Growing up in the country in upstate New York meant that I never wanted for two things: cows and squirrels. While I had to traipse across town and over some fields to find some obliging cows to visit, I could hang with the squirrels from the comfort of my very own yard. Back in the day we had four towering maple trees, one on each corner of the lawn, and each a leafy playground for families of squirrels who got a kick out of jumping from one tree to the next, chasing each other around the trunks, and sometimes making a dash for it through our game of croquet.
Squirrels rock, that’s all there is to it. And later, when I moved to New York City, I discovered that city squirrels rock, too. I used to spend days in Shakespeare’s Garden in Central Park, lounging over the crossword puzzle, one wary eye on the picnic basket, ready to defend it against the furry marauders. City squirrels ain’t shy!
Then I moved to the coast of Tuscany. One day last year, while driving down a road near the sea, surrounded on both sides by umbrella pine woods, I saw a yellow rope stretched between the trees on each side, high above the street. My husband explained that the ropes were in place to give the squirrels a way to cross the road without getting squashed by a car. And that’s when it dawned on me: in all the years I’d lived in Italy, I’d never seen a squirrel! Wild boars? Yes. Squirrels? Not a one. Suddenly I missed squirrels more than my own family back in the States. Where were they? When did they use this nifty contraption? Did anyone ever fall off? On closer inspection, we found that at the bottom of the tree that held the rope was a box where kind people could leave food pellets for these phantom squirrels.
I haven’t seen one yet. But if there actually is an underground community of well-fed, tightrope-walking squirrels out there, you can bet I will find it sooner or later. And it’s just these elusive Italian squirrels with the Greta Garbo attitude that inspired “We Saw the Shadow.”
We Saw the Shadow
A squirrel lived in our garden,
and played in sun and rain.
And though we never saw him,
we saw his shadow plain.
He made a lot of noise
with his chatter: “Chee! Chee! Chee!”
And all the nuts were stolen
from our lovely almond tree.
We tried to lure the little guy
with acorns, leaves, and flowers.
But he refused to show his face,
and left us there for hours.
We saw that shadow leap so high,
then on a branch descend.
We craned our necks and squeezed our eyes
to glimpse our timid friend.
But no matter how we turned
and no matter how we twirled,
we always saw the shadow,
but we never saw the squirrel.
- Find curricular activities for art, language, and math at Kid Soup
- Learn more about squirrels at National Geographic
Video Location: Scarlino, Italy. In a pine wood by the sea. No squirrels were sighted during the filming of this poem.
See more poems in my poetry video library.
Poem by Renée LaTulippe. Licensed by All About Learning Press, Inc. Copyright © 2010, 2012 All About Learning Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this material may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated, or otherwise used without the express written approval of All About Learning Press, Inc.
Renee! What a great video. Your poem & reading of it are fantastic and the setting is beautiful. Love it.
At my old house we had a huge oak tree and once from an upper window of the house I saw a red squirrel in the branches. In 8 years I caught just that one glimpse of a squirrel. So I think, they’re there but like you, I don’t know where or when. Growing up in New England, gray squirrels were a part of suburban life–they were all over. What’s with these shy European squirrels?!
Ha, Dana! I thought it was just me! Yes, gray squirrels were as common as house cats in NY. Where in NE are you from, and why did I think you were French? 🙂
I’m from central Connecticut, not far from Hartford. I went to college in NY then lived in Little Italy for about 11 years. I guess you thought I was French because I live in France and the whole SCBWI France connection… 🙂
Aw! That’s a really sweet poem!
I moved from California to the UK. I still get to see squirrels but there are no raccoons, skunks, possoms, porcupines or humming birds. and lately, I’ve been really missing seeing humming birds. Hope you see a squirrel soon. 🙂
Wow, Rebecca! What happened to all the woodland creatures in the UK?! I can see why you miss hummingbirds — saw my first one here last year, and they are just amazing.
Cute poem. Love the video. Squirrels drive my dog Cupcake CRAZY, so I’m not a fan. I WILL visit your blog again, though. It’s fun.
That was a very sweet poem. The video is a great way to share, how fun!!
Cute poem. I love squirrels even though they taunt my dogs.
@ Genevieve, @ Rena – Yes, I’m getting many reports of squirrels taunting dogs! Sneaky little creatures! Thanks for coming…and for coming back!!
