I belong to a family of rodents called Sciuridae. We have been dancing through trees, scurrying along the earth, and burying our treasures for millions of years, although my own story might have been all too brief had my wits not saved me. Here is how it happened:
One fine morning I woke, stretched, listened to birdsong, and pondered my possibilities, open to surprises, should they come my way. The days had been long and lovely, and I had no reason to expect this day would be any different.
How many adventures have begun with just such happy disregard for unforeseen consequences?
I looked about for friends to share my exploits. It is better to travel in the good company of one’s companions, but I was a fellow known for my daring, so not finding my friends at the ready, I set out to seek food and whatever excitement presented itself.
The morning passed merrily enough; there is a place near my summer home where a large creature sets out kernels, water, and seeds we squirrels enjoy, and there is usually enough food to fill our bellies and allow us time to chase across trees and play by the river. The nighttime monsters are fast asleep and we are free to enjoy ourselves.
This day, I was playing rather further into dusk than I should have been, I realized later. (This is what the Wise Ones Who Hoot call retrospection.) I heard my family chattering for me to return home to the summer nesting grounds, but I was observing moths and bats, the endless circle of predator and prey, and trying to recall where I’d hidden seeds and nuts for a special treat. When I recalled the place, just near the forests’ edge, I hurried and began to dig, unearthing a very large acorn as my reward.
And so, when the monster seized me by the tail, I did not have time to react. I was at once so overtaken by panic and pain that my mind could not conceive of escape. I twisted and turned and pulled, by instinct.
And then I thought to toss away my treasure, pulling away with the last bit of strength I could muster as I threw the acorn far to the left. I heard, but could no longer feel, my tail ripping away as the monster tugged. Then he stupidly—as I had suspected—fled towards the acorn. I bounded away to my home and friends, not daring to look back.
The pain—and wisdom—came later, as I healed. My elders have told me this is often the way of it.
I have lost the balance, agility, and ability to communicate that my tail afforded me, but I have become a much more eloquent and careful communicator in my chatter. And my adventures now take place in the good company of my companions, for I have learned that one who is heedless of community exposes himself to monsters who hide in the dark.
But if you still have an independent spirit of adventure, as I must admit all great Sciuridae do, take care that you are armed with treasures and prepared to throw them away.
And, for goodness sake, learn how to craft a tale, for doing so has won me many a tasty tidbit!
Such is the wisdom of hindsight.
Thus ends my “cautionary tail.”