I call him Persis.
A month or so ago, I put out some cracked corn because the weather was very cold. I just put it on the step going to my patio since I didn't have a way to hang a birdfeeder. I thought the birds would like it and, yes, the cardinals in particular did.
But so did the squirrels.
And the ducks.
And the geese.
It was getting very crowded on that patio step so I bought a shepherd's hook, hung the birdfeeder (squirrel-proof), and retired from the neighborhood-feeding-station business.
Then the squirrel (identifiable by his luxuriant coloring and long tail) saw the birdfeeder. I watched as he excitedly got up on the container next to the balcony support beam that the hook and the birdfeeder were attached to.
Could it really be so! Could all that be seed! Ahhh—squirrel heaven!
Watching him (or her) was like watching a computer. He moved his head calculating every possible approach to the feeder. I could almost see the calculations as he flew through them.
Then Persis decided. He made his move.
He threw himself at the support beam.
And then quickly slid down for the beam that had previously been made of wood had been replaced this past year with a high-gloss metal beam.
Back he went to the container and leaped again.
And slid down again.
After several attempts he left.
Back to the drawing board.
The next day, he returned. Clearly he had been working on those calculations and had a new plan. This time, he leaped for the other side of the pole.
And slid down.
Several times that day, he came back, to no avail.
On the third day, he catapulted himself into the air in an attempt to emulate his flying cousins. He managed to hold on to the lower support that held the shepherd's hook. This was the highest he had been. But here too, he slid down.
Then a few minutes later, out of the corner of my eye, I saw that he had made it!
He had somehow managed to clamber up the pole to the top of the shepherd's hook and was now perched directly over the birdfeeder.
Then, he ever so slowly stretched out his body so that his nose was within just an inch of his goal.
But he could go no farther.
So near and yet so far!
He accepted his fate and worked his way down the pole and left.
It was around this time that I went online, ordered a squirrel-feeder (duck- and geese-proof), and had it delivered as quickly as Amazon and UPS could arrange.
Persistence of this degree clearly deserved a reward.
And became a name.
During this same time, Persistence, Persis for short, tried to get at the suet I had hung on a tall bush for the birds. I can only imagine the joy that arose in his heart when the bottom of the suet holder came open and the suet chunk fell to the ground.
It was a suet banquet. (Unfortunately the geese also thought so and in all the hubbub they created, I lost track of the suet. As did Persis.)
During these three days of his attempts to reach the birdfeeder, I had also seen him chomp down on an apple slice I had put out for the deer. (Yes, I do realize that coring and slicing the apples was probably unnecessary, but it seemed like the only polite way for a Buddhist nun to offer the apples.)
He merrily ran off with the slice. A little while later I looked out and of the twelve slices I had put out, only five remained.
And I hadn't seen one deer.
Persis had struck again.
Another day, I again put out apple slices and this time saw him stuff a slice in his mouth lengthwise. I could almost hear his mother yelling, "Persis! How many times have I told you not to run with something sticking straight out of your mouth!"
Also, to no avail. Persis continued running back to the woods most likely to the delight of family and friends, alike. If not his mother.
And this is the tale of how Persis got his name and became King (or Queen) of the Squirrels (well at least in the woods behind where I live) and reigns from the top of his squirrel-feeder.
Peris was, and is, exemplary (for he’s still eyeing that birdfeeder). When he failed, he kept trying. He was focused. He tried different approaches. He spent a lot of energy trying to get at that feeder. He kept working at it, and although conditions were not such that he got at the birdfeeder, his persistence paid off.
In apple slices, suet, seeds that had fallen from the feeder, and eventually, in cracked corn safely tucked in a glass jar, which only the chipmunks could get into. (The raccoon tried so I now move the feeder in at night after he (or she) tried to abscond with it.)
If only we could decide that nothing in life is more important than the fulfillment of our vows to awaken and help all beings, just as Persis knows nothing is more important than helping his family by feeding them.
If only we could be as focused, as determined to succeed in our practice and learning as Persis was in his pursuit of food.
If only we could devote as much energy to our practice as Persis did to the attainment of his goal.