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Squirrel on the road (ΒΆ)

The road is not a squirrel's natural environment. The road is hostile to the squirrel, his life threatened whenever he steps onto it. It is a recent development, a recent intrusion into space that was previously green. The squirrel's ancestors were hunted by dogs and hawks, not cars. But he does not know this. Squirrels don't study history. They don't talk to each other about the past. They don't share recipes. A french fry might be traditional cuisine.

The timescale on which a road is built is incomprehensible to the squirrel. A road that opened the day before the squirrel was born is the same as a road aged fifty years; they're both part of the present environment and for the squirrel the present is all there is. They are as old as mountains. The age, size, and condition of the road do not affect the squirrel's priorities: food, water, shelter, mate. The road is only terrain.

The creatures which built the road are not up for communication. The squirrel is not prompted for input and does not attempt to provide any. They would not listen if he did. He defers to them and accepts the paving of the road like his ancestors deferred to nature and accepted the erosion of a river through rock, the upheaval of a landslide, the blast of a volcano. It can hardly be called acceptance, but it doesn't matter. The landscape is altered. The squirrel either adapts and dies later or doesn't and dies now.

The squirrel does not ponder the nature of existence, the injustice of time and death, or the worsening conditions to which he is subjected. He would not be much happier if he did. His challenges tomorrow cannot be lightened by remembering his leisures yesterday. The forces which build the roads are still active. So too are the rivers and the volcanoes. They operate on a higher plane, disconnected. The squirrel's actions will never change them. He can't even be a martyr. The squirrel continues gathering nuts.

The squirrel does not question the road. He does not ask why it exists. Neither does he question air or water or trees. Neither does he question dogs or hawks or rivers or landslides. It does not cross his mind to ask these things. They're just there. In nature there is life, death, food, danger, resource, scarcity. There are squirrels, dogs, people, trees, roads, hawks, cars, nuts, and busy intersections, all of which must be navigated to survive. The squirrel navigates. He seeks shelter today as he did ten million years ago. He avoids hawks. He seeks mates. He avoids cars. Much has changed. Nothing has changed. The road is a squirrel's natural environment.


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