A squirrel in the hand

A literally eventful time of the year, surrounding the Mournful Valley of my life, that rift of bereftness between Ann Daingerfield’s death day, 1/17, and Jacques Transue’s birthday, 1/22; see my 1/16 posting “At the rim of the Mournful Valley, singing”.

By accident, in this period fall two odd celebratory dates: 1/20, Penguin Awareness Day; and 1/21, today, Squirrel Appreciation Day. Plus, on a Monday in or near this period, MLK Day in the US (this year: yesterday, 1/20/20).

This year I’ve been terribly sick and deeply dispirited, but I was cheered by coming across a sweet photograph of a young Jacques and a squirrel he had, to some degree, tamed:


(#1) J’s lovely smile; the angular planes of his interestingly craggy face; his very lean but strong, muscular body, with its big bones (note his hands) — I am, complementarily, a small-boned man — plus, of course, the photogenic squirrel (which got a name — Andre, maybe, I’m not sure, this was, like, 50 years ago)

As for Squirrel Appreciation Day, I delved into that holiday last year, in my 1/22/19 posting “Squirrely”, where I wrote:

On the serious side, yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while on the silly side, it was Squirrel Appreciation Day.

(#2)

The squirrel watch and the creatures of the night. Over the years, I’ve posted fairly often about the vexations of keeping, or trying to keep, a small patio garden in an area densely inhabited by wily urban squirrels. They’ve caused quite a lot of damage.

In recent times, the squirrels have disappeared almost completely. I suspect someone of having poisoned them, but the fact is that I don’t see squirrels in my garden any more (or roof rats, either, though I had been periodically plagued by them).

Instead, my little garden has suffered from the activities of some evil creatures of the night. Where the squirrels, acting boldly in broad daylight, used to dig messy holes in the border and bury nuts in the plant containers (often uprooting and discarding young plants that got in the way), now some nocturnal creature scoops out small neat cup-like depressions in the mulch of the border. And this creature, or some other dark agent, chews off leaves of plants, chews into their margins the way insects do, eats buds wholly or in part, and chomps on the buds and flowers of my cymbidium orchids, leaving partially eaten remnants. Not sciurid behavior at all, and entirely nocturnal.

The leaf and bud chewing suggests garden snails or slugs, but I see no slime trails and find no visible gastropods when I go out in the middle of the night. And of course gastropods aren’t known for scooping out depressions in the soil.

So for the moment, all is mysterious. But it looks like the Night Demon has pretty well killed off my sizable hydrangea plant (Hydrangea macrophylla), by eating off its buds and leaves for two years in a row. Gardening can be a cruel sport.

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