Woven into a tree

Squirrels are everywhere any time of year, jumping from tree to tree or scurrying busily across the grass. Isn't it fun to think that squirrels have been doing this for thousands of years, and that, for at least part of that time, people have been watching and admiring their beauty and their freedom to climb? The red squirrel shown here is busy on the branch of a hazelnut tree. He looks like he is smelling the blossoms that will ripen into nuts if he doesn't pick them first. (Did you see that he's holding one in each of his front paws?)

The artist put the little squirrel in its favorite kind of nut tree. But the artist has also arranged the leaves and the squirrel so we notice that they both are very well rounded. The artist helps us think how satisfied the squirrel feels to be in that tree.

Did you notice that there are lots of little lines going up and down across the squirrel's back? These are threads - wool and silk - that make up the whole picture. You see, the artist made a drawing, backward, of the squirrel in its tree for a huge, blanketlike picture to hang on a wall. It helped keep the cold out of a room before heaters were invented. The woven picture is called a tapestry.

The artist took his drawing to another artist, who enlarged it and gave it to the weavers to hang above their looms. Then, two or three people to a loom, they began to pull colored threads (the ``weft'') over and under, over and under the stiffer twisted threads (the ``warp'') that they had already stretched across their looms.

The weavers were skillfully turning the picture into a tapestry. They had to be very clever, for they were working on the back side (to hide the loose ends when they changed color of thread).

Now you can be clever, too, and discover a clue that shows how the artist designed our part of the tapestry.

Where is the little squirrel standing? If you noticed that there is no branch beneath its feet, you've found the clue!

Now we know that the artist must have simply placed a beautiful drawing of a squirrel with arched tail, arched back, and tufted ears against a dark part of the tree he had drawn. Since hazelnut trees meant newness of life, the artist had filled it with blossoms.

Working this way, the artist arrived at a fresh and unforgettable view of a squirrel and its tree.

Doesn't our little tapestry squirrel seem like a cousin of the mischievous squirrels in YOUR yard or park?

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