Boy, would my husband be mad at me if he just saw what I did. I could just hear him now, “What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to make the problem worse!” But I couldn’t help it, really. It just seemed too cruel, considering that it’s a frozen wasteland out there right now. Deep snow, everything iced over, howling winds kicking up little snow tornados.
So what did I do? I threw a handful of seed out to a squirrel that was hanging upside down on my birdfeeder, desperately trying to steal a couple of seeds. I was watching him from the window this morning. He was sitting in a pile of snow under the feeder, digging for the miniscule finch seeds. Digging and digging. And I guess I felt sorry for him. Working so hard for a tiny little seed. Don’t do it, Heather, I thought to myself. You’ll just make them more comfortable around the house and you know how they dig up your garden every year.
And then I looked around the yard, and everything I saw was covered in white. This winter has been so long and there has been nothing for the animals to eat for a long time. How hard it must be to find the nuts they stored for the winter through the 2 feet of snow! And we still have a month or so to go.
When I found the squirrel hanging upside down on the birdfeeder, I tried to scare him off by banging on the window. He jumped off the feeder and looked at me. And it was almost like I could see the desperation in his eyes, the kind that would drive him to dig for hours in a frozen drift of snow for a seed or two. And here I had a whole 5-gallon bucket of birdseed right by my feet.
That’s My squirrel, I seemed to hear God say.
It’s true that I have to fight them every year to keep them out of our garden. I erect fences around the beds. I run out there at 7 a.m. in my bathrobe to shoo them out when I see them digging up my freshly planted seeds. I trim back more and more branches hanging over the fence that lead them directly into the garden. And I can often be found running around inside the fenced-in garden, swinging sticks and throwing rocks as the squirrels bounce off of the netting trying to find a way out. (That’s actually quite amusing.) They wreak havoc on my garden all spring, summer, and fall.
But here they are in the winter, struggling to find one more seed to keep them alive. Maybe it’s the incredible length of this winter. Maybe it’s the depressing howling of the winds over the empty landscape. Maybe it’s that I understand his struggle because I’ve been in my own “winter,” of sorts. Struggling to dig through deep snow to find that little bit of hope that helps me keep going. Begging God to meet me where I am at, running to Him out of desperate need for His encouragement and support. And just the other day, I woke up feeling like things were pretty good, like I could breathe easier. It’s the first time in a long time that I felt this way. God threw me some seeds. Enough hope for the day. Daily bread.
And so, I put on my boots and reached into the bucket, scooping out a giant cup of seeds. I’m sure that he’ll be back in the spring to dig up my garden. Later, he’ll be a menace and I’ll chase him around with a swinging stick. But for now, he’s simply another one of God’s creatures, desperately hoping and struggling to make it through the winter. As I open the front door, the wind kicks up fine, dusty snow in my face and into my robe. And I throw the seeds out by the birdfeeder. From one needy beggar to another.
And looking out the window a few minutes later, I find one happy squirrel searching through the seeds, nibbling away on every sunflower seed he can find. A wonderful little treat on such a desolate winter’s day. Dang, I wish they weren’t so cute with their big, dark eyes and with the way they hold seeds to their mouth with their tiny little paws. Oh well, I’ll worry about the garden later!
(Ten minutes later: Okay, I just looked outside and now there are three squirrels. Oops! They better at least finish the seed and be gone by the time my husband gets home.)