Friday, August 31, 2012

Month of September

The meaning of the Latin word, septem is seven.
The word septimus means seventh.
Originally, September was the seventh month of the calendar.

Birthstone ~ Sapphire
Flowers ~ Aster and Morning Glory

Noteworthy Days

September 3 ~ an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers.
Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the
8-hour movement which advocated 8 hours for work, 8 hours for recreation
and 8 hours for rest.  The first Monday in September is designated for this day.

September 9 ~ Grandparent's Day is a secular holiday officially recognized
in a number of countries...honouring also other seniors and seeks to strengthen
relationships between the generations.

September 11 ~ Patriot Day is  recognized on this date every year in the
United  States.  It is designated in the memory of 2,977 killed in the 2001
terrorist attacks.  On this day, the President requests that the American
flag be flown at half-staff at individual American homes, at the White
House and in all US government buildings and establishments.

September 16 ~ Rosh Hashanah and September 25 ~ Yom Kippur
are considered the two most sacred  Jewish holidays and are known
as the High Holy Days.

September 22 ~ First day of Autumn, which in the Northern Hemisphere,
begins at 10:49 am (EDT) during the autumnal equinox
Sarah Morgan Bryan Pratt wrote:  It is the summer's  last great heat.
                                                        It is the fall's first chill.
                                                        They meet!

September 30 ~ The Harvest Moon is the first “full moon” closest to
the first day of autumn.

September is also one of the best times of the year to see the white band
of the Milky Way stretching across the sky.  It is best viewed from a dark
location on a moonless night away from city lights.  The white band is
the edge of our galaxy.  Our sun is one of countless stars making up the
Milky Way.  Venus and Jupiter are the brightest planets in the September
sky.  You can see Venus in the eastern sky at dawn.  Jupiter rises in the
north-east around 10 pm and can be seen all night. Mars and Saturn can
be seen low in the south-west at dusk.  Uranus rises in the east shortly
after sunset and is visible all night.  Neptune is low in the south-east
at sunset and sets in the south-west around 4 am.  Some of you may be
interested in this zodiacal light...night-time display.

September Musing

                                         September, you fill me with your colurs so bright.
                                         The mellowness of you fills me with delight.
                                         When I wake to morning mists,
                                         Swirling leaves and autumn sights,
                                         My soul is filled with a million lights.

                                         My life began one September day,
                                          A half century away;
                                         And every year that passes by,
                                         You, September, always brings me joy.

                                         There is a quietness in the air,
                                         Crisper days without a care.
                                         Summer has gone...and left us more
                                         September nights to truly adore.
                                                                   (Lynda Robson)

Merle Baird-Kerr … written August 31, 2012
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Engaging Life's Magic...Part II

 Five Lessons About the Way We Treat People

First Important Lesson ~ Cleaning Lady:
During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. 
A conscientious student I was, and had breezed through the questions until
I read the last one: 
           “What  is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”
Surely this was some kind of joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times.
She was tall, dark-haired and in her 50's.  I handed in my paper, leaving the last
question blank.  Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question
 would count toward our quiz grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor.  “In your careers, you will meet many people. 
All are very significant.  They deserve your attention and care...even if all you  do
is Smile and say Hello.”

I've never forgotten that lesson.  I also learned her Name was Dorothy.

Second Important Lesson ~ Pickup in the Rain:
One night at 11:30 pm, an older African American woman was standing 
on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rain storm.   
Her car had broken  down and she desperately needed a ride.   
Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those 
conflict-filled 1960's. The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance 
and put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. 
Seven days went by and a knock came on the man's door.  To his surprise,
a giant console television was delivered to his home.  A special note was attached. 
“Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night.
The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits.
Then you came along! Because of you, I was able to make it
to my dying husband's bedside before he passed away.
God Bless you for helping me and  unselfishly serving others.
Sincerely ...
Mrs. Nat  King Cole”

The foregoing recalls to memory an occasion when I was teaching  in Hamilton 
and driving my marine blue MGB back home  to Burlington.  I was travelling along 
the 403 en route to the end of the city “to pickup my little boy” staying at Sharon's 
place during my teaching hours.  Unexpectedly, I ran out of gas!'

What should I do?  Was it safe enough for a woman to flag down a motorist 
along this busy-traffic-highway?  (If I had a cell telephone, I'd call CAA or the police...
this was prior to CT technology).  Do I hang out a sign or “thumb a ride”?  
 Decision was to open the hood of my car and wait beside it. In a few minutes, 
a vehicle stopped with two men who had attended a conference in Niagara Falls 
and returning home to Toronto.

