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August 9, 2012 / Karen R Adams

squirrel medicine

When I went to my first day at acupuncture college, I walked in the door to be met by a man in a white coat who said to me: ‘Do you see the tree Qi sinking down?’

As it happened, I knew exactly what he meant.  It was autumn, and the trees were beginning to pull the Qi out of their leaves, back into their cores to preserve life through the winter.

The subtext, however, took a bit longer to get.

A large part of our grade for the first year came from our Seasons Diary.  We were supposed to observe the seasons and how they affected and manifested in people.  These observations were supposed to be the basis of very early acupuncture, and the ancient practitioners had something here.  I learned to look at everything through the lens of the philosophy of acupuncture.

I’ve always been someone who, when I see something unusual, tries to find a message or a meaning in what I’ve seen.  So when I was taking my morning walk last week and saw three interesting squirrel events, I came home and looked up squirrel medicine, just to see what I could see.

The first encounter was with a black squirrel.  Black squirrels hadn’t settled in my part of the world before I went to England, and they’re still kind of rare, so I was excited to see them.  Mordor squirrels – which isn’t far off the mark, as I guess they’re pretty aggressive with other squirrels.  They look like black cats with really short legs.  Cool!

Next, a squirrel ran across my path – not unusual for a walk in the woods.  But this very healthy looking squirrel had no tail.  Tails are pretty important to squirrels, for balance, for keeping warm.  Yet this apparently handicapped squirrel was running around, doing squirrel things, and was sleek and fit.

The third event seemed to be an attempt at interspecies communication.   I was approaching a squirrel in a tree, and he just started chattering away at me.  Not only that, but instead of keeping the tree between me and him (her?), he actually followed me around the trunk, talking all the while.  So I stopped, and the chattering intensified.  I don’t speak squirrel very well, so I shortly moved on – and heard him talking away until I was out of sight.

Here’s what I learned about squirrel medicine animals:

  • They epitomize preparedness, spending most of their time finding and storing food.
  • They over-prepare – apparently they only use about 10% of what they store.
  • They know how to have fun.  When they’re not looking for food, they’re playing. putting as much energy into that as they do into work.
  • They express themselves in social settings (!), can communicate effectively.
  • They know how to get what they want.  (I remember watching a squirrel do a four-legged hand over hand along my clothes line to get to the bird feeder.)
  • They persevere – like the one without the tail, still doing squirrel things.
  • And like most animals, they realize what’s important, and forget the rest.

They actually are exemplars of the Earth Element, taking in so they can give away.  They know how to balance work and play; the Earth Element is all about balance.  This is the Earth time of year in New England, so I’m not only reflecting on this information for itself, but also how well – or not – my patients and I embody Earth.

Pretty neat.  By watching the squirrels and learning a bit about them, I got a bunch of things to reflect on in my own life and the lives of my patients, family and friends, which was the purpose of the Seasons Diary.


PS In some lore, squirrels were thought to create beneficial coincidences.  And, if a squirrel runs across your path, that equals good luck and wealth.  Let me tell you how many squirrels have agreed to do that for me on my walks, when I urge them on…

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