There's More To Life Than Gathering Nuts - by Suzanne Willis Zoglio
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Flopsy was a high-achieving squirrel. He left the family nest when it
was time, survived a few run-ins with retrievers, and dodged more than one
Hawk in his day. He also learned to gather his food supply first thing in
the day . . . before any play . . . and build a good stash in case the oncoming winter
were to turn severe.
He found a mate - her name was Nuggets - and
they raised three agile squirrels. One by one the youngsters left the
nest, heading out across the wires to another part of town. When they were
gone, Flopsy couldn't help wondering, "Did I teach them all that they
needed to know . . . did I give them the confidence they'll need to survive? Did
I spend enough time chasing them in spirals around the tree or just
sitting side by side peacefully on the bank of the stream?" "Oh well," he
thought, "I did the best I could . . . and they seem like good squirrels."
"So, on with life," he thought. He got up early every morning and
scampered across a few backyards to gather nuts . . . as he had done for so
many years before. But soon he noticed that he wasn't getting up with the
same enthusiasm as he once had. Also, while he was foraging, his mind
would wander. Sometimes he wondered if his nut gathering really mattered.
After all, he and Nuggets had a reasonable stash of food . . . more, he thought,
than two hungry squirrels could go through in a lifetime. "Maybe I should
just . . . whoa . . . wait a minute . . . whoops . . . yikkkkkkkkkes." With all his
daydreaming, Flopsy lost his footing and went crashing down through the
branches of a 100-year-old Copper Beech. At 5 feet above the ground, he
almost caught his grip, but alas, it wasn't to be. Flopsy crashed into the
ground at a breakneck speed . . . except he didn't break his neck! But he did
black out for a moment. When he came to, he was on his back looking up at
the canopy of penny-colored leaves dancing in the wind.
As he watched the swaying leaves he remembered how he used to swing from branch
to branch almost effortlessly. He loved to hang from one paw, flip over to
the other side, and even hang by his tail. That's how he got his name.
He'd jump from one branch to another, flip his body over as if on a
parallel bar . . . a regular Flying Wallenda of the squirrel world.
Just thinking about it made his pulse race. His little toes began to tap. It
had been years since he'd done what he loved to do. After all, he'd been
busy doing what he was supposed to do . . . gathering nuts, providing
shelter . . . becoming part of the Treetop community. But now, he thought, "Why
not? What am I waiting for?"
He lingered under the tree a little longer, and thought about what he and Nuggets really needed to survive. He
figured out that if he gathered nuts early each day, he'd have time to
"fly" in the afternoon . . . and still be home in time for dinner. He really
didn't need to spend 24/7 in the "hunt."
Soon Flopsy was back practicing his high-branch act. He wasn't as limber as he once had been,
but he found his years of experience had taught him how to focus and soon
he was flying even better than before.
But after several high-flying months Flopsy sensed that something was still missing from his
life. He definitely enjoyed what he was doing, but he still wasn't sure if
he was making a difference . . . for anyone but himself . . . and Nuggets, of course,
whom he loved dearly.
So he went back to the tree where he'd had his "Aha" moment. Yup . . . just propped himself up against the trunk of the
tree, folded his little forelegs behind his head, and stared up under the
penny-colored canopy of leaves. "How can I do what I love and also make a
difference in some way?" (He was a pretty philosophical squirrel.) He
asked the question and watched the shimmering leaves, but no answer was
forthcoming. Disappointed . . . and more than a little frustrated, he scrambled
to his feet and headed home to Nuggets.
The next morning while Flopsy was out gathering nuts, he noticed an adolescent squirrel on a low
branch of a tree staring up. Just staring . . . not moving. So he scurried up
next to the youngster and asked, "What's up?" The younger squirrel
replied, "I'm trying to figure out how to get to that cluster of
mulberries at the end of that branch at the top of the tree. They look so
delicious, but . . . I'm rather clumsy and I'm just not sure I can manage the climb."
"Well, would you like a suggestion?" Flopsy offered.
"Sure," said the teenage squirrel . . . curious if this graying elder could
REALLY teach him what he needed to know. So Flopsy proceeded to suggest a
path that might be right for the young squirrel to take . . . given his
capabilities and his destination. He even taught him a special way of
using his claws so he wouldn't slip. Soon the young squirrel was nibbling
on mulberries from the end of a branch and Flopsy went off to gather nuts.
And then it hit him . . . right out of the blue. "That's IT!" he blurted
out. "That's how I can do what I love and make a difference." Soon Flopsy
was running a school for high-flying squirrels. The days were long and the
students were not always attentive, but the time just seemed to fly. One
day, he turned to his mate and said, "You know, life doesn't get any
better than this . . . I couldn't be more satisfied." "Nor could I," she said,
"nor could I."
3 Things We Can Learn From Flopsy About Moving Beyond Success
1. A whack on the head often helps our vision . . . we
see what's really important. Don't wait for a " wake-up call;" put your
time where your priorities lie.
2. To feel fully alive, we need to feed our passions, desires, and dreams. Every day - in ways large and
small - observe, enjoy, and create. Life is in the details.
3. When it seems like something's missing, try giving. Share your talent to
make a difference . . . build a legacy. The connection makes us whole.
© Suzanne Willis Zoglio, Ph.D.