Picnic squirrel

You might remember this picnic table, sans squirrel, from about a month ago. Back then, I mentioned the shade under which this picnic table sits; what I didn’t mention was the walnut-laden source of that shade. If you’re a squirrel laying up provisions for winter, it’s mighty convenient to have a picnic table right under a walnut tree upon which you can sample your collection. And if you’re a strolling blogger who never goes out without a camera, these days blog-fodder is ripe for the taking.

On campus today, I saw more students in each of my classes than I’ve seen in months. Now that we’re heading into Thanksgiving with the end of the semester soon thereafter, students are getting serious about their studies. I’ve often joked that I do more real teaching–and to students who are actually listening–during the last two or three weeks of the semester than during all the other weeks combined. Weeks one through eleven are purely preparatory; weeks twelve through fifteen are when students sit up in their seats, listen to what you have to say, and actually seek you out for extra help.

Walnut squirrel

I guess it makes sense that students, like squirrels, get serious about stockpiling only when there’s a bite of briskness in the air. When the semester starts, it still feels like summer, so it’s easy to think “I’ll do it later” when considering assignments or even class attendance. As the days grow shorter and colder, things heat up academically. The next few weeks are when the intellectual rubber hits the road with term-long research papers and other projects approaching full ripeness. Which squirrels have been faithful hoarders and which have been only acting squirrely? We’ll find out in a few weeks. In the meantime, I still look forward every marathon Tuesday to the brief midday break I take to consider squirrels and other shade-loving creatures.