I heard a man say something at a funeral a couple weeks back that's been on loop in my head since. Standing at the podium, that tearful man looked his deceased friend's kids right in their eye and said it.
I thought of it again on my run this morning when I saw some squirrels being squirrels, running around in frantic circles then suddenly stopping to survey each other, the hawks, then me, living on that squirrel edge like they're forced to everyday. It made me remember a family friend, back in the 80's who had caught an albino squirrel and kept it. He built a large enclosure, with branches and leaves placed inside with an air of luxury. Plenty of food, fresh water, all predator-proofed with a chicken wire forcefield. Nothing in, nothing out.
The average lifespan of a gray squirrel in the wild is, at best, a couple years. The squirrels I saw this morning might already be dead. That albino squirrel lived in our friend's captivity for over a dozen years. I clearly remember being so impressed with this as a kid. He'd been given a gift. It was a testament to how one's living in complete safety while making sure all your needs are well-provided for, makes life so much longer.
As an adult, I see it differently. It's sorta jarring how differently I see it now. Now I can see that that squirrel in that safe little cell had very few stories anyone wanted to hear, or could benefit from. Maybe none. I'm not as sure as I was as a kid that that squirrel had been given a gift. Who knows. It seems like the squirrels I saw this morning, free to live—although having to look over their shoulder here and there to continue doing so another day—had the true gift a living thing wants. Again, who knows.
Here's what I do know. I know I can't stop thinking of what that man said at the funeral, when he looked at his deceased friend's kids in the eye and said, "Don't try and live long. Live deep."