A squirrel perched on a patch of snow.
Why, I wondered, had he selected this icy spot? There was plenty of dry seating nearby. The furry fellow sat perfectly still, his face disclosing no sign of discomfort. I zoomed in to see if he was shivering. That’s one way that squirrels stay warm.
Studying the squirrel through the lens, I could count his whiskers. But seeing no sign of a shiver, I stepped back from the camera.
That’s when I saw the second face.
Do you see the face? I shared this photo online, and one friend’s comment made me laugh out loud. “It’s an Ent,” she wrote. Of course! Ents are tree-like beings; Middle-Earth creatures and shepherds of the trees. If you read Tolkien, this makes perfect sense.
I named my Ent neighbor Snag Face (snags are dead and dying trees). His features are vestiges of a most unfortunate pruning some 20 years ago.
The prior owner of our home hacked off several tree limbs to improve his view of the lake below. His large, jagged cuts surpassed the tree’s ability to wall off the resulting wounds. In a process called compartmentalization, trees surround their wounds with tissue that prevents bacteria and fungi from creeping inside the tree. But a ragged cut—which can also happen naturally, if a branch breaks during a storm—often leaves layers of wounds that the tree cannot wall off.
In time, rot spread through our tree. The branch stubs splintered and crumbled. Calluses formed, including the one that became Snag Face’s ‘eye.’ The tree’s rotted interior is largely hollow now. And that explains the squirrels’ constant presence: They nest and shelter inside.
There may or may not be Hobbits roaming our West Michigan wood. But this tree’s facial features are unmistakable. And they’re magically able to morph into several personas! Well, I’ll admit that this magic is the angle of my photography. Snag Face’s chin (formed by an adjacent branch stub) disappears when viewed from the west.
Here he is in a pensive pose.
And here—chin restored—Snag Face wears a pleased-to-meet you look during face-to-face encounters with the squirrels.
Squirrels run constantly over, in, and through Snag Face’s features. Take a look:
One more tilt of the camera reveals the darker side of Snag Face.
I see a scream… do you suppose he’s finally fed up with squirrels sitting on his nose?