Friday, January 15, 2010

Odd jobs

Gray Squirrel on patio

It’s easy to get wrapped up in things, carried away, distracted this time of year. So many of life’s great joys converge and attempt to land in a 2-week span, that the daily routine stops dead in its tracks. There’s a flurry of activity, a great gathering and refreshing of tradition and lore.
Then, as quickly as they came, they’re off, again.
And I step back onto the trail, check the compass and walk on.


Monday morning, I went out to a cold car whose frosty form sat with a light covering of snow. Many days of idleness had left us both unwilling to move very fast. Sitting stiffly on the chilled upholstery, I pulled the door closed behind me--its noisy protest, a plea for heat, even from a pile of steel.
We sat for a while, waiting, as the cloud of my exhaled air spread further and further, filling the car, freezing on the glass and frosting my lashes. Then, I reached a gloved finger forward to the dash, slid the control to ‘defrost’ and turned on the fan. A few rattles later, warm air and a handful of seeds and split shells rose from the fine line between windshield and dashboard.

Several years ago, my daughter had the unfortunate luck as to have the vent of her small car chosen by our driveway mouse as the perfect spot to set up house keeping—and mice are untidy house keepers. After leaving it with us for just a few days, she returned to the recognizable smell and a blocked venting system, which with hot air behind it, grew more vile with each attempt to blow it free. Unwilling to drive with her head out the window, she held her breath long enough to get the mousy motorcar to a mechanic who painstakingly disassembled the dash, removed the messy mouse house and charged us handsomely for it. Thankfully, the mouse moved on, or so we thought.

The rattle of seed within the defroster made me wonder, though.
Starting back to work after days away, I backed the car slowly down the gravel drive, advancing the selector to ‘heat,’ and cranking the fan high. The warm breeze from the vent blasted a steady stream of small, black bullets that bounced off my jacket and fell in showers to cover the front seats. Mouse presence confirmed.

Just before the holidays, we had picked up a fifty-pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds and thinking it best to keep it safe from squirrels and wet weather, left it in the back of the car, while we got wrapped up in our guests and gift-giving. The bag had been removed days later and feeders filled with the small, black seeds, but not before being raided by the dreaded driveway mouse. A small pile of split shucks on the black upholstery in the back of the car marked the spot where he’d tasted just a few before dashing back and forth each night in what must have been a gargantuan task of stashing hundreds of small seeds, one by one, within the hidden chambers of the car.

Each day now, with each trip down the driveway, a few more seeds fly furiously from the dashboard. With every corner I turn, several more shift inside, finding their way into the airstream, and onto the lap of any passenger. Most of those already thrown free and scattered across the interior surfaces have been reclaimed or eaten on the spot. Newly split, silvery shells are left each morning to be discarded in my cup holder and seatbelt buckle. The nest has never been found, and I know that eventually every well-placed seed will be retrieved and the showers of sunflowers will cease. But I keep an eye on my rear-view mirror, just waiting for that little whiskered face to appear. Added to my ever growing list of odd jobs-- driver, to one well-fed driveway mouse.


A Lover of Sunflower Seeds

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17 comments:

Susan said...

Cute little guy - gray I like, red I like, black, not so much..and mice in the radiator, definite no no.

Appalachian Lady said...

I love the photos of the squirrels--ours like sunflower seeds too.

I also had trouble with spammers. Once, I got the same wierd spam/rubberish on about 20 posts. I had to delete them one by one. So, I ended up just moderating the comments on my posts that are over 7 days old.

Hope you have a great 2010!

KaHolly said...

Spammers? Oh, my. So sorry.
Cute story. Poor homeless squirrel just looking for a safe place.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Thanks for standing by--I always cringe when I find I'm in a site using comment moderation. But I now understand it's not intended to prevent conversation, but prevent unwanted solicitation--mine and my readers'.
Until they can create a door that some can get through and not others, I'll stand here and act as doorman.
Come on in!

Andrea said...

I absolutely love squirrels. They're probably my favorite wildlife friend. Well... one of my favorites anyway. :-)

You have a very nice blog here. What a nice way to express the creativeness in all of us, eh?

Peace~ Andrea

scienceguy288 said...

Uh oh...that TBC probably does not bode well for the car. Oh well. I hear in Hawaii that crabs often do the same thing, that is get stuck under the hood.

giggles said...

Welcome back... Missed you!

Since I only know you through your blog, I was delightedly surprised to learn that you have a child! (Maybe more than one!?)

I also wanted to share with you that during my annual pilgrimmage "home" to Ohio to visit my folks, not only did I see my first black and red squirrels, but most importantly...are you ready??? A pileated woodpecker!!!!!! I am still so very excited!!!!! It's been on my "Want to see" list for half my life!!!! Just had to share with someone I believe would appreciate my glee....

Happy New Year!!!

Alcester nature photography. said...

Great Blog,& great pics,I will definetly be back for another look.
Cheers Colin.

elvira pajarola said...

...soooo lovely; this little squirrel....the last pic: the PROFILE.....is absolutely
IRRESISTIBILE!!!!!!

have a great afternoon!!
ciao ciao elvira

Laure Ferlita said...

Oh my, what a story! Whereas I'm sure it's not overly entertaining to you, it definitely brought a smile to my face, especially the last line about being driver for one well-fed driveway mouse!!

You are a generous soul!

Jennifer said...

Ha ha... Yes, I've had similar things happen to me. A mechanic once removed a box full of acorns - some intact, others empty shells... Those critters...

KGMom said...

You do realize this post creates the most wonderful visual image--and while I am laughing, I am also trying to be sympathetic, tutting under my breath "poor Nina" then dissolving once again in a fit of giggles.
Sorry for your troubles; thanks for the laughs.

Heather said...

So glad to have you back, I missed you too!
I had a mouse in my truck in the Spring, who chewed a wire to something or other important, and it took an hour of following the wires around in my truck with my fingers to find it and have my dear ol' Dad fix it. Too cute, but too destructive - too.

Mary said...

I know it really isn't funny to have little furry critters arranged your car for their comfort and convenience, but I'm laughing at your "But I keep an eye on my rear-view mirror, just waiting for that little whiskered face to appear." BOO!

:O)

deejbrown said...

Oh...the tenacity of life!

Julie Zickefoose said...

What a lovely piece. I forgot a bag of seeds in the back of the new Subaru and found black bullets and silvery shells, too. Drat!! Why did I think a new car would be mouseproof? And both kids, doing their level best to shower him with food...

I really really like where your writing is going, Nina.

JZ

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Thanks, Julie--some stories almost write themselves, while others strain against all attempts to pin them down. This little invisible whiskered being, though, has been running through my mind almost daily.
I am sure we will someday meet.