Having praised the creativity, intelligence, and playfulness of our squirrels, it seems only fair to give equal time to an opposing opinion: that the creatures roaming our neighborhoods are sneaky and destructive, not to mention determined to wreak havoc on our gardens and our homes.
Gardens are especially vulnerable, as American author Eudora Welty knew. Like Emily Dickinson, Welty loved her gardens as well as her writing. The garden at her home, designed and created in 1925 by her mother, Chestina Welty, is maintained today by garden restoration consultant Susan Haltom and a group of volunteers who have brought the garden back to its 1925-1945 glory.
A book detailing the garden’s history, One Writer’s Garden, includes a parody of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger.” Welty wrote the parody herself, attached it to a stick, then posted it in her garden as a warning and a plea. Even as a squirrel lover, I have to admire the humor.
Squirrel, squirrel, burning bright,
Do not eat my bulbs tonight!
I think it bad and quite insidious
That you eat my blue Tigridias.
Squirrel, Sciurus vulgaris,
Leave to me my small Muscaris;
Must you make your midnight snack, mouse,
Of Narcissus Mrs. Backhouse?
When you bite the pure Leucojum,
Do you feel no taint of odium?
Must you chew till Kingdom Come
If in your tummy bloomed a lily,
Wouldn’t you feel sort of silly?
Do you wish to tease and joke us
When you carry off a crocus?
Must you hang up in your pantries
All my Pink Queen Zephyranthes?
Tell me, has it ever been thus,
Squirrels eat the Hyacinthus?
O little rodent —
I wish you wo’dn’t!