Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Today I buried a squirrel

The last time I handled a dead animal was in 9th grade biology, and I certainly never intended to do it again--I don't even like touching bugs. But I made an exception today. While mowing the lawn, I saw a squirrel lying on its side just a few feet from my driveway. The poor thing looked to be recently deceased, given his still-fluffy appearance (it always amazes me how squirrels can get hit by a car, but still look as cute as ever). I'm not usually one to get involved with dead animals, but I felt I had a duty. Given his proximity to my house and still-intact guts, I thought I could get over my squeamishness and save him from any further post-thanatopic trauma.

I picked out a suitable spot in the yard as far from the house as possible, and dug a good-sized hole. Then I took the shovel and scooped up the limp body of the squirrel, carrying him back to his grave. On the way I noticed a striped feather on the ground, which seemed like a fine funereal object to bury with the squirrel.

I slid him into the hole and dropped the feather on top. After replacing the red dirt, I did my best to conceal the grave with sticks and pine straw. Burying this squirrel was one of the most satisfying experiences I've had in a while. I felt connected to the earth, and proud of myself for overcoming my fear of (dead) animals. And it was fulfilling to know that I'd given one of the countless, carefree creatures killed every day the treatment it deserved. It's easy to get desensitized to seeing splattered squirrels smushed into concrete day after day, but it's good to slow (life) down, get out of your car or house, and do something about it.

Somewhat surprisingly, I have yet to attend a human's funeral. But today I took my first step towards becoming more comfortable with death, and it was an experience I won't soon forget.

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