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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Talking Animals

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This morning, a squirrel hopped up on the windowsill and peered intently at me through the glass. Looking up from my books, I saw straight into her dark eyes and was reminded of my childhood wish to be able to talk to animals. As a little one at the zoo, I tried in vain to send signals to the tigers, and to this day, I reflexively reassure insects as I frantically try to flip them off of their backs.

Squirrels, however, are uncharted territory. But challenge has never stopped me, even when the challenge is uncommunicative and fuzzy. I smiled at her and then imagined with all my might that she smiled back. I noticed her subtle movement as she breathed and watched as she folded her hands, humanlike, across her chest. Bored with me, she hopped away.

It’s no wonder that there are so many myths and stories about talking animals: perhaps they stem from sheer frustration. It’s maddening to know that there are sentient beings out there that have a radically different experience of the world than we do but are largely unable to communicate that experience with us. So we invent our own stories for them, giving their spirits color and intent, painting them in our own image to help us understand the world.

It’s a common thing to do. After my grandfather died, my mother kept noticing cardinals showing up at odd and significant times. I didn’t believe her at first, being the enlightened and wholly nonsuperstitious pre-law student that I am. We all know how that turned out. One afternoon last summer, worn out from moving all of my grandmother’s possessions out of her house, I sat down in her backyard for the last time and saw a splash of red in a nearby tree. Tired of my cynicism, I greeted him with love.

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