Serenity-Seeking Squirrels

An eastern gray squirrel stretches as though to touch the sky

What’s your favorite squirrel nickname?

Tree Rat? Seed snitch? Bane of the backyard birder?

Squirrels get a really bad rap. Not at my house, though. I harbor no ill will toward the bushy tails—no resentment for wasted seed, no anger at stolen suet. That’s because we do not feed the birds, who seem to dine just fine on our woods’ native food. Not to mention that when I film, I prefer catching the creatures in trees instead of hanging on feeders. So, aside from the racket our dog Remy makes when he spots a squirrel in a scurry, what’s not to love? Indeed, I’m grateful to the squirrels. They’re entertaining, and they eat tons of acorns. If you happen to have a lawn surrounded by oaks, you know why I think it’s wonderful when acorns do not have a chance to become seedlings.

But back to that bad rap. Apparently, it gives the little cuties a complex. Which could explain why I see them practicing tai chi in the trees.

Of course, it’s not truly tai chi that I see. But I notice squirrels with graceful, outstretched arms often enough to know it’s a baked-in behavior. Tai chi is described as meditation in motion, promoting serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

A squirrel reaches with both hands as though to touch the sky
A squirrel reaches with both hands as though to touch the sky

Watch the squirrel arms in today’s video, and then you tell me: serenity seekers, or just squirrels being…squirrels? Full disclosure: Some of the squirrel stretches are played in slow motion, not to fool the eye, but to make sure you don’t miss a single subtle gesture when the squirrel reaches to touch the sky.

The Mayo Clinic recommends tai chi for stress reduction. Maybe the squirrels need the help; probably they don’t. One thing’s certain: Watching wildlife, squirrels notably included, makes my own stress plummet.

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