It was the red squirrels’ squirreling this fall that caused Sr. Lilli Ana to predict a really, really severe winter. Those little clowns laid up a supply of pine cones that would keep all the horses on our neighbor’s farm in feed for months. This is just one pile; there were a lot of ’em.
We’ve lived close enough to the land to respect the conversation available continuously from Mother Earth. In Colorado I used to watch the height of the skunk cabbage to predict the snowfall for the coming winter. Here we “listen” to the squirrels by noticing what they lay aside to keep them going until the riches of next spring become available. Huge piles of “squirreled away” pine cones predicts a tough winter.
But with global warming, we began to wonder if the squirrels had lost their predicting touch. October. November. December. By the middle of January we’d had one snow shower and an average temperature of about 50°. Not good.
Sr. Lilli Ana stuck with the squirrels, though. “Just wait,” she kept saying. “This winter’s going to be severe. Trust the squirrels.”
Well, it’s hard to trust a little tree imp. I’m human, you know, and we have thermometers, graphs, dew points, Doppler radar, and an overdeveloped frontal lobe that helps us believe we’re the brightest and most skillful creature around.
What I forgot is that all the creatures have amazing abilities, and each one has at least one skill I can’t even comprehend much less accomplish myself. Global warming has certainly stirred the climate pot in dangerous ways, and one result may well be uneven weather patterns with extreme fluctuations. But whatever is behind this strange winter, the brutal times have arrived for those who live in nature’s housing. Tonight, tomorrow, Saturday … temperatures near zero and enough wind to drive them down to fifteen below.
Those squirrels were right. Brrrrrrr ….