They were SO  KIND!  Driving me to the nearest gas station off the 403, 
they waited until a container was filled with gas, then drove me back to my MGB. 
They even poured the fuel into my tank and waited to ensure my car started. 
I thanked them profusely for their assistance. One gentleman commented that
something similar had happened to his wife.  To him, this was now  
 “a return gesture and grateful to assist a woman in distress.  
 I have never forgotten  his statement...since then I have freely offered service(s)
 to anyone in need.

Third Important Lesson ~ Always Remember Those Who Serve:
In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered
a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table.  A waitress put a glass of water in front 
of him. “How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.  “Fifty cents”, 
replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his  pocket and studied 
the coins in it.
“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he enquired.  
By now, more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing 
impatient.  “Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.  The little boy again 
counted his coins.   “I'll have the plain ice cream,” he said. The waitress 
brought  the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away.

The  boy finished the ice cream,  paid the cashier and left.   
When the waitress returned, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. 
There,  placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn't have the sundae,
because he had to have enough left to leave  her a tip.

Fourth Important Lesson ~ The Obstacle in Our Path:
In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a  roadway.   
Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  
 Some of the King's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by 
and simply walked around it.  Many loudly  blamed the King  for not keeping 
the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. 
Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden 
and tried to move the stone to the side of the road,  After much pushing and 
straining, he finally succeeded.  After the peasant picked up his load of 
vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the roadwhere the boulder had been.   
The purse contained  many gold coins and a note fromthe King indicating 
that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder  from the roadway.   
The peasant learned what many of us never understand!
         Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition!

My third  floor apartment overviews a few trees, hydro and telephone poles 
and wires, and a  grassy area adjacent to a paved bike-walkway path.   
On the other side is more green grass  and family town homes.  
Where the path meets the street, are two curved concrete areas 
with benches and an attractive container holding a garbage can.

On this morning, I noticed that someone had foolishly and purposely 
dumped the garbage contents onto the path several feet from the container.   
There lay an absolute mess...of bottles, loose paper, smaller tied bags   
and probably baggies of doggie  poop together with the garbage can 
lying on its side!

A man walking his golden lab stopped...surveyed this mess...then ordered 
his dog  to sit and still holding the leash in his left hand, proceeded with his 
right hand to...upright the garbage pick up every item to replace in the can...
when completed, he carried the garbage can to its rightful container...
and closed the lid!  I am confident other neighbours observed this good-will action...
and if I ever see him again, will commend him for it!

“Who could be so stupid?” I am sure he asked himself, as I did!
He and his dog continued their daily I observed the mourning dove 
incubating her two white eggs in the twiggy nest  built 
on a black wrought iron balcony chair.

Fifth Important Lesson ~ Giving When It Counts:
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, 
I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare 
and serious disease.   Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a 
blood transfusion from her 5-year-old-brother, who had miraculously  
 survived the \same disease and had developed the antibodies needed 
to combat the illness.   The doctor explained the situation to her little 
brother, and asked  the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood 
to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath 
and saying,  “Yes, I'll do it if it will save her.”  As the transfusion progressed, 
he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the colour 
returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile  faded.   
He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice,
“Will I start to die right away?”
(Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor;
he thought he was going to have to give his sister 
all of his blood in order to save her.)

(Author unknown)

Most importantly, remember:  “Live with no regrets.
                                          Treat people the way you want to be treated.
                                          Work like you don't need the  money.
                                          Love like  you've never been hurt.
                                          Dance like you do when nobody's watching!"

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written March 26, 2012
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Engaging Life's Magic...Part I

Books, Newspapers, Magazines, Television...and all other forms of “media”
offer information and directions to negotiate our “paths through life”!
The following article (from the Universe) sets forth a few “guidelines” for us
which I have integrated with “quotes” ...  giving  better understanding.

Seven Steps to Engaging Life's Magic

Understand Your Power:   Not understanding the nature of our reality, 
and hence our power and its source, is the number one reason people actually 
“fail”. With understanding, doubt is banished, confidence soars and living 
deliberately  becomes automatic!

Though no one can go back, and make a brand new start,
anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.
(Author unknown)

Chart Your Course:  Taking stock of where you are now, no matter where 
you are, you can determine what you can immediately begin doing to bring about
 major life changes...even if you don't know exactly what you want!

