Evelyn Squirrel Asks a Question
Three squirrels were sitting quietly in an oak tree's shade. This was a big, old oak tree and being the right time of year the branches were laden with acorns. There were many acorns scattered around the tree as well. It had been very windy in the night. The wind had blown many, many acorns to the ground much to the squirrel's delight. The abundance of nuts and the soft, warm sunshine that was filtered through the lush, green oak leaves were the main reasons that the squirrels had gathered at this spot. Plainly, it was a very nice place to munch acorns and to share a conversation with friends.
The squirrels' conversation had been very pleasant so far. The topics had ranged from the favourite nut of each squirrel to the outlook for the winter. There was, at the moment, a languid pause in the conversation. Each squirrel breathed a little breath, enjoyed the feel of the green grass, and let their thoughts fleet by them. One squirrel, her name was Evelyn, twitched her tail a bit as a particularly thoughtful thought entered her mind. A questioning look filled her face that did not go unnoticed by the other squirrels.
Evelyn's neighbour and good friend Cyril Squirrel said to her, "What is it that brings this puzzled look to your face Evelyn?" Evelyn replied, "I have a question that has been on my mind for some time."
Cyril said, "Well, what is your question. Perhaps, I can answer it for you."
"Okay", she said, "What is God?"
Evelyn's other friend Edward Squirrel answered first, "That is a simple question Evelyn. There is no need to be puzzled. God is a wise, very ancient squirrel. It is said that He lives in a great tree. The branches of this tree reach to the clouds and its shade is vast. From this tree, God can see all the world and all the squirrels. He is a kindly squirrel concerned with the well-being of all other squirrels. It is said that all good squirrels upon their deaths go to live with God in His great tree."
"Yes," said Cyril, "I have learned much the same. God talks to the trees and asks them to provide nuts and berries for all good squirrels. He talks to the winds and the clouds asking them to be gentle. Unfortunately, the winds and the clouds do not always listen because they are envious of the Great Squirrel's wisdom. This is why we have bad storms."
"I have heard this as well," said Evelyn, "...but I have heard something else recently also."
"What is it that you have heard?" asked Edward.
"A few weeks ago I was foraging for berries over yonder amongst some bushes when I noticed two rabbits. The rabbits were having a conversation. I was not trying to eavesdrop, but being so close I could not help overhear. The rabbits were discussing God. It seems these rabbits believed that God is a wily, old Hare that lives in a great burrow at the edge of the world where Time begins. They said that all good rabbits go to live with God in his burrow safe from dogs, foxes, and people. The greens are plentiful and the burrow is always warm and dry. This is all that I heard since a large dog came close by causing the rabbits, not to mention myself, to run for cover."Evelyn paused, her story finished for the moment.
Cyril spoke, "A very interesting story indeed. If you will let me I will present a similar incident to you both."
"Do go ahead," said both Evelyn and Edward.
"Thank-you.", replied Cyril. Early last month I was sitting on a low branch in a maple tree enjoying a very lovely day. Two cats had sauntered under the branch where I sat. One cat was barely more than a kitten. The other cat was the young cat's mother. They wanted a nice, cool shade to lie in for a spell. The young cat was asking her mother about God. Their conversation went like this:
Mother Cat: "Ah yes, daughter, you ask of God."
Young Cat: "Yes, please mother, do tell of God."
Mother Cat: "God, my daughter, is a grand, wise Siamese countless ages old. She wanders the world, but is anywhere a deserving feline has need. She is our protector and provider. Dogs fear Her. She is the wind under a moonlit sky. She is the river on a warm day. She is everything, but the more a cat seeks her the harder She is to find, she comes to all good cats when it is time."
Young Cat: "What colour are Her eyes mother?"
Mother Cat: "No one knows my daughter. Her eyes like her form cannot be given a colour. The beauty in Her eyes is many colours, but not a colour."
Up to this point, Cyril had been using his best cat voices to tell the story; now, he returned to his usual voice, "At this point the two cats decided to move on to another place."
"Intriguing," murmured Evelyn. Then she said, "So who is right? The rabbits, the cats, or us?"
Edward answered quickly, "Why we are of course. A sensible squirrel cannot go around listening to the other animals all the time. It is much too confusing that way."
Cyril said, "I am not so sure Edward. After hearing the rabbits and the cats doubts have entered my mind. Are we right? Could they be right too?"
Edward replied, "Nonsense, how can we all be correct? Obviously, the cats and the rabbits are mistaken."
"I am even more confused than before," said Evelyn. "How are we to resolve this dilemma?"
"There is not a dilemma as far as I am concerned," said Edward a trifle haughtily.
