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Seeing Like Squirrels

Written April 2, 2021

I wonder what it would feel like to see the way a squirrel does, in three dimensions. Watching, I can see that to them a tree looks like a trail, a fence or telephone wire like a highway.

The main path I’ve observed tends to end in my yard. The dirt and woodchips have things to eat buried away, and the tangled hedge is a safe place to leap into and hide at an unfamiliar noise. They can run up the hedge to one end of our wooden fence. There’s a tree alongside it with its trunk split off three ways, forming a comfortable cradle at their junction (this is where they take their food to eat, or where they play). The tips of its branches lead to a dizzying lattice of other trees that they sometimes follow, but usually they run along the fence in between our house and the neighbor’s. There’s another, smaller tree in the neighbor’s yard just outside my window. This tree leads them down to a place I can’t see (imagine being so free, our human borders are for them a connective network) and also up onto the roof. They can also follow the fence all the way around, past my girlfriend’s bedroom window, a paved road just for them, jumping into the camellias.

Their world looks so much bigger than mine.