One day while paused at the end of my driveway to let a wide truck pass on our narrow lane a movement in the bare winter branches of the trees caught my eye. There, a squirrel was scampering from branch to branch, as they do, in an apparently random pattern.
But, no, it wouldn’t be random, would it — this is winter and wild animals don’t tend to waste energy in winter. I recalled I had watched other squirrels make their way in the upper branches of trees quite deliberately, repeating the pattern, their progress describing a deliberate course.
That’s what this one was doing — following a very complicated, three-dimensional trail through the branches he had discovered and apparently memorized. This squirrel had figured out how to cross a creek following a route that rose up and down, back and forth between branches of various trees that were close enough for him to hop or otherwise pass safely between. If I were to draw it, it might look like this:
Where > = hop.
Watching him I marveled at the complexity and pondered the number of trials and errors he had had to endure to find this elegant path.
The subject then branched exponentially off in a couple of directions for me:
- Squirrel Intelligence
- How trees cope with each others’ branches
- The hidden pathway changes that occur when trees are felled in whatever manner (ice and wind storms, chainsaws, etc)
- How a lot of what may seem random progress at first may actually be a complicated solution
- And, of course, the pleasantly obvious: There’s more than one way to cross a creek.
For those of us who may from time to time feel at odds with our non-linear career path it may be Squirrel has demonstrated quite clearly the elegance of unpredictable solutions.
See if you can find a squirrel highway yourself, then draw it!
Or look at a photograph of tree branches and trace out your own squirrel pathway amongst them.