Especially in winter, it's easy to feel blue. I've struggled with depression my whole life, but the winter blues have always been the worst. I know I'm not alone, because the internet is full of websites and message boards for people who want to overcome depression, and the winter issues of just about every mainstream consumer magazine at the supermarket checkout aisle are covered with headlines on beating the winter blues. I've seen counselors and therapists, been the guinea pig for all the latest anti-depressants, all to no avail. This winter, I've found my own cure: feeding the squirrels.
The pine trees in my front yard are full of nests, so I knew they were out there. One day, I decided to dump some stale old nuts outside, since I was going to toss them in the trash anyway. I figured I'd rather contribute to the hungry animal fund than the trash bin. So, I opened my front door and tossed the nuts. Before I could turn away to go back inside, one little squirrel had run down the trunk of a tree and found herself a little snack. She turned to me and showed me her belly and then began making a little clicking noise with her mouth. I soon realized, this is how squirrels call out to their buddies. Within minutes, there were three more squirrels happily bouncing around and joining in on eating a mid-morning snack. Soon, several more showed up for the feast. For about half an hour, I sat on my front step watching the squirrels eat and play with each other. After they'd each eaten a few nuts, they began on their quest for burying the remaining nuts in the yard. Their process was very amusing, as they'd fight with each other like squabbling siblings over which squirrel could have which nut. They'd chase each other around and even bat at each other's ears in attempt to distract each other from the nut pile. Really, there was more than enough for all of them, and most likely, they'd never find the all the nuts they'd buried by the next snowfall, but who am I to argue with the instinct of a squirrel? I was being thoroughly entertained, so I had no complaints.
The next day, I bought a big bag of peanuts and began my daily dose of squirrel therapy. My tradition of feeding the squirrels every morning has become a bright spot in my days. All the squirrels on the block know me; they come running from across the neighbors' yards to greet me when they see me come out my front door. One squirrel, the one who first called out to her pals, now brings her nuts to the step and sits beside me while she eats. I had lunch with an old friend a few weeks ago. It was the first time I'd seen her since the end of summer. She made a comment that I seemed less depressed than usual, and she asked me if I'd finally found an anti-depressant that works. I told her, "Yes. Squirrels." It took someone else's pointing out how my depression symptoms had improved to make me realize how much better I feel now. It's true, I have the squirrels to thank. The little guys really do make me happy. For years, it's been said that having a pet helps people with depression, but you don't have to open your home to a furry friend to get the benefits. There are fuzzy critters in your trees who'd love to be fed. In exchange, they'll provide you with a better mood and the satisfaction that you're contributing to the better lively-hood of some cute little creatures.