Sunday, May 17, 2009
One evening, while I sat on the Linden Terrace and watched the sunset over the Hudson, a man joined me on the other end of my bench. He had a scruffy gray beard and wore a skirt and women's flats. Quietly, he opened a plastic bag and placed a treat for the squirrels on his lap. He waited patiently while a squirrel hesitantly climbed down a neighboring tree. The squirrel rushed onto his lap, snatched up the food and retreated nervously to the tree. The man offered more food, the squirrel accepting with growing confidence. After several more forays, the emboldened squirrel grew lazy. It sat on the man's lap greedily nibbling its meal. Then, incredibly, the squirrel climbed up the man's chest and sat on his shoulder. The man's face lit up with joy. He spoke not a word, remaining calm and peaceful. There was a time when I would have judged that man's eccentricity: a cross-dresser who befriends squirrels. Yet these days I appreciate such gentleness. As the sky faded into a soft lavender, I thought, "He's doing what's right for him, and I'm doing what's right for me."