The squirrel feeder is a cube-shaped wire cage that holds a brick of corn and various seeds that have been somehow - mechanically, I assume - compressed together. For reasons unknown, the effect of this compression is extremely satisfying to the touch. I can only call it metamorphic. It weighs heavy in the hands, possesses a harsh but miniaturized topography, and, in its porous, otherworldly density, suggests the ability to feed many small animals at once (advertisements for these "squirrel cakes" exclaim: "Each cake is equivalent to TEN ears of corn...plus other tasty ingredients!"). The feeder is equipped with a hinged door that allows for continual replenishment of the squirrel cake. We have 2 to 3 squirrels that feed from our feeder. They go through about a cake per week and in all honesty, I have yet to understand why I feed them (once upon a time, I would have said that it was so my kid could enjoy watching them eat, but my kid has yet to evidence giving a damn about watching them eat. Here's me: "Look, Eleanor! It's Mr. Squirrel!" And Ella: "Um, yeah...cool")...or I had, at least, until a few minutes ago.
It's my unconscious God complex! Eek! It's so clear to me now: Every seven days I ascend the tree in our backyard to replenish what's holiest to a rodent - the stuff of life - sweet, nutty sustenance. And that bit about the harsh, miniaturized topography in my hands! WE know what that's about don't we! Yikes! And then the whole, overarching "feed the hungry" thing...and I haven't even gotten to the really creepy part about all this, which is that, lately, the squirrels have become almost thoroughly repulsive in mine eyes: I mean, they have in fact grown greedier (raiding the compost bin, strewing grapefruit rinds and eggshells across the yard), filthier (squirrel excrement and urine is frozen for wintry posterity in the snowbank at the base of the tree - these animals shit where they eat! - and I don't even want to think about what happens when the temperatures rise and everything thaws), and more self-conscious (now their self-regard has become so ramped up that they no longer shy away from me or my family. They parlay, bristle, and chatter on the front porch as if it were a freakin squirrel social club) as a result of my direct involvement in their little world. And yet, somehow, I can't not support them in their endeavors! But why? It must be the simple unholy power of the squirrel.