A  peacock who sits on his tail just another turkey.
(Asian proverb)

Take Action and Delegate:  Knowing what you can, what you should 
and must do ...versus what you mustn't ever do...what  you must delegate 
is crucial  in leveraging the Universe and engaging Life's Magic!

A dream is just a dream;
a goal is a dream with a plan and deadline.
(Harvey MacKay...
author of Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten)

Leverage the Universe:  Beyond having a vision and physically moving with it,
learning how to playfully use your thoughts, words and deeds will bring exponential
returns on your effort!

Never settle for less than your dreams.
Somewhere, sometime, someday,'ll find them.
(Danielle Steel ... author of numerous novels)

Align Your Beliefs:  There's no need to figure out what invisible beliefs 
now limit you; they are invisible after all!  Instead, simply know what your beliefs 
to be...align them with your dreams and begin installing them!

The Future ~ My dreams  shall be my guiding stars
as I navigate through my unknown destiny.
(Author unknown)

Engage the Magic:  Starting and persisting...make possible the 
critical yet unpredictable evolution of events, circumstances and ideas that will 
ultimately bring about your dream's manifestation!

You will never plough a field...
if you only turn it over in your mind.
(Irish proverb)

Adjust Your Sails:  Even though you're now under full sail    and your journey is
progressing, there will not likely be any trace of “land or horizon”!

If one does not know to what port he is sailing wind is favourable.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written March 4, 2012
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Friday, August 17, 2012

Becoming a Teacher

It's a great profession...if you have the aptitude for it!
Imparting knowledge to students is not only a responsibility
but also may be the most rewarding of all vocations.

                                          How to Teach...requires Technique.
                                          How to Inspire...requires Insight and Imagination
                                          Being Creative...captures Attention and Control

Throughout High School years (5 years at my time of education) I had in mind
a “dream job” for my future.  To be an airline stewardess was the ultimate! 
Travel across Canada or overseas was “my ideal”...getting paid for visits to
Vancouver, Montreal or White Horse...and maybe in to Rome, London
or Paris.  Inquiry into this vocation killed my “dream”. 
Trans Canada required a stewardess to have nurse-degree qualification; also,
the maximum height allowed for a candidate was 5 feet 6 inches.  Now What? 
Had no idea, except possibly going to MacDonald Institute in Guelph to study
Home Economics...(this was established in1903 which later became the University
of Guelph. Today the university consists of 7 faculties or colleges as now known).

But, I questioned, ”Where would this take me?”  I know how to sew ~ could
follow a pattern to create dresses, skirts, blouses and even hats.  My mother
taught me to knit. I had an inborn sense of  flair and design. These learned
skills had to be worth something!  Unfortunately, no funds were available 
for a  University education.

On Sundays, I taught a Sunday School Class and achieved some satisfaction
in teaching children...yet, I yearned for higher ideals...but What?
I discovered a College in Toronto where I could work part time (Saturdays
and Sundays) to implement monies to cover some of  my expenses.

The  first summer, I worked as a Hostess at a lakefront Muskoka resort.   
The second and third summers I traveled with a friend to British Columbia 
to teach children in rural a day camp...directing games,   
instructing craft-making, teaching music, overseeing available recreation 
and the teaching of Christian principles.  Every two weeks, we moved 
to a new location...staying with families of participating students in our 
programs. We traveled each and from  Toronto and Vancouver 
by train (coach class) which was an amazing experience...crossing the 
Canadian Shield, the prairies and  the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Teaching…seemed to be my calling! Upon graduation, I applied to Hamilton
Teachers'  College. With an awarded bursary,  I  was able to partially cover
expenses. That summer I worked at Spalding’s sports factory in Brantford.

Salaries for teachers were low with only minimal increments yearly  One doesn't
enter this vocation on a “get rich quick” plan.  The reward is what you achieve
in the classroom from September to June.  This ultimate reward is the best
compensation a teacher has...knowing he has “made a difference" in a child's life!

Hired by the Board of Education for Hamilton-Went worth, I was assigned 
to an elementary school in a  new subdivision on Hamilton Mountain.  Most
pleasantly, I discovered that Marilyn, whom I had met in Grade 13, was to
be my teaching mate for Grades 2 and 3 with classes to be held in the basement
of a church...since the new school had not been constructed yet.  The remaining
classes were held in a nearby High School.  Bill Sled was our principal who
was exceptional in orienting us into the school programs.