"We could go ask the Old Owl that lives in the forest. The Old Owl knows much of the world, its many animals and their ways," suggested Cyril.
That is a marvelous idea Cyril!" exclaimed Evelyn.
Edward said testily, "Well, I suppose that I should go with you too. After all, I am the reasonable one and someone must look after you two. It takes at least a day to reach the Old Owl's home."
"As you say," said Evelyn, "We would be pleased to have you along on the trip."
Cyril commented wryly," Yes, perhaps you might learn something."
The three squirrels had just eaten and they were well rested. There was plenty of daylight left so they set off to see the Old Owl right away. The journey was a pleasant one. The weather was fair, berries abounded, and fresh water was to be found in a lovely, little river running through the forest. At one point, the trio was uncertain as to which direction to proceed. Fortunately, a helpful sparrow, named Sidney, saw the three squirrels. He noticed that they were lost and he was able to guide them to the right path. The trio continued for a while, but darkness was fast approaching. Edward suggested that they find a suitable tree and rest for the night. Evelyn and Cyril agreed. They found a friendly looking elm tree with branches just right for a squirrel to stretch out on and have a peaceful sleep.
Dawn arrived bright and early. The three squirrels awoke quickly. After a meal of nuts and berries washed down with cool, clean water they continued on their way. The Old Owl's home, a large sugar maple, was not far away now. A brief while later the inquisitive trio happened upon the Old Owl sitting peacefully on a branch in the sugar maple.
"Well, well what brings you to this part of the woods?" inquired the Old Owl.
"Hello Old Owl. My name is Evelyn, Edward is here, and so is Cyril," said she pointing to herself, Edward, and Cyril in turn.
"Very nice to meet you," said the Old Owl with a little nod of his head, "It seems that you know who I am already."
"Yes, we do. In fact, you are why we are here, or should I say that a question is why we are here. We were hoping that you could answer this question," said Evelyn.
"I will try my best. What is this question that brings you to me?" asked the Old Owl.
Evelyn paused a moment to admire the venerable Old Owl's composure and thoughtfulness. She spoke, "Old Owl, do you know what God is? The cats say that God is a wise Siamese. The rabbits say that God is a wily, old hare. We squirrels say that God is a wise, ancient squirrel. It is rumoured that other animals have different views. Each group says something contrary to the other groups."
The Old Owl was quiet at first, but then a soft, gentle chuckle could be heard emanating from the Old Owl. "Forgive me Evelyn, I do not laugh at you, your friends or your question. It is a good question indeed. One it seems that has inspired thought in you and it is always good to see someone giving a matter some thought. I laugh at us all: you three, the other animals, and myself. You see, we owls have our own version of God also. To us God is a great Barn Owl: Her wings are the wind, Her heart and blood are the oceans and rivers, Her feathers are a blanket of air that covers our world, Her eyes are the Sun and the Moon. Such is the belief of the owls."
"Then who is right?" asked Cyril.
"Each version is 'right', but none are true," replied the Old Owl.
"You reply with a riddle," retorted Edward.
The Old Owl looked at them warmly. He said, "Let me explain. Each version is right, appropriate for each animal; however, no version is an actual picture of what God is."
Evelyn said, "I begin to understand. Can you explain further?"
"Each group feels that there is more other than the individual or group. This 'more' is a feeling, a nuance that can be felt, but not explained. Each tries to explain, to give a form, to something unexplainable, beyond form. We use analogies, likenesses, to bring big ideas into smaller, more understandable pieces. Often, when we invoke likenesses we use ourselves as a reference. In this manner the God we feel to be, but cannot make tangible, can be given a form. We liken God to ourselves or a better form of ourselves. So, every animal reflects God in their own image. The image is not really God's true image." the Old Owl had finished his explanation.
Evelyn had aglow, an understanding about her. Cyril seemed a bit perplexed, but his mind was catching up with his spirit. Poor Edward was completely confused. His solid beliefs had been shaken by the Old Owl's wisdom. He wanted to reply and to undo the Old Owl's words, but no words he had could accomplish this feat. Edward had to turn inwards towards his thoughts.
"Thank-you very much for your time and words Old Owl. The day moves on and we should return home. It has been pleasant to speak with you," said Evelyn with a little bow.
"Yes, thank-you." said Cyril who bowed too.
"Hmmmmph, uh yes...most gracious of you." mumbled Edward with an anxious nodding bow of his head.
"My pleasure. Have a safe journey home." replied the Old Owl.
The three squirrels twitched their tails and waved farewell to the Old Owl. Each turned to look at the others and each smiled, even Edward, a little smile at the others.
They turned in the homeward direction and took a step.