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.