Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Red Squirrel in the Evening

My parents purchased a Jeep Cherokee for me the summer before I started my sophomore year at Northern Michigan University and suffice to say, I drive... a lot. I drive to and from class, I drive to Presque Isle, and I drive the eight hours it takes to get to Ann Arbor, and the eight hours it takes to get back to Marquette. With all this traveling, it's amazing that I have only ever hit one animal while driving.

In August of 2008, my parents and I were on I-75, heading north to Marquette. A gray squirrel darted out in front of me; I couldn't brake, and I couldn't swerve, traveling at 70 miles an hour. It didn't have a chance, and I was quite upset for the rest of the trip. I could only hope that its death had been quick, but thinking about that made me even more upset.

Squirrels seem to be one of the most vulnerable animals on the road. It's like their brains short circuit when they see a car headed their way, and instead of dashing to safety, they run right into traffic. They're very unpredictable.

Earlier this week, while driving down Fourth Street, Steph spotted a red squirrel in the gutter. We doubled back to park on a side street, and as we did, this song started to play. It was amazingly appropriate and uncanny, and we both had our little chuckle. The red squirrel was incredibly intact; its eyes were open yet there was this blank, white cloud there which made it look unmistakably dead. The golden, early-evening sunlight caused its red fur to glow, and it was beautiful.

I'd never seen a dead red squirrel before. Like birds, they are so quick in life, and their stillness in death is almost surreal. After taking many pictures (and having Steph warn me of oncoming traffic), I moved the red squirrel off the road; surprisingly, his body was very stiff.

The entire time, two middle-aged men were watching me from their porch. I can only wonder what they were thinking.

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