Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Flying squirrels and matters of faith

This was written by my friend, Arlene Neal, and published in the Lenoir News-Topic today -- she said I could share it -- another Godwink!!

A few days ago my husband walked across the backyard with a five-gallon bucket and called out to me.  “You’re not going to believe this!”  If the weather had been warmer, I would have assumed he’d captured a snake, one of his daring habits in summer; but given the cold temperature of the day, I couldn’t imagine what he carried.

I looked into the bucket only to see a mass of nesting materials and what appeared to be vacuum cleaner trash.  Then it moved and a pair of big black eyes and two cute little ears appeared—a flying squirrel!   Another popped out and another, six in all.  They had found a cozy place to winter over in an old shop vacuum in our outbuilding. 

Flying squirrels can be quite destructive if inhabiting the wrong place, but I couldn’t help but admire how cute they were. They reminded me of a time when a flying squirrel played an important role in my young life.

My high school guidance counselor encouraged me to go to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, so I ended up there, after spending my whole life to that point in Lawsonville, NC, out in the country.   College was a huge adjustment, but living in town proved harder than the academic part.

Traffic noise never ceased, day or night.  Radios blared, sirens screamed, and dark of night with starry sky did not exist since the campus lights remained on all night.  Dorm life got on my nerves when shrieking voices and door-slamming drama echoed down the hall frequently.  I missed quiet and hearing the wind blow and rain on the roof.

To compensate, I grew plants in my room and put bird seed on the window ledge to bring some nature into my life, but when early spring came around I missed the spring peepers calling from down on the creek back home and the smell of rain on plowed earth. I felt miserable.

One warm night my roommate and I left our third floor window open. She had fallen asleep while I stayed up reading.  In my groggy state I doubted what I saw sitting on the window ledge looking at me with huge black eyes.  A flying squirrel sat eating my bird seed, not in the least bothered by me.  I watched him for a long time until he had his fill and leaped with his velvety limbs spread wide to glide to the oak tree beside the dorm.

He returned night after night and became so accustomed to our presence that he actually crawled through the window and sat on the end of my bed. When I wiggled my toes, he held onto the quilt and took a ride. I realize that to some people that would be a repulsive thing, but I had bonded with that little creature, my ambassador of hope and a witness of wildness surviving in the city. 

At that point in my life I was not a spiritual person, but I felt somehow that maybe God sent the squirrel to me.  Looking back on that part of my life, theological analysis aside, I think the squirrel truly was a godsend. 

A friend of mine, Ann Spencer, writes a blog called “God Winks.”  Godwinks, she explains, are those moments in life when God shows up in special ways for people at just the right time.  Check out her site for true stories that are heart-felt and inspiring.  She helped me realize that my squirrel visitation was definitely a Godwink. 

Lots of people deny the existence of God because He doesn’t show up at times when they need him.  I will never understand all the ways of God, but I do know He does care and will go to great lengths to reach us in whatever way we can respond.  For me, that meant a little night visitor covered in fur, perhaps even winking at me.

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