I look forward to the change of seasons each year, and there is certainly much to anticipate in the early days of autumn. Cool air, cozy sweaters, crackling fires, and the beauty of the changing leaves. Unfortunately, sometimes we anticipate the change of seasons through advertisements and holiday fantasies. Starbucks will be soon be encouraging us to restart our Pumpkin Spice Latte habit. Pottery Barn will send us yet another catalog, and in it, images of perfectly curated fall décor, along with beautifully adorned doorways welcoming trick-or-treating perfection.
I bought into this magazine lifestyle fantasy myself, until The Squirrel Incident. Last September, my family was just finishing up a screened porch renovation. Our 16 year old house was starting to show its age, and I thought we needed to get started on the ever growing home maintenance to-do list. One item on that list included remodeling the screened porch.
Our home backs up to woods, and for years, squirrels have decided it would be more cozy to nest under the roof of our back porch than in the trees. Over time, they ripped multiple holes in the screens and repeatedly tried to build nests, despite our efforts to wage all-out squirrel warfare as humanely and non-harmfully as possible.
We decided to repair the porch once and for all, replacing or repairing the floorboards, rails, roof, and screens. The project was completed in early autumn, right as Pottery Barn was putting their summer outdoor furniture on clearance to make way for their new fall décor. It occurred to me that we should own one of those beautiful outdoor sofas and chairs. It would help us enjoy the new porch, I reasoned. I wanted the magazine photo to be my reality.
Two weeks after the furniture was delivered, I innocently let the dog out onto our porch one morning, not realizing that a squirrel had torn through the new screen overnight, and was quietly perched on the back of our outdoor sofa. The ensuing chase was chaotic, worthy of the squirrel scene in the movie ‘Christmas Vacation’. Picture a squirrel running for its life, over every horizontal and vertical surface of the porch, my dog leaping after it over the new furniture, crazed in her single-minded pursuit.
Finally, I was able to separate the two animals. The squirrel lived, my sofa did not. The squirrel had dug its claws into the couch cushions as it ran, shredding the fabric, and leaving a trail of muddy footprints and urine (like I said, it was scared) across the pristine white Sunbrella fabric. I checked the Pottery Barn catalog, and there were no squirrel disclaimers to be found, nor any tips on removing squirrel urine.
Turns out, life is not a glossy magazine photo. Life is messy and imperfect and unpredictable. I never imagined I’d be learning life lessons from a squirrel, but Mother Nature has a way of revealing her infinite wisdom in not so subtle ways. I did not replace the sofa. This fall, I will be sipping my (homemade) Pumpkin Spice Latte on the same ripped cushion I’ve been sitting on for a year now. That’s life. Messy, but good.