Posted in Nature, Relationships

COVID Connections

COVID Connections by Ginger Keller Gannaway

In March I started 7:20 a.m. walks through my eclectic neighborhood. 

Early mornings I pass subsidized apartments, an elderly elementary school, a head shop, a short strip mall that includes a convenience store with an impressive mural of Ice Cube on its side wall, a local take-out pizza joint, a Mexican restaurant, and a hair salon. A mental health hospital is a few blocks away, and a very unpopular Sonic is across the street from us.

I begin my walks down a sidewalk-less street with mostly trailer homes. I turn onto a shady street of duplexes and small houses. Later I follow a busy street towards a tiny park with lots of trees and a few backless stone benches. I pass a Korean Catholic Church before I head back home down a wide street with bike lanes on both sides. After I pass the elementary school, I turn onto my own street of apartments where people work on their cars and hang out after work. I hear music and conversations more often in Spanish than English. 

A Lounge of Cats

Lots of cats roam my street, and one cat gives me the willies; I call it the opossum cat because of its weird white face and its pointed nose and menacing stare. A black dog with huge balls and stubby legs appears some times. He wears a frayed grey collar without tags that was once blue. He’s a curious guy without menace. His walk is brisk and reminds me of Tramp from the early Disney movie; he’s resourceful and scrappy and free.

After I’d been walking for several weeks at the same time each morning, I began connecting with some people. Brisk Walking Woman was my first connection. She lives close by, makes fast laps around the streets, and wears a wide-brimmed orange floppy hat. 

Near the park I pass Scraggly-bearded Man in a motorized wheelchair with a small white dog on a leash. He is often barefoot, and I once helped him untangle the dog leash from his wheels while the dog sat in his lap and barked at me. The man and I both wore face masks; I was equally fearful of his dog biting me as I was of catching the virus. 

In July after I’d said hello to Young Gardener tending her raised bed of flowers and vegetables, she offered me fresh tomatoes! Score!! I later gave her blueberry muffins, and after swapping names, we now swap fresh produce and baked goods. 

There’s also Wonderful Woman who carries a cane for protection and has a sunny smile to match her bright disposition and bold colored wardrobe. 

I also wave to Tie-dyed Lady who wears her dog leash around her waist and Tall & Handsome Guy who walks a hyper black and white puppy that gives my hand puppy-nips when I pet him.  

Recently I encountered Tiny Woman who has grey and black curls and walks her dachshund near the elementary school and waves at me across the street.

Waving to my walking friends reminds me of a Dan Hertzfeldt’s cartoon: “Billy’s Balloon.” In the cartoon, a stick figure kid gets lifted into the sky by his red balloon, and while he’s floating into the clouds, he sees another kid being carried upward by a yellow balloon. They wave at each other from across the distance. They smile. Then an airplane ploughs right through the kid with the yellow balloon.

My walks connect me to others, and when we wave hello and make mundane comments about the high humidity or the welcome breeze, life seems almost normal. Yet underneath the brief bits of friendliness lie the uncertainty and fear that never fully go away. 

My face mask hangs from my left ear when my sidewalk is empty for blocks ahead. About fifty percent of early walkers I see have masks.

Last week Wonderful Woman was on my side of  the street, and after I said, “Feels like fall,” when I passed her, she pulled down her mask and said, “ What? I can’t understand you.” 

So standing a few feet from her, I pulled down my own mask and we had a one minute conversation as I shoved worry and fear into a back room of my mind next to paranoia and uncertainty.  I feel the need to connect to others as much as I feel the desire to stay safe. May we handle our connections with equal amounts of compassion and safety.

Posted in Boo, Nature, Photography

Squirrels Are Nuts

“Those Bastards!” I heard Boo hollar from the family room window.

“Those dang squirrels have eaten every bite of the bird seed and are now taunting the Bluejays.”

We stood side by side, noses pressed against the window watching as the squirrely creatures took over the backyard.

“It’s like a gang has taken over ‘the yard’ at Alcatraz.  Instead of the Bloods and Crips, it’s the Flying Nuts and the Angry Birds,” I said.

A few years ago our daughter and son-in-law gave us the Yankee Flipper bird feeder, which was our eighth bird feeder in five years.  It was pricey, sturdy and guaranteed to keep squirrels away from the bird food.  “Guaranteed!”  

The Yankee Flipper is designed to spin and flip anything heavier than a bird.  I hate to admit it, but we had a blast watching as it spun, and then gently tossed the squirrels into the grass.  No squirrels were harmed in the process, but it provided hours of entertainment as we watched our pesky guests become dazed and confused.

Squirrels are a member of the rodent family.  They include tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, flying squirrels and prairie dogs. (I always thought a tree squirrel and a ground squirrel were the same thing.)  There are red squirrels and black squirrels and our usually brown ones.  Who knew there could be so many different species?

What is a squirrel’s purpose in life?  I used to think they were so cute, but now they dig up my plants and eat my bird seed.  Remember Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies?  She was always cooking up a mess of stewed squirrel or roast possum.  Sounds like the Keto diet gone amuck.  And talk about attitude…squirrels taunt birds and upset the cat with high pitched chirping, squeeks, scraping and barks.  They act entitled and indignant all at the same time.

Just for fun I read about having a squirrel for a spirit animal.  Who would openly admit this, I wondered?  To have a squirrel on your totem pole means you are very resourceful and that you prepare for the present and future.  And if you dream about squirrels it means you need to lighten your load of clutter and unnecessary items, and that you need more fun in your life.  I tell you this because I know there are still squirrel lovers out there, although the number may be dwindling.

Lest I digress, the Yankee Flipper motor had to be charged occasionally to keep the twirl and flip going.  But, as the years have gone by it has lost its ability to juice up.

Our birds love the large feeder but the problem is the squirrels think it is for them, too.  I personally have watched as a squirrel hangs between the feeder and the tree, perpendicular to the ground, swinging to and fro until he can make the leap.  Sometimes they jump from the tree onto the top of the feeder and shimmy down to the food.  I must admit, they are agile little daredevils.  When we open the backdoor, they freeze to see who it is.  If it’s me, they hang loose and gingerly take their time climbing back up the tree.  If it’s Boo, they disappear in a matter of seconds and perch high enough to chatter and backtalk until he goes back in.

“I won’t go down without a fight”  Boo saluted.  “They have met their match.  Remember when we went to Yosemite, and they taught us to clap our hands loud and yell ‘Hey bear’ if we came across a grizzly?”

“Yes, Babe, but….”  As I turned to look his way, I saw him in his Ranger hat and filling up a water gun, but it was too late.  He was heading out into the back yard.

I give up’, I whispered to myself and moved closer to watch what would happen next.  Squirrels are nuts, and Boo… is Boo.

All photographs are my own…..obviously