in. I went to my site sit when it was dark, too, so I thought that I wouldn't feel very comfortable in the tree anymore. But, the only really unsettling thing about my site sit was that all of the leaves were gone. People could see inside and I could see them with remarkable clarity. The tree has changed it's physicality for the season, and its atmosphere has, too. The frightening mystery I first felt at the beginning of the semester would have been gone even if the tree had kept its green leaves. The tree and I are pretty "chill" now. I wouldn't say that we're going to be best friends any time soon, but I've gotten used to it, at least a few branches of it. I don't know what I'll do in the tree when the semester is over, but I think I'll visit from time to time to say hello.
I went on a geological and biological tour of campus with Susan and Maddie from our class and Max and Sarah S from English 313. We spent about the recommended times on everything we were supposed to (a half an hour to get to know each other and then forty-five minutes for each tour), but we didn't split it up so exactly, we talked about things as they became relevant to the environment we were in, which I thought worked out pretty well. We had room to discuss what we needed to and inform each other, but we were also able to have more of a conversation, and bring things back up if we had forgotten to say them earlier, or wanted to expand on them a little more.
Today was the most perfect fall day in the tree. I wasn't cold at all, or excessively warm. (Note: I did not have to do jumping jacks. Any day that I don't have to do jumping jacks to stay warm is a pretty good day) I was a bit skeptical when I approached the tree, because its leaves have not turned to a shocking red or a bright yellow, but a slightly icky in-between color of caramel, yellow, and light green. (On one leaf! The horror!) But the leaves inside the tree were (thank goodness!) a nicer yellow, with fewer dead leaves. The air was crisp, but the slight breeze that tickled the outside of the tree, didn't touch me. There was enough light to see under the tree, and, when I emerged, a slight pink was blending with the blue sky at the horizon. It was a good day.
Last night, my site was different than usual. For one, I visited the site at night. The tree I sit under has also lost a lot of leaves. When I was wondering around last night, trying to find my usual branch, I was scared out of my wits. The tree looked incredibly different--I wasn't sure if I was looking in the right tree. And I couldn't see any squirrels (which is not a good thing, because they have become very fond of sneaking up on me). So, despite not being very religious? I said the Hail Mary out loud over and over again. But, after I'd found the spot andfoully checked out the tree with my flashlight for squirrels, I managed to settle down a lot. The only noise I could hear was from humans. I could hear myself, and also a lot of noise from Radnor and a few people walking by the tree. The piece of "nature" I go to every weekend is really not in nature. Now that the leaves aregoing, it no longer even looks like that might bepossible. It's very touches by the well-to-do "nature" of the college. It's even touched by religion.
Today, when I sat on my new branch on in the same tree that I've been sitting in this semester, the tree was still green. A couple of weeks ago, there were lots of yellow, orange, and brown leaves on the tree, waiting to fall off. Hurricane Sandy must have taken care of that. Now, from the outside, the tree looks green and happy, like it did at the beginning of the year. From the inside, though, there are a lot of totally bare branches. The branches above my old spot are so bare that the "tent" I have been talking about has turned into an amphitheater. The new spot is pretty covered up top, but there are a lot of barren places.
Sitting on tree branches has been made a lot more comfortable now that there's a wool coat providing a cushion. I got to snuggle into my scarf and wonder where the multitudes of squirrels had gone. In the next couple of weeks, I'm going to bring some cocoa along and make sitting in the tree even cozier. What happens in December, though? How long are we going to sit outside? I love the outdoors, but, at some point, sitting outside for a half an hour just isn't going to be that fun anymore.
When we took our geological tour of Bryn Mawr on Thursday, we learned a lot about rocks. Like our trip to Harriton House, we also learned about how humans manipulate their surroundings. I have, in my past observations of my on-campus site, been very tentative about harming that environment. I hesitate before I bounce a little on the branches that I sit on and tentatively brush the vine-like branches aside when I walk to the tree trunk. I try not to impose myself upon the tree.
But, today, I did something that I’ve never done before while sitting under my tree. I used an umbrella. Harriton House leases apartments to sustain itself and Bryn Mawr College diverts runoff for the township to compensate for its own. Today, I, too, added a man-made object into the equation to make myself more comfortable. As much as I like to think that the willow I observe protects me, it still manages to let a not insignificant amount of rain through. So, despite planning on letting the rain drops fall down peacefully on me, I opened my umbrella back up.
I didn’t harm the tree. I might have hurt my chances of observing nature a bit, but I also improved my overall experience. Because I used the umbrella, I don’t resent the tree for not protecting me. And the tree doesn’t resent me. Sometimes, it’s okay to supplement nature a little bit to make ourselves more comfortable. It’s really alright.
We talked a lot about sustainability when we were at Harrington House yesterday. Sustainability meant something different when Bruce used it in terms of Harriton House, and when I hung out in my spot afterwards, it made me think of the sustainability of the beech tree that I've been sitting in.
A lot of the trees and deer that are around Harrington House are really abundant now, but they were hardly in the picture when Harriton was built. Even though I sit in a tree every week to observe "nature," I'm really sitting in an arboretum--a pale, human-made replica of what nature "should" look like. I observe a representation of nature, next to a grass lawn, this week with pop music blaring from the athletic fields. Like the "nature" around Harriton House, the tree sit in, and other bits of "nature" on the campus allows the collegiate image of Bryn Mawr to be sustainable.
Like the deer near Harriton, the squirrels that scamper around the college are probably a lot more populous than is "natural." But I still see the squirrels as being a part of nature. I still think that my issues with squirrels reflect a greater problem with animals and anything not molded or consciously protected by humans. Now I just need to figure out what humans have influenced, and what's really supposed to be out there. Or even what "supposed to be" really means.
Windy out but not in here
A tent that shields from the elements
But shutting me in
With a squirrel
Absent right now
But any minute
It could approach.
Am I sitting where the squirrels fight?
Where they thought
They could frolic and wander free
Away from students.
Even when they are absent,
I am in their tracks
They cannot escape from me
As I invade their space
And I cannot escape from them.
Funnily enough, sometimes animals live in nature. There are squirrels in the tree that I'm observing in, and we have some unresolved issues.
I barely touched the soil. I sat on a tree branch and listened. I listened to the back and forth of bugs. Conversing with others, trying to scare others away, or making noise just because they could, I don't know. All I know is that they spun a song that only I, under their willow tree, could hear. This afternoon, I parted the vines that the falling willow branches formed. I decided which of the four large branches to sit on, and then I listened. I expected the shade of the tree to make the chilly day even more goose bump-inducing, but the enclosure that the willow's branches formed made me more cozy, so I didn't notice the chill as much as I had walking to the tree. After I sat, I walked around the tree, as if to pay respect to all of the tree's attributes, not just the one branch I sat on. There are initials gashed into the tree's exterior, some hearts, some that seem to have been made by lovers, and others by one person trying to stake his or her claim on the tree. I saw a pool of water that has been there every time I have paid tribute to that willow, stagnant in a basin that a root has opened into. I decided that I will work my way up the branches. Today, even though I was sitting in the tree, my feet were still firmly on the ground. Next Sunday, I'll go higher. I'll slide and climb and jump my way onto the highest position I can sit in by the end of this project. Along with observing the word under the tree, I'll also become more adventurous, inch by inch, and Sunday by Sunday.