Senseless Habits

Req Squirrel in a treeWay back in 1988 Kristin and I worked at a summer family camp helping with recreation for the high school students.

Each morning I got up early and went to a trail in the forest that had an old chair parked in a convenient spot. I’d sit and think and read and pray and get ready for the day ahead.

The first morning, just after I got settled in, I heard a rustling in the leaves. Along came a squirrel. It climbed up a small poplar tree that was bent out over the trail, likely due to a heavy snowfall the past winter.

The top of this tree leaned very close to a similar tree from the other side, forming a bridge of sorts, though the contact was minimal and the branches at that point weren’t much more than twigs.

The squirrel made its way to the very top of the bent sapling, leapt to the one leaning in from the other side, and despite barely getting a grip with its front legs, managed to hang on, get onto the second tree and run down its trunk before carrying on in its quest for whatever squirrels look for at dawn.

I thought it was an odd bit of acrobatics and went back to my reading.

The next morning, I heard a rustling in the leaves, and the exact same process was repeated, precarious leap and all.

And then the next morning, and the next. All week long.

It’s easy to figure out what had happened.

In the winter, when the snow was soft and powdery, the squirrel had taken the tree bridge for its ease of navigation. The two trees would have been more deeply bent and likely overlapped significantly.

All winter, it continued with its easy path.

But then the snow melted. The trees leaned a little less and their tops grew farther apart. The snow firmed up, making the surface far easier to traverse than the trees.

But the squirrel kept taking his no-longer-easy path. After all, it was its path, its pattern, routine, habit.

I’d be surprised if the squirrel actually made it through the summer without at least one crash and burn.

Did the senseless difficulty of the ridiculous path ever cause the squirrel to rethink its habits?

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