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Essay: High Alert

When I walk across my back yard and encounter a squirrel, it runs up the nearest tree.

“Don’t worry,” I want to tell the squirrel. “I mean you no harm.”

When my cat walks across our back yard and encounters a squirrel, it also runs up the nearest tree—and a good thing, too, because my cat is not so harmless.

Animals waste a lot of energy running from the wrong things, I think, until I realize that I do it too—worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter or never even happens.

“I’m no smarter than a squirrel,” I tell my husband. “I worry needlessly.”

“I don’t think animals worry,” he says and reminds me of the film, “Never Cry Wolf.”

There’s a scene where a herd of caribou is running from a pack of wolves but as soon as one caribou is brought down, the others stop and resume grazing.

“Once the danger is past, the fear is gone,” he says.

I think about my cat who sleeps most of the day, but if a door slams she is instantly alert.

At some level, she is always awake to danger, but it doesn’t interfere with her sleep.

Wish I was that smart.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.