I was sitting in the chair by the window, reading, when a movement outside caught my eye. I turned my head and looked out, and up. The movement came from within the large Chinese elm that grows next to the street.
I followed the large, twisting branches with my eyes. They were easy to follow. Last year, the city pruned the trees on our street, which opened them up considerably. In addition, this particular tree has shed about half its leaves, as Chinese elms often do in areas where winters are relatively mild. Half the leaves remain, as if in expectation of the warm sunny days southern California is known for, even in winter; days like today, in fact, although I must admit that last week, it was cold and rainy.
It took only a moment to find the source of the movement: a squirrel. Scampering about, it seemed to be trying to decide (like the tree) whether or not winter preparations were necessary.
Watching the squirrel, I became entranced. Where did it sleep at night? I wondered. Was its life disrupted much when the trees were cut back? Was there a whole community of squirrels living in the branches, mostly unseen by we who dwell just thirty feet below? Or perhaps an entire world of different yet interrelated species, a world that is both foreign to and at home in the city?
The squirrel ran toward the end of one of the larger branches. I held my breath as it jumped a distance of about three body lengths, landing perfectly on a cable that ran across the street. The squirrel ran along the cable, and disappeared from sight.
I've always hated the sight of cables and electric lines strung across urban and rural landscapes. They've always seemed ugly to me. Today, however, I didn't really see cables. I saw something else. I saw a system of roads and highways for squirrels and other animals.