We have a squirrel-proof bird feeder in our yard. We’ve had it for years and it really is quite effective at keeping squirrels out of the bird seed. The seed is protected by a weighted bar. A bird can sit on the bar and eat happily, but if a heavier animal tries to do the same thing, the bar goes down and the seed is covered. Last year, when the branch that held the bird feeder broke, I decided to hang the feeder near the deck so it would be easy to fill during our snowy Michigan winters.
The feeder continued to work effectively until this spring when a small enterprising squirrel figured out that he could extend his body out from the deck and hold himself up with one paw without disturbing the bar. He’d reach into the seed with the other paw and return to the deck post to eat his haul. This went on for months. One small red squirrel regularly helped himself to the bird seed. We enjoyed watching him and he didn’t eat that much. No problem, right?
As spring turned into summer, other squirrels started watching. For most of them, the balancing necessary wasn’t feasible, but a few brave squirrels were persistent and successful. So now, not only has our first squirrely problem-solver found a fine food source, but he’s shared his innovation. How could I be upset?
These days, it feels as if there is much to learn from the squirrels. Our COVID world is difficult and frustrating. So many things feel out of reach. In our family, much-loved Thanksgiving traditions are on hold. Christmas will bring more of the same. And yet, when we can’t do things the usual way, my squirrel friends have been reminding me that if I stretch in new ways, I can still be fed—in both body and spirit. With one set of friends, we are contemplating eating pie outside around a heater (and praying we don’t have snow!) With another, we are talking about Zoom pie baking and online games that can help restore our post-dinner laughter. I found a cake-in-a-mug recipe that can fulfill a single friend’s dream of carrot cake in isolation.
These small moments of everyday creativity aren’t going to change a discipline or show up in a textbook, but it doesn’t mean they are unimportant. Everyday creativity not only helps us solve everyday problems, but it can help us preserve motivation and joy as we find new ways to choose to move forward. We’re tired. Pandemic fatigue is real. Days are getting colder and darker. In the face of those things, when it feels as if that bar is lowering one more time to cut us off from the things we value, let’s be the squirrels. Choose to stretch toward the things that bring you joy. We may only be grabbing a few seeds at a time, but they are going to be good! Then let’s share.