June 21st, 2021
Sometimes it takes an animal’s perspective to help us understand our own lives; the way that humans tend to overcomplicate things often gets in the way of seeing them clearly.
This has become very apparent as I finish up hundreds of pages of squirrel research.
I have fun facts for days (I can explain to you at length why squirrels will eat white oak acorns today and bury red oak acorns for later) but I’ve been thinking about this particular anecdote a lot lately.
In general, female gray squirrels practice something called natal philopatry; it means that, more often than not, they will remain in the same home where they were born after they mature. It allows them to have strong bonds with kin and build generations of family. Male gray squirrels, on the other hand, almost universally leave their place of birth once they’re of age.
In one study, the scientists noted that 2% of the male squirrels they observed did not leave their nest once they were grown.
These two squirrels had lost their mother at a young age.
And realizing that grief has an enormous impact on even a creature so small is a powerful realization.
We wonder why we can’t just move on, and we analyze it and we rationalize it and we expect to be the same person more or less after it happens. Animals show us that loss is life-altering in a permanent way that can’t be explained by words.
Humans love to think that our intellect means we experience certain things that no other creature could possibly get. Animals show us that grief is universal, and humans aren’t lucky enough to carry it alone.