Just outside my office windows is a huge old shag bark hickory tree. It’s great presence commands the attention of all who enter our gardens. There is a hole in its great trunk that opens into an inner room where a squirrel lives. And its welcoming trunk, long limbs, and many branches provide a home and playground for many squirrels, chipmunks, and birds. Throughout my days, I often pause to marvel at the little world of this tree, its environs, and all of the critters living in and around it.

Throughout the summer, the many beautiful birds in this tree most often grabbed my attention–several different kinds of woodpeckers, cardinals, yellow and blue finches, and many more that I can’t name. But when I returned a few days ago from a week of teaching in Sweden, the activity around this gentle old tree had changed. Many of the birds are now gone, having left for their winter homes. And there seem to be more squirrels and chipmunks than ever. They sit on a large rock at the base of the tree and feast on hickory nuts that the tree is releasing by the bucketfuls. And they are busy storing food away for the winter. They instinctively know that a long, cold winter is ahead and they must prepare.

Yet what strikes me about them, and here is the point of this posting, is that they know that a challenging time lies ahead, so they just do what they need to do–eat a lot and store away nuts and seeds for the winter. There doesn’t seem to be any drama about it. They don’t have committee meetings or strategy sessions to determine the best way to prepare for the challenge ahead. They just go about doing what needs to be done. There are no philosophical differences or political arguments. No squirrel or chipmunk appears to be vying for leadership or power. They are just doing what they do. They seem to live by a simple wisdom and ingenuity that works. They are clear about who they are and what their job is for the coming weeks.

I acknowledge that their world is much simpler than ours, yet I can’t help but feel like they have something important to teach us. Each one of the critters outside of my window knows what it needs to do, and just does it. No drama. No fuss. No angst. Something to consider.

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