We always know it’s acorn season even as the acorns cling stubbornly to the white oak growing just outside the bedroom window. They’re still green, but the squirrels are done with waiting. At dawn they sit in the branches of the magnificent oak and pluck acorns, taking a single bite before flinging the rejects to our roof: BAM! Then, bam bam bam bam bam bam bam bam, each one tumbles down the slope, and BAM! it slams into the gutter. One after another, a hailstorm of acorns, an atonal OK Go video, and all before the sun is up.
One morning I wake to the sound of the alarm, and I know the acorns are ripe. The squirrels are eating them now, passing over the green acorns and getting fat on the brown ones. These days they are all about acorns—eating them, caching them in the crooks of trees, planting them in the flower beds, in the pots on the deck, in the little piles of pushed-up dirt around the mole runs. Squirrels are the Johnny Appleseeds of the oak forest, their tails bobbing up and down in an undulating arc that follows the motion of their little thumbless hands, their canny little fingers patting the soil gently around each acorn.
Lately the squirrels have been planting acorns in my house. Cooler nights have finally arrived, and the attic above our bedroom is the home they’ve chosen for winter, an alcove that can’t be reached by any human. Before the alarm goes off, I lie in my room below their room and hear them running. What is the rush? They are so close I can hear them stop to scratch their fleas, but they are tucked away where I can’t harm them.
They’ll chew the wires and burn down your house, someone says. They carry diseases, someone says. No one says which diseases. But there is plenty of advice: poison that makes them so thirsty they’ll flee, looking for water but finding instead a place to die; humane catch-and-release traps; humane traps that kill instantly. I don’t want to cut a hole in my house to set a trap, and I don’t want to weaponize them, turn them into a slow, stumbling, poison-delivery system for owls and hawks. I don’t want to catch them at all. I want them to move away.
Sometimes I don’t even want them to move away. I lie in bed before light, when my whole house is sleeping, and listen to the sound of their tiny feet skittering across my ceiling, and the sound of the acorns they’re rolling across it, storing food for winter. They are old friends. Their busy life above my dark room is a lullaby.