This essay is from a photo I took while at the University of Houston in mid-October, 2016
NOTE: I have revised and edited this essay; I encourage my readers to read that one instead.
Ordinarily when one thinks of squirrels, they often picture a little furry animal that runs up and down trees or away from people that get too close. Or perhaps more morbidly, dead furry little animals on the highway. Strangely, I was leaving the University of Houston campus early October of last year and stumbled across this one squirrel that, literally, stopped me in my tracks. Seeing squirrels on campus is not unusual; students must see at least two or three as they walk to their classes. What was fascinating about this squirrel though, was that it was just lying down, not doing anything. Unlike most squirrels we see on campus or even off campus, it wasn’t eating anything, running, nor was it dead (despite its appearance).
I looked at it for more than I’d like to admit and did my best to make sure I didn’t disturb it. God forbid, I make a sudden move and the squirrel notices I’d been staring and it runs off; then it’s not a story. Who would believe me that I saw a squirrel, of its own volition, lying down? Graciously though, I managed to get a photo of the little guy and when I went home, the photo resonated with me for a while but only humorously.
Thoughts were running through my head of pure satire, “what is this squirrel tired from? He doesn’t have midterms and little to no money in his checking account.” “Wonder what he’s thinking about.” “He looks so depressed, he probably found his squirrel girlfriend taking acorns from another man and is gradually contemplating suicide.”
Now when I examine the photo, it of course, still makes me laugh. But moreover, it makes me ponder at the fact that for this one brief moment, nature was at rest. Often when we watch nature documentaries or something, it’s rare that we see an animal that is not doing anything. I mean, I’m used to seeing a dog or my own cat asleep but the idea of any other animal just resting, was eerie. I’m fully aware that they are capable of sleeping, I don’t want to come off as naïve or something. It’s just that one never usually sees an animal at rest unless they’re at the zoo and that’s because animals there are trapped and miserable. But here, out in the open fields and fake green grass on the University of Houston campus, nature needs a break.
Because it was one of those “you don’t see that every day” one of moments, it seemed beautiful in a very strange way. The idea of a squirrel at rest, to me, shared the same manifestation like that of a sad clown. Of course we are aware that just because the person dressed as a clown, who is meant to symbolize fun and excitement, is a human being underneath all the makeup and puffy clothing; capable of emotions such as sadness, anger, confusion. But it’s because we people don’t often see it, and therefore, don’t consider it. And when we do encounter something like this, it’s understandably, awe-inspiring and in a very outlandish sort of way, aesthetic.
Originally written on the 18th of January, 2016