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Had we never lov'd sae kindly
Had we never lov'd sae blindly,
Never met or never parted
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Robert Burns

Kentucky, 1869

The following morning Arbutus described
her dream to Nanny. She was surprised to
learn that Nanny knew something of
such squirrels (as the one in her dream).

"Oh yes," Nanny said. "On one of Stockton's return
visits from Colorado, he told of a black squirrel
he met there."

The old woman paused a moment.
"I think her name was Ophelia but the
story he told wasn't a happy one."

Nanny thought nothing of the dream but Arbutus
realized why Ophelia had visited her.

That night Arbutus lay awake in her bed. When she
heard a stirring in the branches she climbed out
on the limb. The shadow quickly disappeared
down the trunk but Arbutus knew where it was going.
She raced to the tree of time where the
black figure had waited at the base for her.
She followed the shadow into the branches.

Arbutus found herself in a silent, sparkling,
snow covered morning. She had seen snow before
but never had she seen such a place as this.
White mountains jutted up through the clouds
and appeared to be just around the bend, no tree
but the evergreen reaching into the vivid blue sky.
And Ophelia, a black silhouette, against the
white cold all around them.

"I know who you are," said Arbutus, "And I know why you've sought me out."

The black squirrel answered kindly.
"Good, then you understand what we must do to save him."

Arbutus slowly nodded, "He'll never know."

"And if all goes as planned, neither will we." Countered Ophelia.
"We can all be free of this impossible love."

After spending much of the day with Ophelia, Arbutus returned
to her own time, visiting her closest relatives one last time.
She then made her way down to the Green River, where she had
spent so many happy days with her siblings, thanks to Dupres.
She stretched out on a branch over the river and watched
the water run beneath her as she thought about what
Ophelia had said. She was right, thought Arbutus,
after today we will all be free.
And as she watched the sun set for the last time
on her Kentucky home, she simply ceased to be.

Leadville, Colorado, 1882

High in the branches of a Ponderosa pine,
an Abert's squirrel tries to quiet the rambunctious
ball of russet fur lying next to her.
"Arbutus, you need to rest, we have a long winter ahead of us."

The younger squirrel looked up at her, "Mother, tell me
again how you took me from my nest in that other time,
and saved me from the humans."

Ophelia looked puzzled for a moment, and then laughed,
"I don't remember that story, dear. You tell me."

Arbutus thought for a moment. "Oh, it must have been a dream,
because I can hardly remember it myself."

to be continued...

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Original squirrel photo,
All squirrel animation
and photo alterations by b.kee(c)2003

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