A very good thing about having an empty nest is the time I have to do nothing. I can be attentive and silent for many hours each day. Sometimes there are faint tones in the wind that stir some deep nostalgia I follow as far as I can. I never find the source. Someday, maybe. Eventually, certainly.
I have had time to watch the small population of squirrels who have lived in the same dozen trees since I moved here. About February I notice their chasing and eventual mating in the bare trees. I will notice a baby squirrel some time later. Always just one or two.
The squirrels did not approach the house for many years. It took them two seasons to discover the suet I hung on the front porch for the birds. Now that they know nothing dangerous happens if they approach the house, I hear them scampering on the roof. It has become a new thoroughfare on the way to the back yard.
As Duke gets older, he spends most of his time asleep on the front porch. He was never a threat to the squirrels, even when he was younger. They have always been able to be on the ground in his vicinity. A particular male squirrel leaps onto the handrail on the front porch. At the top, he lays flat along the rail and hangs his head over the end. Motionless, he watches Duke for quite awhile. I have seen this several times but have no explanation for it. Even if Duke rouses from sleep, the squirrel remains. I guess the squirrel is just visiting the Duke.
There is another unlikely relationship between Evil Roo and Duke. There is no snuggling of course, but Evil comes onto the front porch to stand within a few inches of Duke. They are just two dudes, hanging out, doing nothing. If they meet in their separate coming and going, Duke stretches his nose toward Evil. I assume it is an interspecies greeting they have invented.
Duke has his own life. With the exception of the time he was lost for ten days, he has spent his entire life here. He knows this place by its sounds and scents in ways my human senses can not fathom. He knows who and what else lives here, and who only passes through. He knows all about the creek, where to cross, the taste of the water. He knows where the rabbits live, and hears all the creatures that move in the cover of darkness. He knows when there are deer and turkey in the yard, but he allows them safe passage.
He is not afraid of the thunder and lightning. He loves the snow and cold, having a perfect fur coat for that weather. Whenever anyone comes to hike the creek, Duke is right there, eager for the adventure. But if no one is roaming, neither is he.
He loves Spirit Creek Farm, too. This is his home and career. Basically, when my son left home, Duke retired to a life of far less excitement and a plenty of time for nothing. In all that nothing is everything.