Hundred Year Old Squirrel Medicine

Squirrel medicine wasn’t even remotely on my radar, but life has a funny way of spiraling around to make sure you’ve got the message. Take this weekend as a for instance…

It was the 100th anniversary of my Grandad’s birth, sadly he died nearly 32 years ago, but the anniversary felt important to  me nonetheless.

In all honesty, it wasn’t until the theme of ancestors started playing in the background of my mind, and coming out in my collage work, that the anniversary entered my consciousness.

I’d promised a newly discovered American cousin that I’d send photos of the gravestone of my Great- Grandfather, to help her with her genealogy research. My Grandma was an Irish immigrant, and when her father died whilst working over here, she and my Grandad bought a triple decker burial plot. When I took the promised photo, I noticed the approaching anniversary; it unleashed lots of memories – my Grandad was my favourite person in the whole world – he was my childhood champion and I knew I had to do something to mark that.

As it happened, I couldn’t get to the grave on the actual date, so I visited at the weekend. I took a very simple spray of rosemary (for remembrance) with a piece of Yorkshire lavender (to celebrate our proud Yorkshire roots). It smelled amazing!

The plot that my grandparents  are buried in sits beneath a beautiful copper beech tree. I’ve long loved the idea of a woodland burial myself – the idea that the substance of my body could feed a tree, well it gives me a deep sense of comfort. At some point I’d heard the story of Roger Williams, the man who was ‘eaten by a tree’! Rather than being appalled, I was completely enthralled by the thought of this beautiful circle of life. I’d planted my youngest daughter’s placenta under an apple tree so to be buried under a tree feels like part of the same life giving ritual.

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, hugging the tree – bloody hippy that I am – suddenly took on a whole new meaning.

Well, it’s a good job it was typical bank holiday weather – persistently precipitating (aka pissing it down)  and no one else was visiting the cemetery, because I stood on ‘my’ roots, hugged that tree, and cried my eyes out! If you’ve never really, truly hugged a tree, give it a go – don’t do it half heartedly, really go for it. Feel the bark against your cheek, the solidness of the trunk against your body, be quiet and listen in – to what’s going on around and within you. You’ll walk away feeling amazing (ok, you might feel a bit daft too, but so what?).

As I leaned into the tree I knew I was alone, but a sudden rustling brought me back into awareness of my surroundings.

No, there was definitely no one else around.

There it was again.

I looked up, just in time to spot two squirrels, who I’d obviously disturbed from their beech nut collecting, leaping across to the next tree.

I watched, as they ran down the trunk, freezing, one on either side, checking out their surroundings –  I’m not going to lie, I had the mission impossible music playing in my head at this point! I whipped out my phone and grabbed a quick video before they ran off across the gravestones. It really lightened the mood!

I was meeting my friend for a brew after I’d seen the grandparents, and of course I told her about the squirrels. Her immediate question was:

‘Have you looked to see what squirrel medicine is about?’

No, I hadn’t. Once we were settled in the cafe, she had a google. Low and behold squirrels are telling you to bring more play into your life. This was really rather appropriate as life has been quite heavy of late, plus, one of the things that my grandad had impressed upon me, was to make sure I enjoyed life and had fun. It was a bit of a goosebumpy moment, but y’know, not massively so. Except that it didn’t end there.

This friend of mine does a weekly oracle card reading for her facebook tribe, that day she did it live from the cafe. She pulled me a card. No, it wasn’t a squirrel, but it was an angel card with the instruction to play. Uh huh. Time to listen then Tech.

One of the things that made my Grandad really special was his ditty writing – he’d write little verses, often in Yorkshire dialect. Way back in the 80s after Prince William was born, we sent a copy of one of his masterpieces to ‘Buck House’, others were written out on beautiful calligraphy scrolls by my cousin and sold at craft fairs. He used them to express his political views, to thank people, to send birthday wishes, and to poke fun – often at his own expense. He was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis and very limited in his movement, so his writing gave him something to occupy his time and keep his mind active.

Last year my dad gave me a CD filled with photos of grandad’s ditties. Unfortunately many of them are indecipherable as, ironically, they were written before the arthritis had turned his hands to claws. As the disease progressed, he resorted to using marker pens and writing in capital letters, thus making reading his writing a doddle! As I was going through all the images I came across one that really stood out, as it was written in bright green script.

I was looking at them on the laptop and had to turn my head on its side to read the first part, which had my children looking at me like I’d lost the plot, more so when I started laughing. When I read the ditty out loud my son said:

‘Your Grandad was a bit crackers wasn’t he?’

Yep, he absolutely was, and I bloody love him for it.

What was the ditty? For your delight and delectation here it is….

One day when walking through the woods, a squirrel scurried by.

It scampered up a great big tree and looked at me from high.

It threw a conker down at me and hit me on the head.

Thank god it was no coconut, I could have been quite dead.

Instead the conker split in half, the kernel was laid bare.

The squirrel scampered down and cried: “thank you for standing there!!

I would have had to toil and sweat to get into the nut.

In fact I could have gnawed all day to get a nasty cut

and could have cracked my two front teeth to make all eating tough.

So please! Come walking every day for I’ll watch out for you,

but don’t forget, and take a tip – bring your tin helmet too!”

GBC – or as I like to think of him: The Yorkshire Bard

And there you have it, a funny old spiraling around of squirrels and playfulness. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate way to mark the 100th anniversary of the life of the man I got to call Grandad, than with a bit of nutty squirrel medicine!

 

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