The Squirrels Of Distraction
Squirrels have a terrible reputation with homeowners and people who feed birds. In 2009, they released the movie Up. It added another comical fault to the list of squirrel crimes. Up is a computer-animated film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. In this movie, among the entire cast of loveable characters, we meet Dug the dog. Based on a golden retriever, he is from a pack of dogs in the movie, and they wear collars with devices on them that allow the dogs to communicate with people. One of my favourite scenes in the movie involves the dogs. Whenever they get the scent of a squirrel, they stop whatever they are saying or doing and look off in the scent’s direction while declaring, “Squirrel.” It is hilarious the first time you see it, and the joke never gets old.
Anytime my husband or I become distracted, we blame the squirrels. Is it fair? Probably not, but it is an ongoing joke between us. Before this movie, the popular term for losing your train of thought was to have a brain fart. While it is comical to think about this saying, and what it means, I prefer to say, “Squirrel.” Most people get the joke, and it helps to explain what happened.
I work hard to avoid distractions and losing time due to them. While I have come a long way in learning how to maintain my focus, from time to time I get lost watching videos on YouTube, scrolling on Facebook, or when inspiration strikes, and I am being creative. These things all have the hidden potential to be a squirrel of distraction for me. I find having background noise to be helpful to keep me on track with what I am supposed to be doing, and I have many playlists on Spotify. Losing track of time can be an excellent thing or an awful thing, depending on the context.
For example, if you are late, it is not optimal. However, if you are so involved with your current work in progress that you lose track of time while working on it, that would be beneficial. If you are so involved with your project that you forget to stop for a break or a meal, it becomes problematic. Being creative is a wonderful thing until it is not. Sometimes a squirrel in the middle of a highly intense creative session is just what I need to take a break and refocus with renewed energy.
One thing I have in common with squirrels is tenacity. I am stubborn, and I have been since the day I was born. Squirrels and I share comedy and a sense of humour. If you have ever just sat quietly and watched a squirrel, they will amuse you in your observation, I guarantee it. I have watched squirrels dig through the garbage before pickup to get the tea bags out of the pile. I know something like this must have inspired animators to play with the idea of squirrels on caffeine (Hoodwinked features Twitchy the Squirrel, who drinks coffee; Over The Hedge shows the effects of drinking an energy drink in a unique perspective with Hammy the squirrel).
When I was a child, I remember a squirrel running up the wooden shingles on the outside of my house, and my dog trying to chase the squirrel, unable to understand why she couldn’t get up there. The same dog would often chase squirrels as we walked in the woods around my childhood home, but to my knowledge, she caught no squirrels. A friend relayed a story of a pair of squirrels he was watching from his balcony one day. They were playing tag in the trees until one fell and landed on a rock. The other squirrel timidly went to see if its playmate would get back up. It was visibly surprised when its friend jumped straight up in the air and chased it back up the tree it had just climbed down in fear. The tables were turned, and it was running from the other squirrel who would teach it a lesson when it caught up, I am sure.
I recently found a video that I shared on my Facebook profile. The video is by a former NASA engineer, who designs an obstacle course in his backyard to keep the squirrels out of his bird feeders. He hurt no squirrels with his experiment. You can watch it here, but I must warn you, it is over twenty minutes long. It is worth watching every second if you ask me.
Do squirrels deserve the reputation we have given them? When they aren’t destructing people’s attics or terrorizing birds and eating the food meant for them, squirrels can be cute. I think of them as little furry ninjas who missed the stealth training class. While squirrels are nimble and very athletic, they lack in the sneaky department. They make up for this with their speed.
No matter what side of the fence you fall on, being a squirrel is no picnic. Unless you are lucky enough to be living in my friend, Alicia’s backyard. She had the cutest picnic table built so that she could watch the squirrels she feeds. As I was scrambling to figure out what to write this article about, I realized that time had gotten away from me, and I was having a squirrel moment. I checked with my photographer friend, and he offered his two squirrel pictures, taken while he was in Ontario, Canada. When I remembered seeing Alicia’s pictures online, I asked for her permission to share them here, which she was pleased to provide.
I hope that when you read this article, it will give you the break you deserve, and allow you to return to your work feeling refreshed and energized like a squirrel on caffeine.