This, my first school and first class became “gateway” to the teaching
profession!  What we learned at Teachers' College was the psychology of
teaching called Pedagogy:  the art and science of how something is taught
and have students learn it.  Pedagogy the teaching occurs
...the approach to teaching and learning...the way the content is delivered
...and what the students a result of the process!

This sounds great in the textbook and on a professor's chalkboard.
Becoming a teacher is actually the classroom sink
or swim....Marilyn and I were determined to “swim”!

During this first year  (of what I call experimental teaching), Linden Park
Elementary Public School was built...a great thrill to teach in a new school
...with all the bells and whistles!  Teaching a mixed-grade of 2's and 3's,
I became more accomplished at this task before me.  In the spring,
Principal Sled advised me that he had  recommended my teaching skills
and classroom be used by the Teachers' College for their student teachers. 
Mine was one of  several selected by principals whereby “practice teaching”
weeks were arranged during the Teachers' College course.
Principal Sled explained to me that I would be the Monday demonstration
teacher while two student teachers observed; then I would schedule the lessons
to be taught by them ...each splitting the day for the remaining Tuesday to Friday. 

At the moment...I felt incapable...but accepted the proposal.
What did he see...that I failed to observe within myself?
If he believed in me... then I must do likewise!

Time for a Self-Analysis!
I am well organized.
My lessons are well prepared and delivered
in an interesting manner “lifting them out of the ordinary”.
Discipline and control, I've learned how to handle.
I don't tolerate ”nonsense”  or bullying or rudeness.
Deadlines on assignments are deadlines!
(late arrivals receive a penalty per day in marks)

At the beginning of each school year, my chat with the students
encourages each one to “do his best”
Not all will achieve 95%.  For some, their best is 70 or 60
and that is what I urge them to achieve.
Each student then, is a “winner” in his range of ability.
This reminder occurs again in January.

For 15 years, I taught classes full time...spending about 5 years with Grades 2 & 3
...about 5 years with Grades 5 & 6...and 5 years with Grade 8's.  This latter was a
“Home Room”...teaching Mathematics, History, Geography, English Literature
and English Composition.  I was fortunate to have “student teachers” every year
in each of these grades.

During the nine months per year of about 35 students per class, there are
numerous incidents about which I could write...enough to fill a book or two.
There are stories about Jerry and Teddy and every class,
there is distinct personality! 

A Few Highlights of My Teaching Career

The Gum Problem

As mentioned above, there are many memorable humourous moments of 
 “behavior”, of antics, of comments.  Here is one:  While teaching a lesson,
 I noticed a student chewing gum; while concentrating upon my presentation,
quickly I stated, “Lucy, put your bum in the gasket!”  The class was hilariously
amused!  This broke the tension of the lesson…quickly their attention was regained.
Another incident occurred when a student, to avoid a detention time, hid in his
locker, then was unable to get out. Missing from the classroom, we located him!

Advice From a Principal

Gordon, a tall good looking boy in Grade 8, sat at the back desk of the middle row
...slouching his way through classes.  He was often a disturbance!  It was early
October...and he was already distressing me.  I was  not making any progress
with him. Contacting the principal, Norman Leek asked if I could concentrate
on just one good point about this student...before speaking with him.”That might
be difficult to find,” I commented.  “Try!  It may affect how you speak to him,”
stated Mr .Leek.  Returning to the classroom, I studied Gordon with “new eyes”
~ his eyes were sky-blue!  This worked for me!  It toned my voice amazingly!

South America

My husband was Chilean and longed for me to visit his home country, taking our
young son who had just turned 4 years of age in November.  I scheduled January
and February to be away from my classroom (summer months in Chile). With my
Pentax camera and film, I flew from Toronto to New York then to Quayaquil in
Ecuador to meet my sister-in-law, her husband  and baby girl.  Mike, an
agronomist (specialist in agriculture and chemistry) was training native people
to make better utilize their lands at the foothills of the Andes Mountains.
On the weekend, we flew to Quito, Ecuador's capital city elevation of
9200 feet...with air very thin...and difficult to breathe.  Scenery was Superb!

