Otis & Friends 1I’m Otis, Prairiewoods’ favorite squirrel, and I’ve taken over this blog for 2016 in honor of Prairiewoods’ 20th anniversary. You’ll hear from me or one of my friends each Friday.

First, let me introduce myself … As I said, I’m Otis, a resident of Prairiewoods and a member of the menagerie of animals. I will make a few comments and observations about life here through the intervention of St. Francis, who has enabled me to dictate my comments to you. (They were recorded and now are being made available in print.)

I love living on the 70 acres of land at Prairiewoods. The humans here treat all animals and each other with extreme kindness. While many people who come here only get a glimpse of us, we are always watching. The deer, for example, come out to meet some of the humans whom they have come to trust and love, while the red fox stays deep in her den.

When I watch the humans from my perch as they drive their vehicles, I see a very different side of these fellow creatures—much unlike the residents of my small forest. They appear to drive past our enclave and not even notice what a special place it is! I have learned from other squirrels that some humans are rapidly converting land and trees into structures that are barren and lifeless. I am saddened to see our habitat slowly disappear!

Our cousins, the prairie dogs, identify two groups of people: those we should flee from and those we can ignore since they mean no harm. They communicate this information to us, and we follow their lead. Some of the prairie dogs, it is rumored, have been poisoned or shot because they somehow make exploiting their homeland more difficult for humans. This makes all of us feel deep sadness.

Otis close up

a close-up taken by my friend and favorite photographer, Joni Reed Cooley

Our great-great-grandparents passed down to us stories of another type of human who once inhabited a very large part of the land in which our homes now reside. They understood the importance of treating Earth as a sacred place and learned how to use the many plants and herbs for beneficial purposes.

Some of the new humans see Earth as something to exploit for their own benefit. They don’t understand that Earth is alive and must be treated with respect for all of us to survive. They don’t realize that there is much to learn from this menagerie of animals. Even you, perhaps, could learn something from us. I hope you will check back each Friday to hear from me and my friends. (Did you know that I even have some human friends?) Let’s use this year to learn from each other!

—Otis (as dictated to Bill Cooley, friend of Prairiewoods)