@ Jennifer – Glad you like the video idea. You know, I’ve come across a lot of parents AND teachers who are nervous about reading poetry aloud to kids. I’m hoping this shows them that there’s nothing to fear! 🙂
City squirrels are INSANE. I have experienced both! I far prefer country squirrels (and phantom squirrels). 🙂 We have lots of them on our property. They love to snatch dog food. Cute poem! I like! 🙂
Thank you, Natalie! I admit that sometimes those NYC squirrels gave me the heebie jeebies, what with all that intent staring with those beady eyes…
Squirrels do rock! At the first house I lived in with my husband back in DC, we had a squirrel that adopted us. Every day when we were coming and going up the driveway he’d turn up, waiting for the peanut he knew was coming. We even got him to eat out of our hands eventually. Still think about that little guy sometimes….
Loved your poem! 🙂
HA! I love that the squirrel adopted you — because who wouldn’t want to be adopted by a small furry creature? I wonder if your little pal missed you when you left…
Lovely poem. Excellent reading. Hope your twins stayed out of trouble this week. 🙂
Thanks, Hannah! Eh, more or less, yes, they stayed out of trouble. Except that one decided, out of the blue, that it’s funny to lick his hand and wipe his drool on our faces. Where do they get these things? Hope your girls are enjoying the dishwasher!
But it IS funny (for him). My girls are sick this week, so I’ve been letting them play in the dishwasher a lot. Distraction action.
Loved the poem Renee and your presentation of it is beautiful with the video … so refreshing.
i remember the squirels in New York. We have squirels here to but not so much.
Hi, Renee. Congrats on making it through your first week of blogging!! I love your reading and your squirrel poem. I grew up in western PA, where there were also a lot of squirrels 🙂 Look forward to hearing more!
@ Diana – Aw, thanks for your kind words. I’m glad people are liking the videos — I wasn’t sure about that at first. 🙂
@ Kerry – Thanks – that first week was a toughie! Glad you stopped by…I LOVED your blog, too!
What a wonderful poem, and what a beautiful setting! If you grew up in upstate NY perhaps it wasn’t far from where I live! We, however, have NO problem seeing our squirrels – they’re taking over the world 🙂
Hey Susanna – Glad we finally settled the fact that you have actually driven through my hometown — a big coincidence considering that there are indeed more squirrels and cows there than people!
I love your poem and what a great idea to add the video. Squirrels are common in England, but now you mention it in 13 years here in Nice I am not sure I have seen one… hence my being so enthralled by those Central Park Critters at New Year 🙂
Glad you came by, Joanna, and that you appreciated the video. Just doing my “thang” over here. 🙂 So funny – Dana Carey also said she’s glimpsed only one squirrel and only one time since being in France. I guess these European critters are shy or something!
It sounds as if you live in such a beautiful place, & I can’t imagine why you never ‘see’ the squirrels. We certainly have a backyard full here in Colorado. I like the idea of your shadow squirrels. Clever thought!
How odd that you see evidence of consideration for squirrels, but not the squirrels themselves!
I came across this post at exactly the right time – Squirrel Appreciation Day!
@ Linda @ Mary – What can I say? The little guys will not be seen!
@ Mother Reader – No kidding! I had no idea squirrels had their own day…maybe if I go outside I’ll find a squirrel block party. 🙂
Welcome back to Poetry Friday, Renee.
I can no longer think about a squirrel without recalling a stroll home in my Chicago neighborhood two years ago during which a squirrel fearlessly staggered across the sidewalk four feet in front of us carrying — no joke — an entire piece of pizza in its mouth. He slowly made his way up the backside of the tree and settled on the lowest branch to immediately enjoy his bounty.
We laughed the rest of the way home. It was one of the single funniest things I’ve ever seen in “nature”.
p.s. I’m also up with an original animal poem this week. Stop by if you get a chance …
Oh my…that is a sight I would never forget. Hysterical. Animals are awesome, and give us so much material to work with! Thanks for reading/listening – I’ve been by your place, too. 🙂
Renee, It’s so true how sometimes we see evidence of animals…but no animals! Often as I walk in the woods, I hope to see some creature. But usually I only see plants and footprints. Thank you for getting me thinking about this again. And for your video too – I would like to try doing that. You sure have a pretty setting to tape in! a.
Hi Amy, glad you dropped by! Stay tuned, as I may have a video series how-to coming up… 🙂
Hi Renee. Got a little behind on the poetry. Another great one. It’s so funny that you can never catch a glimpse of the squirrels. Here it is mating season and they make the oddest sound – somewhere between a dog bark and a bird call. Just the other day I caught a couple copulating in a crook in the oak in my front yard.
HAVE THEY NO SHAME?!
Exceptional post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on
this topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thanks!