During 5 weeks in Chile, we visited family...with always the snow-capped Andes
Mountains in view.  The rugged Pacific Ocean was spectacular.  It was wonderful
to share and partake in their cultural activities.  Flying over the Andes en route to
Buenos Aires (Argentina) we saw the mighty Mount Popocatapetl...
(an active volcano) at nearly 18000  feet near Mexico City. 
We spent several days with Hamilton friends who were on missionary assignment
in BA for a couple years. The city is rich in history as are the Pampas stretching
from the city outskirts to the Andes Mountains. Spectacular it was to see
Iguazu Falls from (located on the border between Argentina and Brazil) from
the airplane...these falls are both higher and wider than Niagara Falls.
Our last stop was Rio de visit  related cousins. So awesome
to view this city's "young" rugged mountains, the necklace-shaped-blue-water
bay (gorgeous at night), Copacabana and Ipanema sandy beaches, etc.
This  Mardi-Gras city is a wonder to behold!
Our last view of Rio was the midnight flood-lit Statue of the Christ as we flew en route
return to New York City and Toronto.

So easy it  would be to write a book about this journey through South America
and our vast experiences of culture, scenery, rural lands, seacoast, mighty Andes
and the opportunity to experience and sense the Latin flavous in Quayaquil,
in Santiago, in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro!

South America was on my Geography course for this year.  With an eye to
scenic vistas, lush and desertous landscapes, culture of the  people, the
personalities of their individual cities, the starry sky seen from the Southern
Hemisphere, the wonders of camera lens captured so much information!
Not only as a memory for my son and me...but for a fabulous presentation I would
make for our school's Grade 8 students.  This program was so well received by
staff, that two or three other Senior School Grade 8's came to attend this unique
personal  education travelogue of my two months' visit to South America.

Citizenship Award

Each September, to a new class of students, I announced my Citizenship Award
which at the end of the school year would be presented to a boy or girl in my class
at the final June assembly.  My class discussed qualities in a person that would
constitute good citizenship.  The list sometimes was lengthy.  In January, we
again discussed  this award....mentioning that this was not based on academic
marks.  (I  firmly believe that this incentive had positive results within my class).
Roger Snowling, a Grade 5 student, was the recipient one year of this award
which I had framed and presented at the final year's assembly. The parents of
this blond-haired, blue-eyed boy were thrilled to be in attendance!

Many years passed by.  I'm an avid bridge player, playing frequently in local
clubs.  One night in Hamilton, I noted plaques on the wall representing
winners of club plaque was won by a Roger Snowling
a few years in succession.  Inquiring from the Club Director, she told  me
that he was a teacher at a local downtown High School...she thought perhaps
a Math teacher.  She described him to me...sounded familiar as far as stature
and colouring goes.  One Monday evening, at her Club, she informed me
 that Roger was playing.  Yes...that was him...still a stocky build, blue eyes
 blondish/rusty hair and round face.  Following the game, I chatted with him
and informed him who I was. Surprised, amazed and delighted we both were!

The following week, after the game, he showed me something of which he
was extremely proud....The Citizenship Award ...still framed with the red ribbon
bow-tied around presented!  I was melted to tears!

Since that night, I have met other memorable who became a church
minister (amazing), another who became one of the Hamilton Spectator's leading
photographers, one who became a policeman, someone who became a nurse, etc.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Recently, I read a most interesting book....Try To Keep Up With Me
written by Bill Sherk, from Leamington, Ontario who became a secondary
school teacher in North Toronto.  He writes of his Day One experiences
 through to his Retirement Day...including  lessons he learned from teaching
and humorous incidents that occurred in and out of his classrooms.

I concur with him about many of his statements...About Being a Teacher.
With his permission, I share a few with you.

The most important  people in the entire  education system were not the directors
or administrators or even the teachers.  The most important  were the students.
(Even the Vice Principal of the Northern Secondary School taught a class every day.)

Show your students that you are generally interested in helping them to achieve
success. (in a speech by Father McGrath...a RC priest to 2000 Teachers for
Professional Development Day ~ Massey Hall)

                           The best way to guarantee a well balanced class
                            is to have a well organized lesson.

Eyeball to eyeball contact was very important in maintaining an attentive class.

Start each class by deliberately saying or doing something to grab their attention.
This is excellent advice  and also a great challenge if you try something different
every day for the 198 days of the school year.

There are just 3 Ways to Remember Things!
                 running into a glass door
                 learning the order of the alphabet
                          Association...IRA...Irish Republican Army
   e.g. near the Don River?...and  Erica...Miss America
(The foregoing was Bill’s method of quickly learning his students’ names.)

Impress these values upon your students...important not only as
students, but also future citizens in their society.

