A Squirrel, a Shimmer, and Debussy

FRESH from Britain on his first visit to Toronto, my brother is pointing at our perennial acrobat - the branch-blitzing black squirrel. This one is an old friend the family has named Spotty because of a snatch of white on his chest.

With sudden alacrity, Spotty had appeared briefly to scratch at the parlor window and bound off 30 feet or so to the nearest maple in our backyard. Together my brother and I notice how our visitor's movements are staccato and unpredictable in every aspect of his body - except his tail. We watch that bushy tail float detachedly on the air like a small parachute, as if it is hovering uninvolved behind Spotty's quirks and scurries.

Now something quite extraordinary happens.

We have been listening to Debussy's "Prlude I'aprs-midi d'un faune." The dreamy pensiveness of the woodwinds float across the conversing of the strings. Outside, the sun is shining. What we see is linked now to what we hear. All at once, the light trembling on Spotty's thick, black tail takes on the nature of the music: the slow, haunting melody and gently luminescing fur become one shimmering experience....

Before today I have never thought of Debussy's piece in terms of shimmering. And this is certainly the first time I have seen the relationship between woodwinds and a squirrel's tail!

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