Recently during one of those West Texas cold winter mornings, we were drinking coffee and looking out our large picture window into our backyard. Waiting for the mental fog to lift as we sipped our way into an awakened state, we are captivated by the sizable menagerie collected inside our small plot of land. A covey (is that what you call them?) of doves are lined up against the back fence, positioning themselves to absorb the sun and to protect themselves from the blast of the persistent north wind. A host (how's that for a collective term?) of juvenile squirrels are playing with abandon, scattering the starlings and grackles who are hunting for some tasty morsels tucked deep in the rippling stalks of grass. The decorative iron baskets adorning the cedar fence provide the only color in the winter's starkness of yellow and gray dormancy. We had carefully nestled the pansies inside the planters so that they might offer their vibrancy as a reminder of the spring that would shortly arrive, knowing we could count on their display to lift our spirits while most of the earth remained quiet and still.

It took some time that morning for the growing awareness of our reality to overshadow the projected hope of our well planned dream. Where color had previously resided, now empty stalks rippled in the wind, stripped of their blooms by the hungry squirrels who mistakenly seemed to believe this provision as mere expansion to their steady diet of pecans from our massive tree! Settling quite comfortably in three of the baskets, an equal number of young squirrels held the large blooms in their tiny paws, daintily gnawing around the edges, turning the pansy faces clockwise while making their way around the colorful circumference. It looked like their own early morning ritual to clear the fog of nest sleeping and they gazed in our direction observing our own ritual of sipping from our steaming cups.

We contemplated throwing open the patio door and clapping our hands loudly to break their trance and to scatter them into the neighbor's yard. But something stopped us... we were mesmerized watching their polite indulgence and the joyful antics of their ground level friends. We laughed thinking how we had been so intentional in our planning for ourselves, allocating the money to fill the baskets until we would replant in the late spring. We had been mindful of the purpose the flowers would serve…but not from a squirrel's perspective! Through those watchful eyes, these colorful blooms had served to entice increased numbers of the local wildlife to frolic within eyeshot of us. They had served as an open invitation to call our home their home. A different purpose those pansies are now serving, but perhaps of a higher calling than our original intent. Who isn't blessed by the joyful antics of well-fed squirrels expending their energies in the sanctuary of a quiet yard?

Perhaps next year we will save ourselves the money and the time in cultivating the baskets, but for this year we have chosen to simply envision the internal thought processes of our anthropomorphized squirrels thinking, "Way cool! Look what they put out for us!" and remind ourselves that sometimes our best laid plans can be supplanted by others having no idea what we had in mind. They simply take the space and create something totally different than we ever envisioned. Such is life…plan as seems fitting then embrace the change which overrides the best of plans. Otherwise, we might just miss the squirrels playing in our backyard by being so focused on the barren stalks.