Re Bill's Retirement from teaching, Gord Hazlett quoted,
“Life is like a roll of toilet paper...the closer we get to the end,
the faster it goes.”

Bill Sherk is one of Canada's leading authorities on old cars.  He has written
three books on the subject.  He is a recipient of an award from the Antique
Automobile Club of America for his work as a Canadian automotive historian.
In the Wheels section of the Hamilton Spectator on Thursdays, he submits an
article weekly.  To contact

Dear was through the Wheels section, that I met Bill who submitted
an article and picture of my 1964 early February this year.

Merle Baird-Kerr . . . written June 4, 2012
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Alfred's Insatiable Pursuit!

Like most children, I had a delightful childhood...climbing trees,
playing games galore...visiting my friends; of course,
I had to obey my parents...often performing assigned daily tasks.
Born as black as onyx, I was named Afro.

Maturing to adulthood, gave me the rite to rename myself...Alfred!
My story is one of determination, persistence, obstinacy. I'm writing this true story
to gain your sympathy, your understanding and assistance.
Some certain humans don't seem to care about my livelihood,
my necessity to find a home and the desire to mate one of my species.

“Location is Everything,”  I'm told.  I have it:  a great city, a wonderfully treed
neighbourhood and access to daily needs.  Actually, I should place my picture and
information on Facebook...for truly, I am quite handsome with a well-built-body...
have large luminous eyes and a gorgeous long bushy tail admired by all.
I am a squirrel!

In the summer of 2007, I desperately needed to provide a home for my sweetheart
(she was a beautiful gray with soft gentle eyes, flowing finely haired tail and a happy
disposition); we were a love-struck couple!  Yes, I could have settled for a tree nest,
yet I yearned for a location with a ready-made-food-supply.  I took her with me
on this “specific hunt”. 

Nearby, was an apartment building of yellow brick, outside balconies and
numerous leafy trees.  Humans lived here and often they were helpful  in
providing food. We needed somewhere “to nest” for our expected babies. 
We have great agility in climbing walls with our clawed feet, being able to
proceed upward, sideways, and downward at rapid speed. Gray and I searched
balconies to meet our basic needs ~ a place to build a nest and available food. 
We discovered  an idyllic place...our “little paradise”!

An end unit third floor apartment gave us privacy.  The food was most appetizing:
two large healthy gorgeous hibiscus plants that would bloom before summer's end;
also a couple end tables with colourful plants and wall-mounted hanging baskets.
How lush!  Gray and I spent hours searching for nest-building-materials. 
We collected twigs, grasses, leaves, old tissues, string, cord, pieces of cloth rags
...with these items in our mouths, we travelled up and down the brick and mortar
walls many, many create our nest in a large empty white plastic planter
sitting below one of the small end tables.  Occasionally, a fine woman would
enter our balcony of choice.  Reluctant to proceed and trembling, Gray and I
sat side-by-side.  With our large eyes in wonderment, we studied her...
hoping she would be receptive to us.  I believe she thought us “cute”...
she didn't disturb us in our pursuit. 
We sat motionless...pensive and nervous...on our haunches with bushy tails
well displayed...trying to present ourselves as a handsome couple...hoping
she'd admire us. With her there so close to us and watching, we discontinued
our nest-building until she went inside.

Gray and I played and frolicked in the trees. We continued our hunt for nest stuff...
ascending the brick wall to  create “our balcony” home, then feasted on pansies,
hibiscus, geraniums, petunias and blue lobelia.  We spoke with the next door
 neighbour who told us that Lady M was very kind and friendly. 
Sadly, one day we discovered our nest was removed and the planter now empty. 
She was kind??? We were forced to abandon this location  settling for a tree nest. 
Occasionally, we visited Lady M's larder...and her delicious balcony food!

In the early summer of 2008, Gray and I attempted to build our nest in the same
now-empty container....and again feasted on hibiscus and flowering plants.  What
a heavenly garden to have at our paw tips!  She frequently saw us as we tentatively
sat to observe her reactions ~  Lady M shooed us away!  We continued to nest-build
and voraciously ate leaves and flowers which were most appetizing.
Again, she removed our nest!  How could she be So Cruel???   Reluctantly,
we built elsewhere...returning often to our banquet-balcony! 

Summer, 2009, surprised us! No hibiscus plants! No Flowers and leaves!  
The planter turned upside down! No conveniences here for us now!

