I hate when squirrels get into my bird feeders! I have tried just about everything I can think of to prevent them. After all, my purpose in putting the feeders up is to feed birds! But squirrels (aka, rats with bushy tails) are highly creative, determined, agile, and skillful. They have taken me to the mat several times.
I have placed the shepherd’s crook on which my feeder hangs as far away from trees and structures as possible. Of course, one at least of them can shimmy up the crook and actually perch on the feeder. So I attacked—I sprayed the crook with Pam for Grilling. This was a very temporary fix, so I went to Plan B: Vaseline. This also turned out to be a temporary fix. But I noticed something while this “fix” was in place: birds then came to the feeder, but they are pleased with only certain kinds of seed. They gladly make a royal mess clearing away what doesn’t suit them, to get to the best part (usually, sunflower seeds). The rest winds up on the ground at the base of the crook.
I have since swapped positions with my feeder and my wind chimes. The feeder is now under the eave on an extension, and I’m pretty sure it’s impossible even for a squirrel to get to it. So far, I’m right: cardinals have found it; squirrels have not. But the cardinals have still spilled their rejected seed on the ground, and so the squirrels are still attracted to the site. I did see one trying to scale the side of the Florida room, and he almost made it to the feeder. So the squirrels are still benefiting from the birds’ behavior—at least, on ground level.
But the reason for this essay’s being title “symbiosis” is that, if you like, and completely unintentionally, the birds and squirrels were working in tandem. It is the food version of “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” And: this symbiosis was working against my intentions. So that leads my mind in a somewhat different direction. How often do we human beings “cooperate” with one another in ways that interfere with and even delimit the overall plan of creation God has for us? We think we’re helping or satisfying or benefitting ourselves and/or others, when in fact what we’re doing is assisting each other in going down the wrong path of life. Birds and squirrels cannot think in these terms; we can, and too often we simply don’t. Exhibit #1: myself, sadly.
What is part of the cure, for us (if not for the birds and squirrels)? Probably the biggest help would be the patience to wait rather than rush, either to judgment or to actions not thought out. It would be what St Ignatius Loyola encouraged at the beginning of his Spiritual Exercises: the willingness to put the best possible interpretation on another’s words, or motives, or actions. In prayer, it might be the docility that encourages listening rather than speaking. We can do this. Let’s be better than the birds and squirrels.