The Myth of Control

Too many squirrels

Squirrels are ruining my life. Wait. Does this sound overly dramatic? Maybe. But in recent days that’s what I’ve felt like as I spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to circumvent the marauding behavior of these smart rodents. That’s what they are – rodents. Rats with tails. I’ve been skirmishing with them for years. They’ve eaten their way through four sets of wires for the lights I’ve strung along my porches. So much for brightening the night. They routinely chomp the flowers in my garden while denuding my tomato plants. At one point, they ate the armrests in a car we kept in the garage.

But their most annoying crimes involve their wanton destruction of my bird feeders, while consuming pounds of food intended for the avian community. I can’t count how many feeders they’ve destroyed. I’ve tried all the squirrel-proof designs, and the deterrents which are supposed to keep them off the shepherd’s hooks. I bought a red pepper liquid guaranteed to send them back where they come from, a concoction so strong, I choked, eyes watering, as I saturated seeds according to the instructions on the bottle. My squirrels didn’t even blink as they chomped on the expensive new treat. A friend shipped me two deluxe feeders which were ruined within a few days. Sigh. When I wasn’t spending long hours at home, I wasn’t as consumed by my hostility to these unwelcome, irritating guests. The pandemic changed everything.

Attracting a a wide variety of bird species has been my great pleasure during the past couple of years. I’m fascinated by their behavior and their fabulous colors. Their songs are diverse and comforting. For those who’ve set up housekeeping in my yard, there’s the additional pleasure of watching their fledglings grow up. During these long stretches of being on my own, the birds have been welcome companions. I got so attached to my cardinal pair that I named them. When the female vanished, I mourned her like I would’ve a domestic pet. A mistake, but a product of a strange time.

I’ve moved my feeders to different locations around the yard, but squirrels are quick to adapt. Two weeks ago, I decided to order a new sturdy model which mounts on a door with five big suction cups. I thought that maybe a surface with no place to grab would prove more difficult to access for these vermin. Who was I kidding but me? These guys can run straight up my siding and vault right into the food tray. They also excel at walking up wood trim. My paint job is looking pitiful.

Breaking the perch included with the feeder happened by the second day. Knocking the tray off its tracks so it crashed to the ground was a piece of cake. Every morning I swept up the seed, replaced the tray and tried again.

Yesterday I hit despair, at least for a few minutes. The tray was on the porch, broken into three pieces, seed scattered everywhere. In addition to the interference with my deep desire to cultivate a habitat for the birds I love, I can’t believe that I have so little control over managing my own little corner of the world. I’ve been confused about what’s going on out there. I’m not the only person in my neighborhood who has bird feeders. What’s up with my yard? Besides scarfing down the food and wrecking anything in their way, I’ve been finding blood traces right below the feeders. Who’s getting hurt? I have no idea.

I was overcome by frustration. For a moment. My initial response was to throw up my hands and cede my desires to the failed experiment bin. The wretched rodents win. But that only lasted a short time. I patiently took the broken bits of the feeder, got my packing and gorilla tapes out and re-fashioned the tray. So far it’s lasted over 24 hours. I guess that’s a small victory.

I’m aware that my agitation about the squirrels has gotten ratcheted up because of my overall sense of having no control over virtually anything right now. I’m frantic about the politics playing out in this country. A loud, cohesive minority is engaged in perpetrating belief in a proven lie about the 2020 election and its supposedly fraudulent outcome. To ensure victory in the midterms and beyond, the coup supporters are willing to trample voting rights. Two conservative Democrats are pretending that they can’t support renewal of the bills which would protect this critical constitutional right, because changing the rules to pass them needs to be bi-partisan. What a horrible joke. Republicans have turned the proverbial blind eye to the dangers of the false narrative perpetrated by Trump and his sycophants because they know that their solidarity, even as a minority, is the only way they can hang on to power. They haven’t won a popular vote in decades. You can watch their hypocrisy and denial of their past views play out on news programs every day. They could care less. Their supporters are all in with conspiracy theories and phony political scenarios. While some are wringing their hands over critical race theory and their maddening “cancel culture” stories, I’m trying to figure out how so many people lack the ability to think critically about anything. Between the politics, climate change and the pandemic it’s hard to avoid the feeling that life is totally out of hand. A perfect maelstrom.

Of course, life is always beyond our control whether we like it or not. The sun still shines in the day, even when it’s hidden by clouds and the moon brightens the night sky. But every day can bring unexpected and undesired surprises that change the trajectory we thought we were on, in one quick second. Chaos is often right around the next corner. So we try to establish control and order whenever and wherever we can. I believe control is a myth which we cling to in order to survive. Mostly we exist in a state of flux, which is unnerving, uncomfortable. From my experience, while I believe that there is no real universal control over so much of life, with practice, a person can develop a set of responses that are useful in managing ourselves. I’m glad I fixed my feeder, whether it lasts or not. I’m still going to work on creating a supportive habitat for birds in my space. I can try to influence the political madness by working for candidates who are sane and donating what I can to environmental groups working on conservation and political entities working to ensure voting rights. I hope I can get a grip when the bad stuff feels like too much. Life is a lot of work, at least for me.

Looking for some calming therapeutic activities, I dug out my bead box and jewelry-making tools which I haven’t touched in years. I’d tossed in broken earrings years ago which I’d forgotten. I proceeded to repair those and also made a bracelet. My eyes are not as great as they used to be when I was more engaged in this hobby, but working with my hands still helped. I dipped into my yarn stash to start making a scarf and am continuing to create a portrait of my daughter’s recently deceased pet dog. I’m not great at any of these hobbies but I’m okay enough to feel good when I’m doing them.

For now, the rodents have receded to an annoyance, rather than the agents of my doom. We’ll see how things go tomorrow.

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