Before our next forage to this Lady M's dwelling
I tell you of our Squirrel Lifestyle:

          Biologists estimate that 1 in about 10,000 gray squirrels is of black mutant.
          The black fur more readily absorbs heat from the sun's rays, providing
          warmth during cold northern winters.
          We squirrels, not only a food source for early settlers, were a serious threat
          to crops.  To cut down our population, many of us were killed for our furs.
          Gray-mating-pairs cannot produce black offspring.
          Large natural production of black squirrels are found throughout Ontario,
          Quebec and northern US states.

Our Habitat and Food

          We prefer to live where there is an abundance of food.  Usually this is an area
          with nut-and-seed-producing-plants.  New plant shoots are edible.
          We must live in places that have trees in the city; here we often nest-build     
           specifically for bearing our young.  Trees are safe when we need to leave
           the nest to search for food. 
           Since we are from the rodent family of animals, we are primarily vegetarian.
           We love eating acorns, walnuts, all kinds of seeds, fruits, mushrooms and
           young plants.  If foods are scarce, we'll eat twigs and bark and maybe even
           a small frog or bird eggs.  Near people, we can find scraps, dog food and we
           even raid bird feeders!
           Sometimes, we will bury our food around the ground of fallen trees.  Hiding
           food is done to a great degree in the fall to prepare “a store of foods” in the
           winter and ready-made-meals when spring arrives.

Gray has left me for another I am desperate in this lonely life!  
I need food! Where shall I go?  Back to this fine lady's apartment (summer 2010). 
Just what I flowers and leaves!  This humane lady must
have food inside! I scrambled to her bedroom window...but a screen prevented
my entry! I had wire-cutters for that teeth!  I gnawed away making a
hole large enough to squeeze my body through!  Ah!  Now for the food!  
In the bedroom...only pictures,  furniture and clothing.  I scampered through the
hallway and found nothing edible. There in the living room sat my
blonde-haired-lady at her desk. I waited pensively on the oriental rug.  
Sitting upright on my haunches…she saw me! Tough Luck!  I was so frightened!  
She opened the balcony door and propped it open. Stupidly, I sat frozen...
unable to move!  She told me to leave, while hustling to open  the front door. 
I dashed under her bed for safety.  With broom in hand, she forced me to dash
to the living room and out the balcony door. I was a thief caught in action!!! 
Determined not to leave the balcony, I hid under the table...but her broom
swatted me out of there. I raced across the concrete floor a couple times before
dashing to the brick wall which I quickly scurried down with claws and paws..
.holding my tail high, clamouring to the ground.below.
                                            My little  heart was beating “a mile a minute”!!!

Our Anatomy

         We have extra sharp teeth which continually grow and which we use to
           crack open nuts and for chewing through things to obtain food.
          Our claws we use for digging up stored foods and for tearing down barriers
          to get to foods.
          Our paws are flexible with individual digits...allowing us to reach into small
          places and to hold up the small foods to eat.
          Bushy tails are also used in an indirect way during a food search.  Our tails
          balance when we leap through tree branches or scampering along fences,
          roofs and railings so we don't  fall.
          Big eyes can see to the side very well...unable to see directly in front of us.
          We rely on keen sense of smell to locate food.

Biology and Behaviour

          Females usually mate during 2 periods a  year...each being about 2 weeks
          in duration. Tree squirrels nest in tree cavities.  Each litter of 3 or 4 is born
          naked and blind with ears closed.  Fur develops during the first 3 weeks.
          Their ears open about 4 weeks after birth and by the 6th week their eyes open.
          The young ones are weaned and on their own in 2 to 3 months.
          Each pair of squirrels needs at least 2 dens…3 are ideal.  The pair will
          often live in one den until the female gives birth. At that time, the male
          is evicted from the den and will use an additional den or tree.

I KNOW!  Because I’ve been evicted!
And feel like a Victim!

I’m a determined little bugger ~ a week or so later, I returned to her bedroom 
screen…No Hole!  New Screen, so stiff and almost impenetrable!   
Then, crossing to her living room window…Ah!  An old soft screen!  A new entry! 
I gnawed a hole in it then crawled through (fortunately, my fur protects 
me from cuts and tears).  But I’m caught between the window shelf and a sheer 
drape. She SAW ME from her computer desk.  Placing both hands flatly on the sheer 
material, she pushed and maneuvered me back through the screen  hole I had just 
entered.  I fought her, but Lady M’s hands won…and the window slammed SHUT!  
She attacked  me with a broom as I raced here and there on the balcony.  
Exasperated and in desperation, I jumped to her railing and fled from this 3rd floor
level to the concrete driveway below…rushing into the trees for safety.   
My pride was hurt!  My body was achingly sore…took me several days
to recuperate from this death-defying leap!

