Don’t visit my backyard during the hottest part of the day this summer unless you are ready to witness some shameless splooting. I have squirrels splooting on the back porch, splooting over the birdbath, and even splooting under the grill – any cool surface a squirrel can stretch out on its belly for relief from the heat. They are splayed out everywhere, right out in the open, indifferent even to Peanut and Puddy (my chihuahua and kitty), who are often splooting just a few feet away. Too hot to chase anything and too hot to run away!
If you have not guessed by now, “splooting” describes how squirrels stretch out their entire bodies along cool surfaces. Every few minutes, they will scoot over a bit for a new cool spot, but they are otherwise oblivious (or indifferent) to normal squirrel stuff. Most pancake themselves on flat spots, but one squirrel stretches out on our birdbath, dead-eyed, with all four legs dangling over the rim. All of it is very un-squirrel-like behavior, but after two full months of terrible heat, even the hardiest of squirrels reach their splooting point. They have not completely given up, but they no longer worry so much about being eaten. Anything for a break from this heat.
Squirrels are not alone, however. Everyone and everything has a “splooting point,” when we gradually abandon our squirrelly behavior, and weather is not always the cause. After long periods of stress, we seek simply to endure, and we slowly become oblivious or indifferent to normal squirrel stuff. Our “give-a-care” breaks, and life becomes a stretch of quiet desperation. Sploot.
I suspect a lot of people are splooting right now, and not just because of the heat. As a nation, we have endured year-after-year of 100-degree situations: COVID, inflation, culture wars, cancel culture, murder hornets and so on. Just like hot squirrels, people need a break, and life can become more about enduring than living. We don’t drape ourselves over birdbaths, however. Human splooting looks much different.
Look around your circle of family and friends, and you may see signs of splooting. Maybe they are less active on social media. Perhaps, they have stopped going to church or have stopped participating in normal activities. Chances are that you will find them in the backyard, splayed out on the birdbath. (Metaphorically, hopefully.) They aren’t their squirrely selves; they are disengaged, oblivious, and indifferent. They have entered survival mode, waiting for a break in the heat. Or, in the case of your kids, waiting for school to start. Sploot. Sploot. Sploot.
Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather, and we cannot seem to abate the current divisiveness of our nation, the economy, COVID, or anything else draining us. No matter how bad it gets, however, we can always comfort and encourage fellow squirrels who are splooting when they should be frolicking in the branches. This season has been long, arduous, and demoralizing, and we may not have answers, but we can always offer a kind word, a text, or a phone call.
Splooting squirrels are cute, and they will soon bounce back. Splooting people, on the other hand, may not rebound so quickly, so keep an eye out for them. If all else fails, we can just lay down on that birdbath with them because no one should sploot alone. If Chihuahuas, kitties, and squirrels can commiserate during tough times, just imagine what we can do for each other.
Thankfully, seasons always pass. School is ahead, so splooting children and communities will soon be acting squirrely again. Something about cool temperatures and the busy-ness of fall that cures all this splooting. The squirrels in my backyard will also be taunting Peanut and Puddy again, but with a wink and a smile. Once a splooting buddy, always a splooting buddy!
Tom Deighan is a public educator and author of Shared Ideals in Public Schools. Read past articles at mostlyeducational.com and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org