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Recently, the chipmunk who lives just outside the kitchen windows has been, like all creatures around here (including us humans), busying himself preparing for winter. One of his preferred activities has been to perch on the back of one of our patio chairs and plot his moves into our two bird feeders; one is a hanging tube feeder, and the other is a teardrop-shaped window feeder.

We have figured out ways to deter him from the tube feeder, but there seems to be no shortage of energy that he’ll expend trying to reach the window feeder. He doesn’t seem aware of the sunk-cost fallacy. Several times every morning, I listen and watch as he climbs up between the two French doors, braces himself for the jump, and then goes whizzing past it, overshooting just about every time, and falling to the stones below. The first time I saw him do this, I gasped in horror, thinking he must have badly injured himself in the process. But nope – like the song says, he picks himself, dusts himself off, and starts all over again. And again and again.

scrape scratch scrape scratch

a couple beats of silence

then

WHEEEEEEEEE *thud*

I’ve not yet seen him reach the coveted cache of black oil sunflower seeds.

I’ve been pondering something Paul Bloom writes about in his new book about the human relationship to pain and suffering. He says that there is a sweet spot between experiencing too much suffering and too little. Too much or too little can debilitate in different ways; just the right amount cultivates compassion and resilience. Suffering can be voluntary (quitting or forming new habits, exercise regimens, medical procedures, etc.) and involuntary (abuse, accidents, trauma, etc.), and all of it informs our search for this Goldilocks zone, this path towards equanimity.

That chipmunk seems to have found a sweet spot in his pursuit of what he’s hoping for. I wonder if I have, too, or if I’m whizzing past it while reaching for something else?