About 10 days later, I returned to the living room window…No Luck!  New Screen!
I then gave up! 

Not to be deterred, I returned in summer of 2011…No plants…No old screens…
only hanging baskets of artificial flowers…very pretty were the yellow daisies and 
bluish-purple clematis.  This Lady…has done me in!  Nothing for me! 
My patience has gone! In late fall…I returned to search for food for my winter
supply. The flower baskets were gone…after all, it was November!  
Below one end table was a large green garbage bag stuffed with her two baskets.  
I gave it a few good chews and managed to pull out a few yellow daisies and 
clematis flowers yanked from their stems…artificial though they may be. 
It gave me great satisfaction to retrieve these! I assume she was discouraged
by my misdemeanor (I was a bad boy!). Upon my next visit…
the bag and its contents were not available!

Why Do I Not Learn???  Yearly, I get the urge to return to Lady M’s apartment…
summer 2012…here I was again!  Needing a place to nest...on July 5th, I 
discovered below her table a unique heavy white elephant garden statue in 
which one could place a plant.  “This could be my nest”!  There's only a small space 
between top of the planter and the table top.  Into this space I succeeded in bringing 
nest supplies for my summer home.  Next time I returned, the space was plugged.  
I shoved and pushed with all my strength to remove these obstacles…
but to no avail.  She caught me twice and scared me off! Maybe she did it to 
protect her pair of mourning doves who had a nest on one of her wrought iron 
chairs…were incubating their eggs 24/7 for two weeks before the squabs hatch.

But WHY?  I have been desperate and persistent!  Doesn’t she KNOW 
that I need a nest?  She’s living in Nature’s environment…My Environment!
I have Rights!  I “mourn” because she prefers her “mourning doves”!

I’m able!  I’m strong!  I’m determined!  When Lady M is absent,
I shall attack, with my razor sharp teeth, the base of her elephant statue…
creating holes on each side of the elephant’s feet.  Of course, I’ll leave a
crumbling mess on the rug…but I’ll have entry into the statue base.
Three times she caught me on her balcony as I diligently worked to
accomplish my intended feat!  She aggressively scares me off. 
Each time I leap to the vertical brick wall…scampering over to the
next apartment to dash across its side railing and rush along the
front rail…where I push with a giant leap into the tree branches
which strongly sway with my sudden heavy weight…until I climb
into the higher branches…and take “calm” to slow down my heart rate.

Will I ever Learn??? Probably not!!!

Again, I return to Lady M’s white elephant statue.  It’s GONE!
And all the pieces have been swept away!  What am I to do?

On Friday, July 13th…is this Lucky?  Or is this Unlucky?
I have the last word!  I found an old-well-used-tissue which I carried by mouth
to her balcony; then tugged and retrieving one of her blue clematis from a
hanging basket, I deposited both “pieces” at the base of her Buddha statue
on an iron stand at a corner of her balcony…(this Buddha has lived with her from
garden to garden as she moved).  There, now, my Lady Friend…Remember Me!

“Alfred”…and co-written by Merle Baird-Kerr…August 6, 2012.
Comments welcome … scroll down…may sign in as “anonymous”
or e-mail …

Dear Alfred…Buddha has a message for you:
Do not dwell on the past.
Do not dream of the future.
Concentrate your mind on the present moment.

Alfred’s escapades, about which I have written, 
are true and personally experienced over the indicated years.   
His existence here…may even  year!

Of Interest:  A few years ago, I had a  real estate client  who wanted to sell    
his sizeable home and deeply treed property…to reside and maintain something
more practical.  We discussed the time of year to market his home.
“Well, Merle, I’ve a problem!  Squirrels wreak my property because of all the 
walnut trees. They gather nuts in the fall and bury them in the ground both in the 
front and back yards. In both mid winter and spring, they will dig up these nuts for 
their food source. My yard is well churned and messed by the squirrels both 
fall and spring.” We chose winter to market his property with an advisory to the 
potential buyers about his lovely active squirrels. 

“Pearl of Wisdom”
Even  a blind squirrel
does  find a nut…once in a while.