A Winter High Wire Act

I’m not too young to remember when people used to sit outside. Summer afternoons always saw my grandfather sitting in a chair on the lawn – we didn’t have a porch – reading the afternoon daily paper.

I have the good fortune to live in a house with a front porch. In fact, every house in my neighborhood has a front porch. I sit on mine every chance I get – to eat breakfast, enjoy a coffee, write in my journal, visit with family, and occasionally doze for a moment or two.

I also watch squirrels. I was sitting watching a squirrel the other day when I was reminded of a time in the dead of winter …

We lived in Lake Placid and I was shoveling the driveway after a winter snowfall. It was very early in the morning, and the earth was incredibly still. In between shovels-full I thought I heard a kind of hissing noise. It persisted – far away, yet close. It was dark. I looked around, listening as hard as I was looking. The street lights illuminated the road in front of the house, and snow seemed to be falling in a steady clump running up the road. There was no wind.

I looked up toward the telephone and cable wires that ran from pole to pole, and the several inches of snow that had accumulated on the wire was coming off. It was as if the snow was a line of dominoes, falling in a very ordered fashion. The few seconds of puzzlement gave way to an explanation when the snow stopped falling and a squirrel raised its head up above the snow on the wire. The little critter was burrowing its way up the street, precariously balanced on a wire covered up over its head with snow, and I burst out laughing.

Along with amazing beauty, the world affords us endless entertainment. A neighborhood cat playing Sherlock Holmes; a chipmunk vying for territory with a robin; the leashed dog stopping its master every five feet either to sniff or pee; and the squirrels!

NASA’s recent flyby of Pluto reminds us of the immensity of the cosmos. Global warming reminds us of how fragile some of these natural systems are. Sudden storms like the one many experienced in the north country on Tuesday afternoon remind us of nature’s incredible strength. But squirrels – they remind us to laugh as well as wonder.

There is a lot happening that is hilarious. This doesn’t minimize or trivialize the fact of so much pain in our world. But for the tears we shed because of the injustices of life, may there be a squirrel that crosses your path. Sit outside for a few moments, let your hair down, relax and see not only the wonder of it all, but the joy, too.

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.